I’ve recently been re-reading sections of N. T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope,” in search of some Easter-homily inspiration.
One of the points which he makes early on in the book is that in none of the accounts of the Resurrection in the gospels is there a single mention of what it means for us.
There is no meta-analysis. No commentary.
There’s no “Jesus is Risen…and so we shall be raised too.” No, “Jesus lives…and just wait until X, Y, and Z come to pass too.”
Now in the later pages of the New Testament, most notably in the writings of Paul, there’s plenty of commentary on how the Resurrection impacts our life and the life of the Church. There’s even plenty of instruction on how to tap into that Resurrection power through faith, belief, upright living, the acquisition of righteousness, and baptism – baptism into Jesus’ death and Resurrection.
But, not in the accounts of the Resurrection itself.
Gosh, could it be that Easter morning isn’t about us?
Can it simply be about Jesus?
In John’s account, Mary encounters the Risen Christ, and – after she finally realizes that she’s not speaking with the gardener, but her Lord – he tells her to go back and tell the others that he is going to ascend.
Not: “Mary! Here I am! Isn’t this great! And guess what’s in store for you!”
No. It’s all about Jesus. He’s Risen, and he’s about to go to his Father.
In the Gospels, Jesus’ Resurrection is all about identifying him as the Son of God and God Incarnate who has power over life and death. But none of the evangelists take that moment to expound on the ramifications for the rest of us.
And, it’s not just that way on the actual Day of Resurrection – because the evangelists wrote decades and decades after the Event itself.
But, when they recounted and told the Sacred Story of Jesus’ Resurrection – how it happened, where it happened, and who was there when it happened – it didn’t matter what the consequences were for us.
In that moment, in the telling of that Holy Story, it’s all about Jesus.
In many other situations early Christians would wax poetic on how we would rise with Jesus – that in the waters of baptism we share in the power of Jesus’ Resurrection – that death and sin can no longer hold us down.
But, not when talking about that Morning of the first day of the week which became the first Morning of the dawning of a New Creation.
Do we dare make Easter about ourselves, like it’s Christmas morning all over again and “guess-who” was here in the night and ate all the cookies and left us all the presents?
Could we preach the story of his Resurrection to the pastel-tie-and-bonnet-bedecked masses without telling them what’s in it for them? Would that be a bummer of a sermon? A let-down?
I mean if we did that, half of them might not come back next week.
But seriously, if we merely turn Easter into one more way that we can GET stuff – even if that ‘stuff’ is eternal life, salvation, forgiveness, etc. – are we even telling the story of Easter at all?