The Lightning Strike of Easter

The Lightning Strike of Easter

Pink Lightning

When lightning strikes nearby there is a deafening bang and flash. Atmospheric chemists tell us that lightning produces ozone and other chemicals that give a fresh air kind of smell. Lightning also discharges the positive charge that has built up on the ground.

When God the Father brought Jesus back to life, it was like a lightning strike. It changed everything in an instant. After the disciples got over the shock of seeing their teacher alive, it began to dawn on them that many other things had changed. That first Easter Day ushered in the “new normal.” Something new was established. And it wasn’t going away.

Old tomb entrance (4160525370) For example, the cruelty of the people who killed Jesus suddenly didn’t seem so strong. It’s as if evil threw everything it had at Jesus. And it wasn’t enough. What a refreshing discovery! All of a sudden, the idea that people rise from the dead wasn’t a wistful hope for the end of time. Suddenly a first example of life after life was walking around. The end of time was already under way!

When the lightning strike of Jesus’ rise from the dead came wishful thinking about a new order coming into the world didn’t seem so remote. The idea that God answered prayers, that good things happened to bad people, that fairness for hard-living people would finally come suddenly seemed very real. Abruptly, the idea that Jesus was a bad man because the religion leaders said so, was obviously wrong. The old habit of submitting to the big shot religious crowd wasn’t so necessary.

The lightning crack of the resurrection was God’s abrupt verdict that Jesus was right. Jesus was lord. He…dare we even think this…was God.

Wishful Thinking

It’s fashionable today to write off Easter as a psychological phenomenon that took place in Jesus’ followers’ imaginations. Scholars write hard-to-read books that insist that Easter faith is a made-up ending to Jesus’ story, which in reality had ended very badly.  It’s as if Christianity never would have become a major religion if Jesus’ execution were the final word. So in conspiratorial secrecy, the early Church leaders concocted a different ending.

You can’t make this stuff up.

The problem with explanations like these is they are less plausible than the simple truth.  I like the expression, “You can’t make this stuff up.”  The idea that the story of Jesus would end as it did is no product of some first century public relations committee.  No one was expecting nor hoping for Jesus’ movement to blow up into a world religion.

And no one really knew what to do with the empty tomb and the appearances of Jesus—at least at first.  Ideas about eternal life, which floated around in the ancient world, were different from what is reported in the four gospel accounts.  The death and later the new life of Jesus was a complete surprise, which overtook the disciples like a lightning strike.

Speaking of contemporary expressions, I also like, thanks to Talladega Nights, “That just happened!”

…that just happened…

It’s probably more awkward to explain that meme than to just state it.  But it captures that stunned disorientation that comes when the completely unforeseen has already happened.  About Jesus’ resurrection, even though it’s centuries in the past, we can still say “That just happened!” Its effect is just as momentous.  We’ve seen a big flash of light.  And we know that a huge bang is coming.  With this lightning, big change has already happened. It inaugurated a new and wonderful new normal.

The next time I get despondent about where our society is headed, I’ll remember the new normal. No matter what the temporary setback, God still holds current events in the palm of his hand. Evil will never ultimately win. The next time life seems governed by impossibilities, like the impossibility of people changing, the impossibility of some people setting aside their differences, the impossibility of poor people rising out of their entrapment, or the impossibility of me being a better person I’ll remember that lightning has flashed. What I thought was normal is new.

 

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