Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived, according to Søren Kierkegaard. What is true about life is just as true about the resurrection. When the resurrection is approached as a problem that can be solved, the most important question becomes, “Did it really happen?”
But when the resurrection is a mystery to be lived, the question becomes, “What does it mean?” We are invited to hear again the shocking news proclaimed by Mary when she ran back to the other disciples: “We have seen the Lord!”—and to live these words as our own. We are invited into what Joan Chittester calls “the giddy confusion” of the resurrection.
That is, after all, what Jesus’ disciples did. The disciples of Good Friday found themselves in the hopeless certainty that Jesus, and the gospel, he incarnated, were dead, sealed forever in a tomb of stone. All that Jesus stood for had been defeated.
But three days later, their lives had been transformed. Whatever occurred that day convinced them that Jesus was greater than everything that the forces of evil had imposed on him. All attempts to contain him had failed. Jesus and his gospel were alive forever.
Like gazing at the sun, we are better not to look directly at the resurrection to think that we can solve it. Instead, search around the edges. The risen Christ kept appearing in unlikely places and in unlikely ways. Mary thought she was speaking to a gardener. The two unnamed disciples thought that a stranger was walking with them to Emmaus. Others saw him as a lonely figure standing on the shore of Lake Galilee calling out to them to put their nets on the other side of the boat. The risen one comes to us similarly when and in whom we least expect it.
The resurrection is really the beginning place for our faith, not the end. Without it, Jesus would have faded into the pages of history. He would have no more lasting impact than countless other itinerant preachers and healers who walked the dusty roads of first-century Palestine. Some of his wisdom was borrowed from others, some of his actions were claimed by others. But because of the resurrection, we now must look at his life from a completely different perspective. Welcoming the outcast, loving the enemy, giving freedom to the oppressed, calling the poor in spirit and meek “blessed”—these are no longer the musings of a madman but the way to life itself, sanctioned by God.
To live the mystery of the resurrection is to live with the unquenchable hope that death is not the ultimate reality that defines us. Neither are violence, hatred, prejudice, apathy, insecurity, or any of the other manifestations of death that we encounter every day. Rather it is life that is God’s final word for us, revealed in the resurrection of Christ.
To live the mystery of the resurrection is to live with the faith that the doors to the tombs of self doubt and distrust, as well as all the other limitations and boundaries that hem us in, have been blown off their hinges and we have been invited by Christ to walk into the freedom of new life.
For some, the resurrection points mainly to a reality beyond death and to the promise of life eternal for all who believe. However, for the apostle Paul, the meaning of resurrection is in the present. “You have been raised to life with Christ,” he wrote. It was not news for a few but for all. It did not depend on a person’s goodness but on grace. If only we all knew that we were raised with him, what a difference it would make! As Coldplay sang a few years ago, “I don’t want to battle from beginning to end. I don’t want to cycle, recycle revenge. I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends.”
Several years ago, I helped a friend of mine build a large pen in his backyard to house their new puppy. They trained Dusty to go out the door of their house and into the pen. They would then close the door behind him so that they didn’t need to be on constant watch. After two years, they found that they no longer needed to close the door, as the dog would enter his pen and never think of leaving it, having accepted that enclosure as the boundaries for his life. What about us? Are we pinned inside the fences of the rational still trying to problem solve? Is the risen Christ calling us into the wild, the unknown, the giddy confusion where we can live
the mystery of resurrection life?