Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!
My friend, Peter Storey, preached a sunrise service on the beach in South Africa this morning. He told me his theme would be, “The grave can’t keep Him in and the world can’t keep Him out.”
Believe that? You bet! Explain it? You’ve got to be kidding!
One of the reasons I believe in a “liberal arts” education is that there are some things that are too real, too deep, and too powerful to be known or experienced only through our current obsession with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. One of those realities is the resurrection. So, for Easter, instead of explanations, I offer a painting and a poem.
Caravaggio (1571-1610) captured the incredulity of the disciples when the Risen Christ invited Thomas to “put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out you hand and put it in my side.” (John 20:27-28) There is a ruthless realism about the way Jesus guides Thomas’ finger into the ugly scar on his side. The artist draws us into the reality of the story in ways than no scientific explanation ever could.
It’s also no small thing that the Risen Christ still bears the scars of his suffering. The scars are, in fact, the way the disciples knew it was Jesus. (Luke 24:36-40)
The poet is John Updike. His “Seven Stanzas for Easter,” forces us to accept the “monstrous” reality of resurrection.
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
It was as His flesh; ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.
And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.
May we, with the artist and the poet, experience again the earth-shaking, life-transforming, monstrously-miraculous good news that the grave can’t keep Him in and the world can’t keep him out! He is risen, indeed!
Grace and peace,