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What difference does Easter make?
 

The risen Jesus is the living Jesus, and Easter means we do not stop seeking to understand, respond and follow Him. By Andy Goodliff

 

Fixing eyes on Jesus

There is a tendency to think of the cross as the wound
and the resurrection as the healing,
or the cross as the problem and the resurrection as the solution.
But what if the resurrection is as much a wound and a problem? [i]
I’m not suggesting in any sense that the resurrection did not happen,
rather I am suggesting it was an overwhelming world–shattering experience for
those who encountered and continue to encounter the risen Jesus which was, and is,
met with joy, but also with fear and bewilderment.
To name the resurrection as a wound is to suggest that it is a trauma to our sense
of everything from which we never fully recover.
While it seems ‘resurrection’ like stories are ten–a–penny in a certain kind of film,
which might make the resurrection appear expected,
the resurrection of Jesus is of a different kind.
It was entirely unexpected.

The resurrection narratives are not neat epilogues to the gospels,
tying everything up,
they are disturbing, mysterious and leave everything, including death,
undone.
The gospels are in a strange sense unfinished,
because the risen Jesus is continually reopening them and us as readers:
the end is just new beginnings.
There is no triumphalism at the end of the gospels,
and this should give us pause in our preaching;
to preach with the gospels at Easter is to draw us and the world
into the wondering of what it means for Jesus to live.
The resurrection is a rupture in history,
that leaves the disciples with burning hearts and an invitation to see everything new.
 
As we continue to live through this virus,
with this current narrative of death,
we are also now living through Easter.
What difference does Easter make?
If in Lent we see ourselves walking the way of the cross,
we do not cease walking when we arrive at the resurrection.
Easter is not the destination.
The risen Jesus goes ahead.
It's the beginning of a new journey that does not let go of the cross,
but takes the cross with us, past the empty tomb, into the disorientating newness
and joy that is the resurrection.

The Lent journey of 40 days, is followed by an Easter journey of 50 days
(although we rarely get further than Easter Sunday.)
What the 50 days perhaps suggests is that if it takes 40 days to pay attention to the
Jesus who sets his face towards Jerusalem and the cross,
it will take longer to attend to the risen Jesus, who leaves behind the grave:
the risen Jesus is the living Jesus.
 
If we declare that Jesus is alive,
the Christian faith is more than just a study of the teachings of its founder;
it is more than just a reflection on the inspiring example of a hero;
it is an on–going openness to encounter the risen Stranger.[ii]
It is as a Stranger that Jesus meets Mary, Cleopas, and those fishing on the sea of
Galilee.
Easter means we do not stop seeking to understand,
respond to and follow the one who is living.
It is to be surprised by Jesus again and again and again.
The church is a community of people who witness that ‘I have seen the Lord.’
We have been wondrously wounded[iii] by the resurrection
and as such we live responding to this mystery.
We can say that we have seen the Lord, but at the same time we struggle
to comprehend what that means.
Jesus the risen Lord will not be tied down by our words and explanations.
Instead ‘we shall grow in resurrection faith precisely as we walk with the risen Jesus,
never quite catching up.’[iv]
 
What difference does Easter make?
It creates the church. We are an Easter people
in a Good Friday world.
We are those immersed in to the life of Jesus, the Risen Stranger,
called to practice forgiveness, peacemaking, patience and truth–telling.
In this traumatic time we are met by the trauma of resurrection,
That draws us into abiding astonishment and lingering hope.
What the church offers is the invitation to discover a future bigger than the past
for that is what the resurrection creates.

The gift of the Risen Jesus, who has sprung from death
is Life made new, Joy made possible.

‘Whatever happens in the unpredictable world
— sometimes wonderfully, sometimes horribly unpredictable —
there is a deeper level of reality, a world within the world,
where love and reconciliation are ceaselessly at work,
a world with which contact can be made so that we are able to live
honestly and courageously with the challenges constantly thrown at us.’
[v]

 
 
[i] The idea of the resurrection as wound come from Benjamin Myers, Christ the Stranger: The Theology of Rowan Williams (T & T Clark, 2012), 31, 37.
[ii] Rowan Williams, On Christian Theology (Blackwell, 2000), 188.
[iii] I borrow this phrase from Brian Brock, Wondrously Wounded: Theology, Disability and the Body of Christ (Baylor, 2019).
[iv] Rowan Williams, Thoughts on the Resurrection cited in Brett Gray, Jesus in the Theology of Rowan Williams (T & T Clark, 2016), 163.
[v] Rowan Williams, ‘Happiness or Joy’ in Choose Life: Christmas and Easter Sermons in Canterbury Cathedral (Bloomsbury, 2013), 199.


 

Andy Goodliff is minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend 


Image | Mads Schmidt Rasmussen + Luca Laconelli, Unsplash | Baptists Together Flickr

 
This is the latest in a series of theological and biblical reflections from Baptists for Holy Week and Easter
 


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