This is part four in a four-part special Easter weekend series.
Last December I participated in a communal repentance service hosted by another church in my city. A narrator asked us each to consider: “Do I spend enough quality time with my family? Am I grateful for the food I eat? Do I make my choices thoughtfully? Am I compassionate to those less fortunate than myself?”
After the narration was finished a lot of people left, but I continued sitting in my chair. I sensed something inside I hadn’t fully tapped into yet, but when I rummaged through all the different aspects of my current thinking, I couldn’t find anything profoundly negative. “Gosh, this is nice,” I thought. “What a great life I have. What possibilities; what beauty!”
And so I asked God to help me discern whatever it was I still felt the need to repent of. Finally, gradually, a phrase I’d written in my journal two years before came to the front of my mind with incredible force: “The Resurrection has done it to me.”
Here I’d been thinking about how lucky I was, or maybe how brave or what a hard worker I was to have come through to where I am now experientially, but I was lovingly reminded that all the joy and abundance in my life today did not arrive through any human effort. The resurrection did it to me, and the reality of resurrection in my life has changed everything about who I am. The resurrection has loaded my days with hope and meaning.
On Friday, Nietzsche’s madman rushed upon us and declared the death of God. “God is dead” was our cry, because that is when God died in Jesus and the world went dark. But today, a different madman can be heard crying out: “God was dead, but now he’s alive!”
Or maybe it’s a madwoman. Let’s go back to the disciples who are huddled together, bawling, dreams shattered and destroyed. It’s Saturday night and the sun has set. The women gather their courage, and with aching heads and hearts they plod to market in search of burial spices. They anticipate touching, once more, the broken body of the one they love. They are honest. They won’t settle for any denial; they won’t turn their eyes from the truth that Jesus has died.
Back from the market, the women settle in for another sleepless night before rising early the next morning, while it’s still dark and the sun has not yet even risen. As a faint glow rises from the eastern horizon, the women make their way to the grave of their Lord.
But now the real mockery of their grief occurs. As they’re discussing how they’ll get that huge boulder rolled away, they arrive and find that it is already gone! They stop mid-sentence, dead in their tracks. Mary moans, drops her bundle, and runs to the tomb— into the very heart of death— and finds that Jesus isn’t there anymore.
And who does Mary meet instead? An angel (or a couple of angels; accounts differ). And in Luke the angel says “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise... And they remembered…" (Luke 24:5-6, 8.)
In stunned amazement the women forget their expensive burial bundles and run back to find the disciples, but as they are on their way, Jesus himself meets the women and their faces become as ghosts. They had hoped against hope. The angels had told them about the resurrection, but now they see him with their own eyes: Jesus, their love. And they fall down at his feet and weep the happiest tears of their lives. (Matthew 28:9.)
Later, when they finally do reach the disciples, we hear the madwoman’s announcement: Yes, God was dead. But now “God is alive! Peter! John! Do you understand what we're saying? Jesus has come back to life!”
And I imagine Simon the Zealot says, “You guys are crazy.” And James gets angry— tells them to shut up. And Matthew says, “The grief is too much for them. They’re losing their minds with sorrow. But then one of the Marys says, “Oh, come and see for yourselves! We saw an angel. And… we saw him.”
Like the women in the gospels, on this day we too are invited to be mad with victory, mad with love.
In Saturday: Looking Forward, we discussed Matthew 24: “Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. You must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Resurrection— the coming of the Lord— was not anything those disciples expected. The funny thing about resurrection is that until it comes, you don’t ever think it’s possible. It seems absolutely ludicrous. But after it does come, it changes the way you look at the world. It rewrites everything about everything. And when you wonder why your outlook on the world is so much more positive, when you find courage again where you thought it was gone forever, when suddenly you look inside and find love where once there had only been anger and disappointment, you realize what has happened: “The resurrection has done it to me.” No human produced it. Jesus came, unexpected, from an overwhelming abundance of death and is alive in a way no one could ever think or pray himself or herself into. Only by experiencing Friday and waiting out Saturday can Sunday morning dawn. You can’t rush the allotted time of days. Resurrection comes of its own accord, when it’s ready and right.
And when this happened for me, a long journey I won’t share here, it was like the rising of a brand new sun. I’d been so angry at death for so long, but now everything looked beautiful— even me. I was still keenly aware of my brokenness, but it didn’t matter anymore, since Jesus had also taken on brokenness. That brokenness in him, in me, was where we met, the place where we loved each other. Suddenly I no longer despised my impermanence, because God was there in it. My frailty was in fact the very thing that allowed resurrection to occur. Remember? Nothing that has not died can ever be raised from the dead. When God dies, we die. But as he lives, we also live: “The resurrection has done it to me.”
Psalm 5 describes Friday, here the wicked, saying, “Their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave.”(Vs. 9.) The author points out the “abundance of their transgressions.” (Vs. 10.) But abundance flip flops in verse 7: “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.”
On Friday, death seems like humanity's last great exclamation point, but on Sunday a new kind of abundance emerges from the tomb: the abundance of God's steadfast love. The fact that we receive this second abundance doesn’t cancel out the abundance of Friday; it doesn’t mean we have the answer to human suffering, or that Friday’s tragic statistics are lost. It only means that love wins. Death is real, but life is also real, and whereas death is absence, life has substance. Life is something, and so life wins. While on Friday it feels like we have been abandoned by God, on Sunday we are finally abandoned to God.
I would like to suggest at least three different ways people respond to Easter’s abundance. These are almost identical to the three responses I outlined in Friday's Fast.
1) Some gorge on it. They say, “I’m entitled to this- give it to me all at once. It’s about time I got what I deserved.” This kind of attitude denies the sovereignty of God, the Lord’s prayer which instructs us to pray for daily bread, and the request of Proverbs 30: 8-9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food that is needful for me. Lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
Love is not ours to gorge. Rather, we receive its fullness moment by moment like breath, grateful and aware that life ceases without the ongoing gift of his resurrection.
2) Some deny it. Some remain cynical and faithless, unwilling to believe that any force is strong enough to contend with Friday’s pain. Such a course is deeply tragic.
3) Some choose to be present to Sunday in the same way God invites his children to be present to Friday. You and I can let God’s abundant life sink into all our dry places, all the dry bones of our private valleys. We can savor each delicate flavor of love as a sign pointing to the great feast that awaits us in Heaven, when all things shall be made new.
This is what resurrection can do to you and me. May its gift be yours forevermore.
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 227.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2294