Well, another Easter has come and gone. I am thinking of the dishes that need to be unloaded from the dishwasher, and contemplating the leftovers for lunch. In reality, there is a bigger picture here. The bigger picture is how many people world-over celebrated this paschal feast, marking yet another year in history where the faithful in Christ remember his death, and more importantly, his resurrection. World-over, it is also the second year where celebrations of Easter have been curtailed by the visit of a global pandemic. The faithful now gather behind closed doors, an odd mirror to the way Christians upheld the tenets of their faith in the days of the early church, where public gatherings were considered to be seditious.
In the quiet, some thoughts remain. First off, I am very conscious as to how veiled the Christian message has become. Luminaries within Christian circles supply us with a “New Gospel”, the kind that Saint Paul warned us about. This should be no surprise in a world where consumers will line up all night for new phone. Novelty is the key. If it is new, people will like it for that very reason. It will get its fifteen minutes of fame before being discarded. In actual fact, such a mindframe is the opposite of what has kept Christian faith going for two thousand years plus.
Christianity bucks the times, and it bucks circumstance due to its curious nature. It is the thing that cannot be, because it refutes human logic. It is a reality check, because it reminds us how fallible our offerings of truths are, and how often they change and are updated.
In this opposite world we live in, people remain offended at the Gospel because they balk at the idea of suffering. They are resistant to the imposition of a cross when they want God to provide them with that good life NOW, as promised by prosperity preachers. We don’t like the Cross because it still does not make any sense after two thousand years, and that is perhaps the very reason why it continues to come to the fore.
Jesus did not flinch from the idea of the Cross. Repeatedly, the Gospels make it clear that when the disciples tried to change it up and urged Jesus to step into his earthly king-shoes, he refused. He told Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. Those who are into kingdom building are going to be disappointed. They had better find a more reliable way to see Easter, than the chance for peace, prosperity, and a kingdom in the here and now.
The thing I am left with after reading the passion narratives yet again, is how Jesus refers to his suffering as his GLORY. Yes, he often switches it up in the same sentence. In the twelfth chapter of John, Jesus referred to this glorification, speaking of his death. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” What could he possibly mean, by equating his crucifixion with glory?
It is not the way the world thinks about such things. People will go a long way to avoiding suffering of any kind. But what if Jesus took on the worst the Devil could throw at him, in full knowledge that he was sufficient to defeat sin and death on the Cross? It would mean that suffering would no longer matter. Something better and eternal stands in its place. We visited a small graveyard on the weekend, a local pioneer cemetery. It is now in the middle of a developed neighbourhood, and the first view you would get coming out of your home to retrieve the morning newspaper, would be the graves of dead people. They make you wonder that someone would buy in such a place where death stands outside your door as a reminder. They remind me specifically, how precious and long-lasting the promises of God are, and how they persist with a shout of joy every Easter morning precisely because of the Cross. The worst came, and God defeated it, when shame and pain turned to something better - GLORY.
It is important that we keep this teaching at the heart of Christianity. The death of Christ was no misadventure. It was not by reason of example, or other such popular obfuscations. What the Gospels clearly tell us, what the Old Testament predicts, and what the New Testament proclaims is the propitiatory substitution of Christ in our place, the paschal lamb who stands then, and at the end of the world, where the faithful gather at the throne of God and proclaim, “Holy is the lamb that was slain - to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus Christ is Lord then, today, and tomorrow. He will be Lord at the hour of our death, and he will be Lord when the graves of those faithful in Christ are emptied at the resurrection.
Saint Paul re-asserts the primacy of the resurrection in the fifteenth chapter of the first book of Corinthians. He reminds the fledgling church, that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is of first importance, that if Christ did not rise from the dead, we are wasting our time and our faith is in vain. We are left to contemplate, alongside of the dishes in the dishwasher, and the leftovers, the paradox of suffering, and the Cross which remains alongside of the victorious empty grave. The glory of God will not have it otherwise.