Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Resurrecting Jesus

Many of us have demythologized Jesus. Others have deconstructed Jesus. Now it’s time to give some thought to resurrecting Jesus!

I don’t mean we can assume divine power to restore life or create the eternal. But just as God is revealed in the sacraments only with our willing suspension of disbelief, the resurrected Jesus is said by scripture only to have appeared to believers. Some of those believers hesitated or doubted, but they showed up anyway. Many of us showed up this past Sunday for Easter celebrations of resurrection. Woody Allen once quipped that 90% of life is just showing up!

This train of thought began for me on Good Friday, in an afternoon conversation about “the empty tomb” with a friend from seminary days, Kim White, visiting us briefly in Atlanta en route home to Nashville. I asked him what difference the story of Jesus’ resurrection makes to his faith in the 21st century. Like me, he’s more interested in Jesus than the appellations attached to him, like “the Christ.” 

As for me, I have discovered the ongoing presence of those closest to me after their deaths, continuing to offer me their joy and wisdom and strength. It’s easy then to imagine that those closest to Jesus felt the same, and this intimacy manifested itself in the stories of resurrection we have in the Bible, including what some scholars consider to be a misplaced resurrection story we call the Transfiguration, in which Peter, James, and John were given a mystical experience of Jesus’ spiritual intimacy with Moses the lawgiver, Elijah the prophet, and Yahweh, who proudly booms again about Jesus as a chosen child, just as Jesus heard at his baptism.

Literalists would say we have to take these stories as literal truth, not as mystical visions or explanatory mythology. But why? Even the early followers of Jesus differed on these manifestations of a risen Christ. Some biblical stories suggest a spiritual resurrection that allows Jesus to pass through locked doors or out of his burial garment, still in place. Others suggest a physical resurrection that allows Jesus to eat with disciples and permit them to touch his wounds. Some stories mix the two. And Mary Magdalene’s encounter and that of the disciples traveling to Emmaus indicate he is not immediately recognizable, and may be known in a garden (nature) as well as in sacrament (the breaking of bread), in grief as well as in hospitality to strangers.

For me, all of this is to say that we actively participate in Jesus’ resurrection by our own desire to see him, to experience his joy and wisdom and strength, to manifest his presence to those around us through  compassion for “the least of these” as well as our neighbors and opponents and sisters and brothers in faith.

I have always been fond of the concluding paragraph of Albert Schweitzer’s Quest for the Historical Jesus:

He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, he came to those who knew him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which he has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in his fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who he is.

Copyright © 2013 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. Check out past posts in the right rail on the blogsite.

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1 comment:

  1. And now I have the hymn with words by Timothy Dudley-Smith that uses Schweitzer's words as the beginning running through my head. I love it!