As Easter is coming around, it strikes me how ridiculous Easter must sound to people who aren’t Christians. I think the fact that Jesus died for our sins is a perfectly acceptable idea for most people. But resurrection–rising from the grave–if it were in any other context, would actually sound rather spooky. And, as we all know, things that sound spooky don’t really sound all that credible. Even in the first century, during a time when people were more open to the supernatural, people had to be convinced that Jesus actually resurrected.
With all this in mind, it makes sense why stories like The Da Vinci Code are so appealing. The possibility of a resurrected Jesus sounds so other-worldy, so far removed from reality. But the possibility of resurrection as a human myth covering a complex labyrinth of human secrets guarded by human societies–there’s something much more approachable about it.
The interesting thing is that the impossibility of resurrection is actually wrapped in the impossibility of Jesus in general. A virgin birth, wisdom beyond his years, a perfect life, miracles, a cosmic mission, a tragic death, a miraculous resurrection, an unbelievable ascension, and he’s also supposed to be present with us even today. Oddly enough, though, the whole mission of Jesus was actually not to make God less approachable by the far-too-enchanting details of his life; it was quite the opposite. The whole incarnation–God in the flesh–was a sign that God was much closer than even the most open of secret societies. In between every landmark moment of Jesus’ life was a strong affirmation of humanness, not in the sense that Jesus naively overlooked people’s shortcomings, but in the sense that our human experience was real and valid, no matter how sinful or tortured it is. If God bothered to enter into human experience and during his stay on earth thought it worthwhile to learn carpentry from his dad, weep at the loss of a friend, burn with anger at the sight of injustice, touch the hands and faces of the sick, make friends, eat food and drink wine, and on and on and on, then it is an emphatic affirmation of such experiences. And if these mundane acts of being human culminate in miracles and perfection, then Jesus’ divinity in no way trumps reality as we know, but hearkens of a genuinely human experience that we simply have not yet thought was within the realm of possibility.
Resurrection–it seems so comic book, so mythic. But within the drama of Scripture, in view of the entire life and mission of Jesus–it is perhaps the most radical affirmation of life and humanity. In some sense, it seems to be about escaping death. And I will not deny that resurrection is really about abolishing death. But resurrection is also about taking a stand once and for all for humanity. Death, we have assumed is essential to being human–but that is only because we are so far removed from our Edenic roots. Presuming death as the final and only option is much like presuming land travel as the only way of getting from A to B–that is of course until someone introduces flight for the first time. Resurrection was accomplished by the one person who was ever truly human, opening up the avenue for all of us to approach being human in the very original sense of the idea.
That Jesus actually resurrected certainly still sounds irrational in today’s world. But if we are open to not only the supernatural, but to a radically different understanding of what it means to be human, what the purpose of human life is, who we are as individuals and as a human community, then perhaps resurrection will begin to sound less like far-fetched religious hocus pokus and more like good news for those of us who feel inevitably human.