Today people all over the globe celebrate Easter Sunday - for some, today is a springtime festival, a welcome to the return to life from the death of winter. For others it is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, an empty tomb, the victory of love over the powers of hate. But regardless of what Easter means to the people who celebrate this day, this is just basically a real "nice" day with pretty flowers, spring blossoms, bunnies and brunch.
I recently came across a very inspiring article in the Boston Globe about what Easter meant to those first century Christians back 2000 years ago. The article observed that, while we have seriously "sanitized" Easter in our 21st century celebrations, back in those first centuries of Christianity this "Day of Resurrection" was far more than a nice springtime festival. It was also more than a day to think about "going to heaven some day when you die because Jesus rose from a tomb." Back 2000 years ago Easter was a day to celebrate sedition and revolution- an invitation to take a bold stand against the status quo of the dominant culture of the time:
The writer of the article in the Boston Globe observed:
A more careful look at the Gospels offers a far less sentimental and much more startling picture of the original Easter message, which was decidedly not 'Jesus is alive and here's what that means for the next world.' Rather the true lesson back then was 'Jesus is alive and here's what that means for this one.'
Those first century followers of Jesus dared to claim 'Jesus is Lord,' a bold seditious claim that flew in the face of the acceptable standard, 'Caesar is Lord. '
What's radical about Easter, then, is not that Christians claimed that a dead man rose from the dead. What's radical is what it meant for Rome, and by implication what it means for all the kingdoms everywhere including the kingdom we live in.
Jesus' resurrection marked the end of Caesar's way of doing things. It established a new kingdom in which enemies are loved, the marginalized are given a primary place and the poor are blessed.
In this new kingdom hierarchies are subverted, concentrated power is decentralized and prodigal children are welcomed home. Black lives matter here, as do queer lives and the lives of undocumented aliens within our borders -"remember the stranger in your midst' is a common refrain in this kingdom.
I read this article three days ago and I have been thinking about it ever since. Many people are happy on this day because in some way or another Jesus (or at least his memory) is still alive. I wonder if there would be so much happiness if the ramifications of Jesus being alive were really understood. Because he lives on, so does the kingdom he came to establish - a new world order that flies in the face of tyrants and boldly opposes the claims of the mighty powers-that-be.
As day was breaking this morning, I heard Easter bells ringing in the distance. Their joyful sounds were a call to action for me. They reminded me that Jesus and all he stood for continues to live on and that I am a citizen of and pledge allegiance to the kingdom he came to establish.
Of course you don't have to be a Christian to be a citizen of this revolutionary kingdom on this Resurrection Day.
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