I have lost count of the number of reflections on the Easter story which end with something akin to “this is the meaning of Easter!” I am sure that the writers are using hyperbole, but the import is often to suggest that there is a single reason, a single grid, or a simple and exclusive interpretation for this momentous historical event. I would suggest that history demonstrates that we are still coming to grips with the cosmic transformation which was birthed and unleashed that first Easter.
Renowned theologian Karl Barth wrote lengthy theological tomes, grappling with the import of the work of God in history, and particularly in Jesus Christ. Yet at the end of the day, when asked to explain the christian faith, he responded with the words of a children’s hymn: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The great Christian apologist of the twentieth century - C S Lewis - once intimated that everything that was said about God was a lie, inasmuch as it is never the complete truth because language itself is an inadequate vehicle for expressing God.
If we spend our time arguing about the best verbal explanation of the Easter events, we have clearly missed the point. Just as the cradle of Bethlehem was not filled with a tract, but a child, so those who would encounter the risen Christ encounter not an idea or a principle, but a risen and transformed being: the crucified Son of God.
Some might argue that the great omission of the modern church has been its predilection for honing the explanation and explication of the Easter story, while giving much less time and energy to the lifestyle implications.
Jesus rose not to create a new hymn, or inspire a new poem, but to transformed and transforming living: to enable us to live the story he lived, knowing both its costs and its promises. The most important explanation of the cross lies not in words framed into a paragraph, but in its implications for the way in which we live today. Inasmuch as the words help us grapple with that reality, they remain an important part of the journey. But the moment we are distracted by it, we begin to miss the point.
However, we understand and explain the Easter events, my prayer is that we do so with our whole lives.
April 10, 2005