In the Christian traditional seasons, the Scripture readings on Sundays (and on weekday services) follow Christ through what seem like triumphant moments: raising Lazarus from the dead; the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem; in three gospels, the cleansing of the Temple. But Lent's purpose was something much less happy: preparing us for the ultimate collapse. Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, and descended to the dead. Under hands and voices much like our own, which may have been our own if we were there back then. Humanity doesn't care how good someone is. We find a way to be totally 'inhuman' about it. (What chutzpah - how many other animals could be this way?)
Yet, this is the believable part. Because we've seen greatness, even the greatest of loves, meet cruel ends, both in the world of our imagination (fiction, novels, movies, comic books, plays, games) and in the world we live in. Hope gets crushed. The modern media in fact bring this part to us every day. But while this was happening, Jesus, in fulfilling the prophets of Israel, gave us a promise: "I'm coming back from death, and because I am, so will those who trust in me."
We're familiar with happy endings, too. In stories. In sports, we live on the sudden comeback to win the day when all seems lost. But that's entertainment. The real analogy is a cliff-hanger ending where the hero not only goes over the cliff, but the townsfolk gather up the dead body and lay it to rest in a grave at the edge of the ghost town. In sports, the game is over; there are no more plays. By the very definition of what's been going on, there is no more. That's why some fairly prominent leaders and intellectuals, including famed preachers and even sons of today's famed preachers, find the resurrection of Jesus Christ too unsure a thing for them to believe. And even some of those who believe Jesus himself may have actually done it, think that it's believable for a God to do it, but not a human. Jesus' promise is an invention of our own, they say, to give us hope.
But, of course, if that's so, then what does it matter what Jesus said, or that life is lived right and well? What good is even love when it, too, ends. The hope would be a false hope. Yet throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, when death comes from life, life comes from death again. Jesus' words echo throughout the story line, as it was lived: 'I live; follow Me.' And when we do, we live, too, even once we die. Not "our legacy", not our edifices, not our good deeds, not some vague impersonal wisp that has "spiritual" reality. We who follow, live. This is where the biblical vision of the Kingdom comes in - by following Christ, we live in it right now, in a very real, tangible way, and just as that Kingdom comes to completion in the future, our part in it is secured. Can I prove it? No. Can I dispel every creeping doubt? No way. But I can put my trust in the belief that what Jesus promised is true, because of how true Jesus' love was, and because of how true his victory was. If he tells me it's for me, then it's for me.
That is what makes Easter a joy, and why the Christian calendar gives it a whole season of its own.
Father, I trust. Help me for my lack of trust. I love; help me for my lack of love. Let me feel the joy of the world to come, and spread it to the world that is now. Amen.