Paul says the cross of Christ is a stumbling block. He is right. I’ll tell you why.
Because the cross is so… historical. I have no sympathy for people who see it as metaphorical. Clearly the New Testament writers and the early church took it as fact. To write it off as metaphor would be convenient. There’s something attractive about an esoteric mystery religion surrounding a tragic, self-sacrificing mystical prophet. But those nails put a stop to that. Nails bashed into history. History with a face and a date. And a claim to be alive.
But being historical, it’s embarrassingly anomalous. What, he… came back to life? You’re telling me that sounds normal? Oh, ok.
So what does it mean? This is where it does get mysterious. Jesus was god and man – both. He died. He was raised. By… God. Who had died. Well, sort of… And through this he forgives sins. Because he’s the Passover lamb. He’s a Jewish sacrifice. And the Jewish high priest. He’s what?
The resurrection is really hard. It’s a stumbling block to intellect, to rationality, to wanting to appear like you’ve still got your head screwed on. The cross and the resurrection together make earthy and real what could otherwise be – and sadly, often is – a floaty-mystery religion.
The resurrection is like a splinter in your palm that keeps you uncomfortable. Like a stone in your shoe as you walk down the catwalk of sanity. The resurrection provokes and irritates.
The gloom of Good Friday and Easter Saturday I can understand. We can all identify with pain, loss and hopelessness. But the celebration of Easter Sunday? The hope of Resurrection Day? Well, hopelessness can be real forever, lived in forever, without much effort. But hope? Hope is intentional. Hope always risks being dashed. Living with hope – just hope – is exhausting, as a deliberate , intentional and daily choice in a world of crescendoing hopelessness.
President Snow: Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, alot is dangerous. This fact is fine, as long as it’s contained.
Seneca Crane: So…
President Snow: So, contain it.
The reason he doesn’t want the people to have hope is because hope is dangerous. Hope drives out fear. And he wants people to be afraid. God doesn’t want us to be afraid. God’s hope, rooted in God’s love, drives out fear.
And we’re back to the resurrection. Hope was contained for 2 days. Hope was dashed for what seemed like it would be a lifetime. Fear was most definitely in control. And then…
Still a stumbling block. Sometimes I struggle to believe it. But it has not lost its power. Because if it really is true… it changes everything.
The resurrection – counter-cultural, anti-rational, rooted in history and bursting with hope. If only we could let him breathe outside the tomb.