October 22, 2017

The Last Laugh In The Least Likely Place

The Last Laugh In The Least Likely Place (Holy Saturday ’04)

A reader at Josh Claybourn’s blog writes

On the Christian calendar, today is Holy Saturday. It marks a kind of pause in the “Triduum,” the three days from the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday until the triumphant dawn of Easter Sunday. For the modern church, it is a time for reflection and anticipation, a day to complete one’s meditation on the Passion and prepare one’s heart for the joyous celebration of the Resurrection. For Jesus’s followers, however, as the corpse of their bloodied master lay cold in the tomb, we can only imagine the depth of sorrow and anguish that was theirs that first Easter weekend. But for them as for us, it was the weekend that changed everything. And it was a change no less dramatic and unexpected for all the years that they had spent following him in Galilee and Judea. This “unexpectedness” of Easter–the sheer surprise of it–ought to be as much a part of Easter celebrations as the joy of the holiday. For the surprises are also a part of the new life in Christ. The Scriptures themselves tell the story. Before the Resurrection, uncertainty hovers around the person of Jesus. “Are you the Messiah?” But after the Resurrection–no, it is not that Jesus is at once recognized as the risen Lord–rather, it is that the recognition comes in the most astonishing ways, overwhelming the soul with joy and awe. On the road to Emmaus; on the way to Damascus; in a locked room; and–most beautifully in its narration–at breakfast on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. “It is the Lord!”

The great promise of the Christian revelation is that this same surprise is available to us, if we will go forth to meet the world in his name. May Christ be with you, today, tomorrow, and every day. Happy Easter!

I’ve always felt that Passion plays of every sort missed out on what must have been going on in the hours after the death of Jesus. We need to meditate on the utter, complete, abject devastation and disappointment the disciples would have been feeling right now.

Modern critics of the Gospels, such as the Jesus seminar gang, make the same mistake. I heard J.D. Crossan say, “When I read (the resurrection accounts), I’m reading hope, not history.”

Hope? What hope? A man who never met a corpse he couldn’t raise, a disease he couldn’t cure, a storm he couldn’t calm, is lying cold and dead. His power vanished before their very eyes and he was crushed like a bug. All the talk of who would sit on his right and who would be the greatest…how absolutely stupid it all would seem now. Can anyone imagine the disciples having the Lord’s Supper today? It’s absurd. Everything was crushed, and there was no hope, only despair.

The assumption that the disciples were standing by the windows waiting to see Jesus is bizarre. The resurrection came blasting out from under a planet-sized boulder of hopelessness.

Perhaps we sometimes forget that Christianity doesn’t teach that despair and doubt are alien to faith. The prelude to Easter faith was the darkest, blackest kind of doubt and unbelief. The songs of Easter are growing out soil that’s devoid of any reason to sing.

The apologists who believe the evidence for the resurrection is compelling need to remember that the greatest argument against the resurrection is the simplist: This just doesn’t happen. Death is final.

We are carrying around in us, and with us, a message of hope that’s laughably ridiuclous. Faith really is comedy. God refuses to play by the rules. He raises Jesus and gives us life in Jesus’ death and resurrection. And we get to give it away, any way we can.

I’m so glad the resurrection hope isn’t theology, but miracle. Absurdity. A divine joke on all of us. There is no depth we can go to- not even the depths of hell and the grave- where we can escape from God’s laughter at our certainty it’s all over. If you want to figure it out, write a theology or pen a convincing apologetic, knock yourself out. God raised Jesus from the dead. He opened a window in your hell and my grave and said, “You’re free to leave. The rules don’t apply anymore.”

I trust you see the beauty in it. Theology, religion, the bland pleasures of the world- none of them can reach into death, despair and the grave and rescue me. I regularly need rescue from such places, and I’m pretty sure the time will come when trusting what God did to Jesus will be ALL I can believe.

So be it. Let the laughter begin in the least likely places.

Comments

  1. Jack Heald says:

    I contemplate the same things. In sports, when a team makes a “miraculous” comeback to win the game, we sometimes say that they came “back from the dead”. We’ll use similar phrases to describe a politician who wins an election when his career seems to have ended. But the reality of the resurrection is different. If we put Christ’s resurrection in sports terms, it would be as if the NFL decided that Nashville really did win the 2000 Super Bowl. Yeah sure, they were behind when the clock expired, but they win anyway. It violates every principle we know and hold dear – and yet the hope that it offers me is far more important than any footbal game.