Yesterday we celebrated that most glorious holy day, Easter; and if you are like me, today has included delicious morsels of chocolate bunnies, doled out at a steady pace: ears first, then the tail, or maybe the head if you just can’t help yourself.
Easter can sometimes feel like the climax of a magnificent saga. The Christmas event starts the story. God becomes human in Jesus of Nazareth, enters our world and experiences everything it means to be human. It is a dramatic story, filled with transformation and hope as well as suffering and death. The tension of the story reaches its zenith on Good Friday when all appears lost. The followers of Jesus are scattered and hiding. The Messiah is dead.
Easter gives us the climactic “rest of the story” where the horror of Good Friday is transformed into the glory of resurrection day. Jesus is vindicated, life triumphs over death. Our future is secure.
This is indeed good news. It is news that has made a profound difference in my life and the lives of millions of people around the globe.
Yet to see Easter as a great ending to an amazing story is to miss a profound part of what makes the good news good. Yes, the narrative of our faith is an amazing story. And yes, the ending is tremendous. But the good news is good news because Easter isn’t the ending. Easter is a foretaste of the ultimate climax of God’s activity in our world. It gives us a taste of what is to come.
Easter is about the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Some are more comfortable with a spiritualization of that truth. Others tend spiritualize the resurrection without realizing it – an easy mistake to make, but one that glosses over the dramatic and miraculous truth foreshadowed in Easter: on the day of resurrection, it is not only our spirits that will rise, but our bodies also.
That may not sound revelatory but think about the ramifications. When the women arrived at the tomb it was empty, but soon the resurrected Christ appeared to his followers. He was undeniably transformed, but they were still able to recognize him; and they recognized him by his physical body, right down to his nail-pierced hands.
When we lay claim to the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, we are laying claim to the truth that just as the resurrected Christ was recognizable by his physical body – even as it was dramatically transformed, so we will be recognizable by our physical bodies, even though they will be remarkably made new.
This Easter truth is as mind-boggling and subversive today as it has been in every age; because rather than looking forward to a day when the things that make us different from others disappear, the resurrection proclaims that we look forward to an eternity in which those differences remain, but no longer divide.
Easter then, isn’t the climax of the story, it points to the climax, which is best found in Chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation. This is where we see what eternity looks like; here is where we find the fullest vision of God’s intention for creation.
Rather than taking us out of the world, the resurrection keeps us firmly planted in it. Rather than unfolding in some ephemeral, spiritual realm, creation is the context in which God’s kingdom comes. God makes God’s home among the people, who have gathered from every corner of the planet. As God transforms creation, making all things new, we discover the purpose of it all – for the healing of all the different peoples of the earth.
Easter is a foretaste of that Revelation image; which means that if we are to follow the resurrected Christ, we are to be a foretaste of that Revelation image. We are to be now what God envisions for the future – a community transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, in which differences may remain, but no longer divide nor define, a community in which healing can be experienced and lives made whole.
Easter Sunday was a glorious day; but today is Easter Monday, which for many of us can feel a whole lot like Good Friday. The question that continues to return to my mind is, what would those Fridays look like if we took the message of Sunday seriously? How might Fridays be transformed if we offer a genuine foretaste of God’s vision for the future?