Undeserved Easter

The resurrection was made for imperfect souls

Mar 30, 2015 by

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The story of Christ’s death and resurrection is a study in humanity’s shortcomings. It seems designed to contrast a divine plan with mortal mistakes.

There is the parade of offenses in the garden before the arrest: Drowsy disciples can’t stay awake to keep watch, and Peter can’t stop his chronic lying. Judas betrays Jesus for mere silver and hangs himself. At the apex of human failure, man crucifies Christ, guilty of pointing an unjust world to a better way.

Then, come glorious Easter, the resurrection is mistaken by everyone closest to Jesus. Seeking a corpse, Mary Magdalene finds Jesus and takes him for the gardener.

“Sir, if you have carried him away,” she says to him, “tell me where you have put him, and I will get him” (John 20:15).

She was looking for a deceased Superman but found only a living Clark Kent. The resurrection looks nothing like the crucifixion.

Establishing a consistent response, the disciples even refused to believe what Mary and others saw at the tomb.

His followers forgot that Jesus himself said he would die and rise again (Mark 8:31, Matt. 16:21 and Luke 9:22) and that Scripture foreshadowed it (Isaiah 53:11 and Psalms 16 and 22).

Instead, fear locks them behind a door, barricaded from good news for all the nations (Matt. 28:19).

But the resurrection is about salvation, which can’t be locked away. Grace and love abound for people who routinely get it wrong.

It wouldn’t be enough for a phoenix to victoriously rise from the ashes, hide a bunch of plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and go home. It would be supernatural, but it wouldn’t be very countercultural.

Instead Christians have a tale of unsurpassed love offered to flawed actors — imperfect people with whom we can easily relate.

Again and again — on the road to Emmaus, in a fishing boat, behind that locked door — Jesus revealed himself to people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe. Sound familiar?

Doubt, fear and other foibles came naturally to the people who interacted with Jesus on a daily basis. It can seem ridiculous two millennia later that direct disciples screwed up so regularly. But those failures are a common denominator that help us connect to the message.

We are petty, calloused, jealous, impatient, divisive, greedy and vengeful, just to name some of the greatest hits. Still, Christ died for those sins. And if those imperfect followers were good enough to carry on the vision 2,000 years ago, there is hope for us as well.

Hope and love. Those are the things that make salvation realistic and relevant. The temple curtain is ripped in two and relegated to the dumpster. God’s love — poured out for all — is no longer stuck in the back of the temple. It is ready and waiting for followers of Christ to share, even with imperfect souls who don’t deserve it.

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