Jesus Christ is risen indeed
Today, as my Facebook page is rife with joyous exclamations of resurrection and hope, it seems appropriate to contemplate the meaning of Christ Resurrected. I have no issues with Jesus crucified. I’ve studied enough to be satisfied that, as best we can know, a man named Jesus existed in first century Palestine and quite likely was crucified by the Romans (though no actual first-, or even second-, hand evidence exists). But to accept a literal resurrection with as much confidence as I’ve accepted a literal crucifixion requires a whole different order of questions and criticism. I’m not one of those scientism-thinkers who relegates any story of the miraculous to the fairy tale pile. Just because miracles aren’t likely and aren’t explicable when they do, doesn’t mean they are impossible—that’s kinda the definition of miracle, after all. So I leave open the possibility that this guy Jesus did not only literally die but also bodily resurrect. I think, however, that it is highly improbable and take the line of least resistance—I will only accept a literal miracle when more likely explanations don’t exist.
Many people take the CS Lewis approach to Jesus and say he must be exactly who we’ve decided he said he was (a substitutionally atoning deity, sacrificed on our behalf) because otherwise he was either a liar or insane—as if those are the only options. Since we can’t believe that Jesus would either lie or be insane (just think what that would do to our doctrines!), we must therefore accept that he is the dead and resurrected God-Man. Um, yeah, the dead and resurrected God-Man. Just like the dead and resurrected God-Man of the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Celts, the Hindu, the…. Yeah, dead and resurrected god-men were quite popular in the thousand years before and after Jesus. Even non-deities like Roman emperors and Greek heroes were talked about as resurrected and coming back in glory. So, thinking of Jesus’s death and resurrection as somehow different, more literal, than all those is pretty crazy to me.
Which all leaves me with the question—who was this Jesus, then? What was his purpose? My working hypothesis has been that he was a singularly human teacher who preached a wholly loving God that didn’t need sacrifice or legalism for atonement. A teacher whose primary and perhaps only message was an overwhelming and transformative experience of this God found through and resulting in the love and service to one’s fellowman.
What a comedown from a resurrected deity! So commonplace! Why, Jesus would be no different than Buddha or Lao-tse or even Mohammed. And not significantly different than the later Jewish prophets of his own tradition. The shock of the idea pointedly illustrates the elitism and entitlement tendencies of Christianity as surely as the fervor with which Christians insist that Jesus is a dead and resurrected God-Man wholly different than all the others.
And all of the clamor of “my god is better than yours” distracts completely from the radical, transformative, salvific Truth taught by every single one of those prophets and resurrected god-men: recognizing one’s divine worth as wholly loved cannot help but lead one to love others with that same radical grace. When you know you are loved, you cannot do anything else but love. In our denominational tribalism, we fight tooth and nail for the doctrinal correctness of our particular formulation of that Truth to the extent that we ignore the Truth itself.
We are loved. We are wholly, completely, totally, unequivocally, inalterably LOVED by the Very Being who creates the universe. We need do, in fact, cannot do anything to be lovable, to be loving, to be loved. We are loved, we are lovable, and to the extent that we understand our loved-ness, we are loving. And that really is amazing, radical, transformative, and capable of bringing peace to all mankind. No matter who teaches a message of Love, under what name, the result is the same. Recognizing the love brings more love to the world.
When the love of God enters the world, Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia.