Posted by: gcarkner | March 29, 2015

The Challenge of Easter


Giovanni Bellini

How are we to understand Good Friday and Easter from such a distance? How does it relate to our experience? Is it mere sentiment or something more profound? Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making: recovering our creative calling, (Chapter 8 “Jesus as Culture Maker”) has some brilliant insights into the difference that Jesus life, death and resurrection have for shaping the horizons of possibility (shalom and human flourishing) for societies, ancient and modern. He helps us grapple with the various dimensions of this sorrow and celebration. See also I Corinthians 15.

The Cross

He suffered the full weight of the human story of rebellion against God. He was literally impaled on the worst that culture can do–an instrument of torture that stood for all the other cultural dead ends of history, from spears to bombs, gas chambers to waterboards. Like all other instruments of violence, a cross is cultural folly and futility at its most horrible. (141)

The core calling of [Jesus] life is not something he does at all in an active sense–it is something he suffers. The strangest and most wonderful paradox of the biblical story is that its most consequential moment is not an action but a passion–not a doing but a suffering. (142)

On Good Friday, love embraced suffering as Jesus drank the bitter cup. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. self-consciously followed the same journey of the suffering death of Jesus, the way of the cross, as he promoted civil rights for African-Americans in the Southern USA in the 1960s. He worked hard to replace the perverted symbol of the cross which was used as a justification for aggression, hate and violence—e.g. the Ku Klux Klan. His life quest was to restore the cross as a symbol of love, mercy, justice and non-violence. He incarnated a form of extreme love, a committed non-violent protest against systemic injustice. ~Iwan Russell-Jones, Professor of Faith and the Arts, Regent College

The Aftershocks of the Resurrection

The resurrection was a culture-shaping event…. If indeed it happened as Jesus’ followers proclaimed, [it] changed more of subsequent human history, for more people and more cultures, than any other event one can name. See N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God. which examines it using the tools of historical research. (143)

The resurrection of Jesus is like a cultural earthquake, its epicenter located in Jerusalem in the early 30’s [C.E.], whose aftershocks are being felt in the cultural practices of people all over the world, many of whom have never heard of, and many more of whom have never believed in, its origins. (145)

The resurrection is the hinge of history–still after two thousand years as culturally far-reaching in its effects as anything that has come since. (145) It is a cultural triumph–an answer, right in the midst of human history, to all the fears of Israel in the face of its enemies. (146)

Indeed one of the most dramatic cultural effects of the resurrection is the transformation of that heinous cultural artifact known as a cross. An instrument of domination and condemnation becomes a symbol of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed; an alternative culture where grace and forgiveness are the last word…. The cross, the worst that culture can do, is transformed into a sign of the kingdom of God–the realm of forgiveness, mercy, love and indestructible life. (146)

Adrienne von Speyr, a 20th century Swiss mystic, offers a reflection:

The Lord knows that all is now finished. His life is finished, what will succeed it is also finished. In the course of his sojourn on earth, he has put in place everything out of which the later Church will arise in the many-sidedness of her life; he has trusted his disciples and all those who believe in him with their special task. After he has then given his Mother to his favorite disciple, nothing further remains for him but to suffer; he can devote himself exclusively to suffering, plunge once and for all into suffering. It is in Christ’s isolation from the Father, where the center point of his suffering lies. To be separated from a love from which one has lived since eternity, one which constitutes the entire substance of one’s being, that is lethal.

Alister McGrath captures Easter’s impact: “The resurrection declares in advance of the event God’s total victory over all evil and oppressive forces—such as death, evil and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in light of that victory, knowing that the long night of their oppression will end.” ~What Was God Doing on the Cross?

Jesus is perlocutionary speech act, God’s most powerful communication to human ears and lives (Kevin Vanhoozer). He addresses us, calls our name, calls us forward into an adventuresome life. His words and teaching (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount) are a phenomenal culture driver that has helped to shape the world in positive ways. His compassion for the needy and broken is a sign that God has not given up on us, that he is there for us and that he cares deeply what happens to us. His resurrection is a starting point, a singularity that cannot be explained by anything prior; it stands as a huge revelation, an epiphany, a new beginning, a brilliant hope for change, for forgiveness and renewed relationships. It is hope for renewal of all our loves. He speaks for God from a powerful, dynamic center, a communion of love within the Trinity. This communion is the ground of being itself, the ground of human community. Through him, we have been identified and called into a new community, given a new identity as royal priests (I Peter) and the people of God, his loved ones. He is the hermeneutic of a new reconciled humanity, drawn from all the nations of the globe, committed to bless and make peace, to be compassionate, to live with integrity (shalom), to shine as moral light. He is the sign, the signifier and the signified. He calls us to practice resurrection, to move into resurrection life. ~Gord Carkner from Jesus is the Yes and Amen to It All

Andy Crouch, Playing God

Love transfigures power. Absolute love transfigures absolute power. And power transfigured by love is the power that made and saves the world. (45)

Sin and death, and the twin systems they create, idolatry and injustice, are already umasked and have lost the critical battle. Creative love was always stronger and more real—and in the community of the resurrection, the first and latest followers of Jesus find that the reality living, breathing and working powerfully through us. (53)

Within a few more generations, the news of Jesus’ resurrection had indeed “turned the world upside down,” just as the armed early reports from Thessalonica suggested (Acts 17:6). The proclamation that the true Image Bearer had lived, had not been vanquished by the powers of idolatry and injustice but had risen victorious over them, and had now poured out his spirit on flesh, turned out to be the pivot point of history, the hinge on which the whole story turned. The promise that human beings were not destined to be ground under the history of idols and god players like Caesar, but to lie and rise to participation in the divine nature, set in motion the most wide-ranging social movement in history.” (93-94)

When a man [woman] truly and perfectly says with Jesus, and as Jesus said it, “Thy will be done,” he [she] chooses the everlasting life-cycle. The life of the Father and the Son flows through him [her]. He [she] is part of the divine organism. Then is the prayer of the Lord in him [her] fulfilled: “I am in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.”

~George MacDonald, from Creation in Christ

Made for spirituality we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our full human role as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply, is what is means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.

~N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

Dr. Gary Habermas on Transformation in Scholarship on the Resurrection:

See also blog on Evidence of a Resurrection

Rene Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (commentary of the New Testament unmasking of evil and scapegoating in the Easter Narrative)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: