“Where is your God?”: The Relevance of the Resurrection in a World without God
GODISNOWHERE. What does this say? Depending on how you read it, it either states that “God is nowhere” or “God is now here.”
For believers, especially during Easter, the latter form is something of a no-brainer, but for my Easter reflection, I would like to start by hashing out the first of these because for many people—believer and non-believer alike—the feeling of God’s absence amidst current circumstances is all too often a reality.
For those of us that have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are very quick (and rightly so) to run to the tomb on Easter morning, find it empty, and immediately rejoice. We, of course, have the benefit of hindsight. We know the story. We know that it ends in victory.
But what about the here-and-now? What if my life seems to be falling to pieces all around me? What good is the message of victory over sin and death if I am too lost to hear it? How do I reconcile present feelings of anger, despair, betrayal, and loneliness? How do I leave the sight of the crucifixion and make the journey to the tomb in the first place?
In the Gospel accounts we don’t get to hear the story of what Jesus’ disciples were going through between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. For them, it must have been the darkest time in their lives. Not only was a great teacher and friend gone, but someone they had staked their lives on. Jesus compelled his followers to drop everything and follow him. They had so many hopes for who Jesus would be and what he would accomplish as the Messiah.
No one, however, was prepared for what Jesus ultimately did and no one expected that he would be put to death. Their entire worlds were turned upside-down. Not only must they have experienced profound grief, but also guilt (from denying him and not being present at the crucifixion), betrayal (those hopes now dashed), and fear at what would be next for them.
Just as they were not prepared for the crucifixion, they could not be prepared for the Resurrection. Though Jesus admittedly prophesied about it in their presence and showed he had the power over death when he revived those such as Lazarus (Jn 11:1-45) and the widow’s son (Lk 7:11-17), his disciples were still unable to put all the pieces together. As far as they could know, dead was dead and Jesus had died.
This meant that Jesus was either a liar or worse: God wasn’t just nowhere, God was dead.
How often might we find ourselves in a similar quandary of faith? In our darkest, deepest selves, we may dare to wonder, “Might God actually be dead? Maybe it would be easier if He were. It certainly seems like the rest of the world thinks so. Perhaps I will fit in if I believe God is dead, too.”
Of course, this is Satan fueling our doubt. He doesn’t need us to disbelieve in God, (though he doesn’t mind it). He doesn’t even need us to feel abandoned by Him (though that is a bonus). He really just needs us to succumb to this doubt; to let it consume us. Satan merely plants the seeds of doubt and discord and lets the rest fall into place, as he did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Satan is also called the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44). In contrast, Jesus said to Pontius Pilate that he came to “testify to the truth” (Jn 18:39). Pilate’s response was, “what is truth?” (Jn 18:38). Present in this exchange is a paradox of the knowledge that truth is at once objective yet also colored by one’s subjectivism. And the objective truth of Christ’s innocence becomes meaningless in the face of politics and polemics. What is true does not appear to matter when perspectives are irreparably skewed.
So, what is truth when the Resurrection is not part of our story? What is truth when all we can see is the cross? It is like the light of the Sun to the dark side of the Moon. Would you believe in such light if all you knew was darkness? Yet, that is the very purpose of God’s Mercy: His Light shining through the utter darkness of death, despair, and sin and offering hope to all those who bear witness.
This light can be blinding. And it can hurt. Just as the disciples’ worlds were turned upside-down at Christ’s death, the news of the Resurrection—though a source of elation (in hindsight)—is even more shocking. Imagine the implications to a reasonable mind: the dead raised to life; hope existing when God himself is dead. Thankfully, however, God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts (Is 55:9). Truth remains truth. But this is a hard sell nonetheless, especially for those already “scorned” by God.
And this is the twofold challenge of Easter: first that we dare to believe that this great Mercy of God found through the Resurrection is true and then to go out and proclaim this Truth to others that they might come to believe and spread light to all the world.
God is now here! That is the central message of the Kingdom: the Reign that is both immanently and imminently here.
And if you do await or even resist this Good News in your life, I pray that you become open to God’s Mercy, which is signified in the image of the empty tomb and through which the fullness of Truth is realized.
The story of our salvation in Christ is the continuation of the story of God calling us to himself, lost and found alike. This Mercy is for you. It is for all of us. And, the objective Truth—whether you remain at the cross, are perplexed at the tomb, or rejoicing in the knowledge of the Resurrection—is that Jesus Christ is Risen. He is Truly Risen! Amen! Alleluia!