April 14, 2007

Wright on Easter

....And whatever Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were doing in writing the final sections of their books, they were not telling the story of Jesus's resurrection as a happy ending. They were telling it as a startling new beginning. Easter morning isn't a slow, gentle waking up after the difficult operation. It's the electric shock that brings someone back to life in a whole new way.

That's why the Easter stories tumble out in bits and pieces, with breathless chasings to and fro and garbled reports - and then, stories like nothing else before or since. As the great New Testament scholar EP Sanders put it, the writers were trying to describe an experience that does not fit a known category. They knew all about ghosts and visions, and they knew it wasn't anything like that.

Equally, they knew the risen Jesus wasn't just a resuscitated corpse, still less someone who had almost died but managed to stagger on after all. They had the puzzled air of people saying, "I know this sounds wacky, but this is truly how it was." They were stumblingly describing the birth of new creation, starting with Jesus but intended for the whole world.

It sometimes seems that the church can hardly cope with this any more than the world can. Perhaps that's why, after 40 days of Lent, many churches celebrate Easter for a few hours and then return to normality. But nothing can be "normal" after Easter. New creation has begun, and we are summoned to get on board. We should at least have an eight-day party, or even a 40-day one.

And if Easter is all about the surprise of new creation, there is every reason to suppose that it will ripple out into the world in ways we would never imagine. Gangsters and drug-dealers get radically converted and set on fire with God's love, while pale churchmen drone their disbelief and warn against extremism.

Extremism? What can be more extreme than God raising Jesus from the dead after the world has done its worst to him? Supposing the power of that event were to be released into the world, into local communities, into ordinary lives, here and now? What might that look like?

      --NT Wright
[Link. Thanks to Amy]

Tom Wright, by the way, is one of my heroes. I spent decades assuming that delving into the history of Jesus and the early Church would surely debunk Christianity. (It was one of those things that was just "in the air" when I was younger—I never scrutinized the idea.) And that's tough, if you are into history the way I am! But a year or so ago, just at the time when I was thinking of joining the Church, a number of surprising things happened to me, and one of them was discovering Wright. I was bowled over! Here's as good a historian as any I've ever read, and with massive authority he shows that Jesus and the Apostles were pretty much just what they claimed to be. I'm still bowled over..... Posted by John Weidner at April 14, 2007 8:46 PM

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