Monday, April 21, 2014

The Man Who Wouldn't Go Away

A passionate performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion had just concluded. The music starkly pronounced Jesus dead. Gone. I had never felt it so keenly, as if hearing the Story for the first time. I almost gasped: O my God, they really killed him!

Then the strangest thing happened: we all stood up, and the minister started talking directly to Jesus. Such a familiar Good Friday prayer, but, still stunned by how carefully the final chorale had put Jesus into the tomb, I was unexpectedly taken aback by the audacity of talking to Jesus as if he were right there.

But that’s what the Story claims, isn’t it? No matter how hard the authorities tried, no matter how much the apostles may have been secretly, unconsciously relieved it was all over and ordinary life could begin again, he was back.

Like a sprouting dandelion whose taproot you couldn’t quite get at last summer, like someone you’ve injured who comes back to you wanting to restore the relationship, like hope that arises unexpectedly when you thought despair had taken control, he was back . . . Not just once in that startling upper room surprise on Sunday night, but repeatedly, and always unexpectedly.

They told stories about what it was like:

+  They did not expect these visitations, for they, too had written him off as gone forever,
but he “showed himself by many proofs.”

+  He could appear in the middle of a locked room as if out of nowhere, but eat some fish as if he had a body like ours.

+  He could appear in the guise of a stranger and speak words that set the heart ablaze with love and hope, then disappear in the twinkling of an eye.

+  He breathed himself into them so that something of himself came alive in them more fully than ever before.

Whatever the “real history" behind these stories they bear witness to an uninvited encounter with a Reality that would not go away, that pursued them, even after the dramatic appearances stopped.  For Those outside those intimate encounters in the upper room, on the Emmaus walk, at the lakeshore breakfast and mountaintop appearances, he was back as a spreading virus of Jesus-Spirit of hungering for compassion and justice that kept infecting more and more people—and does still.  Not all who claim his Name have got it, but many do; it has reached many who would be surprised to know its Name.

For He was, and is, the sign and seal and sacrament of something deep in the heart of reality that will not die, no matter how hard we kill it.They called It zoe, Life-eternally-springing,* the Life that makes whole the world—because That is what It is.

It is Easter Monday. The trumpet blasts have faded. But the zoe which is the essence of his reality waits still to surprise us anew. 


*   The Greek word zoe indicates eternal life here and now, and connects this life with creation itself: "all that came to be was alive with His zoe."

Image: Michaelangelo's 'Risen Christ' in the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome.

No comments:

Post a Comment