Benjamin West's The Angel at the Tomb of Christ Photo/Wikimedia Commons

Christ is key to human freedom

  • March 26, 2015

Resurrection of the Lord — Easter Sunday — (Year B) April 5 (Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

One thing was abundantly clear to the first followers of Jesus after the resurrection: it would not be ‘business as usual.’ The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was not intended to merely add one more religion to the world’s diverse spiritual traditions, but to herald a new stage in humanity’s spiritual evolution.

Christ was ‘making all things new’ and that meant a new way of thinking and living. Unfortunately, that message has slipped from the forefront of our consciousness. Humanity for the most part has slipped back into old patterns of thinking and behaving.

The initial proclamation of Jesus by the apostles spoke of a man going about doing good and helping people. That is admirable but not earth-shaking, but in his case he was filled with the power of God’s Spirit. In his ministry, he pushed back the darkness in all its forms.

His ministry was all too short — He was unjustly arrested and executed. That should have been the end of it if Jesus had been an ordinary human being, but He was far more.
By raising Him from the dead, God ratified all that Jesus had said and done and vindicated Him from the many accusations of blasphemy and impiety. Most importantly, He was established as the Lord of history and the judge of the living and the dead.

In the omitted verses from the passage in Acts, Peter also relates a vital piece of this wonderful story: humankind is discovering in Jesus that God is impartial. Rather than being the property of any person or group, God offers grace and mercy to all.

We need fear nothing — not even death itself. God was showing humanity not a way to escape the miseries and struggles of the human condition, but how to pass through them transformed.

As they grasped the deeper significance of Jesus’ resurrection, the first disciples turned from jobs, families, social obligations and the demands of cualture to begin living in a radically new way.

Part of the new way was refreshing the mind and the religious imagination with transcendent spiritual principles. Too often believers use religious language and symbols but filter them through the values and assumptions of the world. The challenge is to live a vibrant, active and engaged life on Earth but with the spiritual consciousness drawn from the realm of the spirit.

Conventional wisdom in all its forms has to be continually challenged as we strive to see the world in all of its struggles through God’s eyes rather than our own. This should come with a warning label — doing so will set one at odds with societies and cultures. But the joy and transformation that results from it are well worth the cost.

The empty tomb alone means very little unless we understand its implications. Peter and the Beloved Disciple ran to the tomb to check out Mary Magdalene’s report that it was empty. It was just as she said, but they didn’t really have a full grasp of the significance and both merely returned home.

Mary Magdalene had a life-transforming encounter with the Risen Lord. It was left to her to carry the momentous announcement to the apostles. Humanity could now share in the relationship that Jesus had with the Father as brothers and sisters of Jesus and children of God the Father.

The proclamation of the Risen Christ today must truly have spiritual force. It cannot be confined only to the religious sphere but must be good news for all humankind. We live in a world of great economic, political, environmental and religious uncertainty and fear. For many, hope has faded or vanished altogether. But God has confirmed the teaching and example of Jesus in a very dramatic way — by raising Him from the dead.

The Risen One illuminates the path to human freedom and happiness with his teachings and his example. We are also invited to share in His spiritual glory and mission. But most of all, God has demonstrated in Jesus that we are not alone or adrift in the cosmos. Our lives have meaning and purpose and are destined for fulfillment in and with God.

For our message to be credible, we must be people of faith and hope, and to be so we must encounter the Risen Christ and be transformed.