The resurrection of Jesus the Christ is the center, the glue, so to speak, that holds Christianity together. After Jesus preached love and forgiveness and mercy…while at the same time preaching that God desired that there be social justice for “the least of these,” he was attacked by the government and by church leaders, both of who felt threatened by his growing influence and power. In the Gospel of John, crowds following Jesus grow even more after he raised Lazarus from the dead…and they were on fire, enthusiastic, “spreading the word,” as the Gospel notes. Because of his “word-of-mouth ministry, people began to spread the word, or continued to spread the word. And the Pharisees, according to John’s gospel (and no doubt, the Roman government!) got angry and became even more insecure than they had been. The Pharisees, noting Jesus’ growing ministry, said, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him?” (John 12:17-19)
The “this” they were talking about was their plans to get rid of Jesus, by any means necessary. The chief priests made plans to kill not only Jesus, but Lazarus as well, John’s gospel reads, because they were threatened by Jesus’ growing power. Nothing they said or did was enough to squash Jesus presence and power, nor was it enough to intimidate the people into not following him.
Before “the resurrection,” it seems, there was “a resurrection,” this one being the human component of Jesus being able to wrest from the darts thrown at him to kill him and his ministry failing, ultimately, and Jesus being able to continue to do what his Father had sent him to do.
If there is anything that too many people seem to misunderstand, it is that resurrection is an ongoing process experienced by us all, and not a single event experienced by just one person. Any time we are able to escape the darts thrown at us, the curve balls that knock our lives off their foundations, and throw us into despair …we experience resurrection. We “share in Christ‘s birth, death and resurrection,” say writers in the books of Colossians and Romans. We obviously cannot hang on the cross on which Jesus was nailed. So, how do we share in his birth, death and resurrection?
We do that by agreeing to become new on a daily basis. There are things in all our lives that crucify us, keeping us from realizing and using our full potential. Many of us live lives of “quiet desperation,” as Thoreau said, not willing to venture out of our safe spaces and away from our “safe” and known behaviors. We are stuck. Every time, though, we garner enough courage to look at what’s making us suffer, and make a decision to crucify that, we begin the process of sharing in the suffering …and new life…that “the” resurrection offers to us.
In other words, we are not supposed to just look at Jesus’ experience of birth, death and resurrection; we are supposed to experience it. We are supposed to be willing to suffer for a while, but then be willing to let that suffering die and thus “resurrect” new people.
Let’s call it “practical” resurrection.
For some reason, the situation of former President Bill Clinton really impacted me. He was disgraced, surely, in the most heinous way. He was “crucified” for something he did, and was hung up to suffer in full view of the whole world. It was painful to watch. It seemed that Clinton had been “killed,” politically, when he was impeached. His faults and weaknesses were displayed and revealed for the whole world to see. He hung in full view.
But Clinton resurrected! He got up and moved on. There will be some who will ever hate him for what he apparently did with Monica Lewinsky, for embarrassing the country and for violating his marriage vows, but, but Clinton resurrected! Those who put him down could not keep him down …and Clinton, who participated in his own demise, could not …or would not …keep himself “down,” either! He made a bad mistake, and it seemed that his career as a politician was over. But that was not the case. Clinton endured his crucifixion, suffered the consequences…and then got up!
Suffering,including that which we bring upon ourselves, is not supposed to keep us down. If we believe in this resurrected Lord, then we are supposed to understand that we are given opportunity to “resurrect,” on a practical level, daily. Suffering, earned or unearned, has a purpose – and that is to strengthen us. We are not supposed to live suffering-free lives. The issue is not whether or not we should suffer, but, rather, IF we will be able to get up and move on, in other words, to practice resurrection.
One can only wonder what this world would be like if more of us understood that suffering and death are both a part of life. Parts of us, those parts which hold onto thoughts and memories which keep us “dead” inside and keep us from God and God from us – are supposed to die. We are supposed to “lose” our lives so that we can live our lives.
Jesus suffered unjustly, but still, he resurrected. Not even undeserved suffering has the power to keep us down unless we let it.
A candid observation. Happy Easter, everyone!
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