…but I’m only going to tell you the bad news. Or at least that’s the way it felt twice on Good Friday this year.
During this Easter season, I have the privilege of performing in several presentations of Piercing Word’s Passion: The Musical, a performance of word-for-word Scripture portraying the Last Supper, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and Great Commission of Jesus. However, for two of our performances on Good Friday, we were requested to end after the crucifixion.
I understand the idea behind these requests. I can see why our hosts would want to focus specifically on the suffering of Jesus, on His death in the place of sinful people, on the sheer magnitude of His sacrifice. It is perfectly valid to meditate on how He took God’s wrath in our place.
With that said, it still rubbed me the wrong way. Being asked to stop with Jesus dead on the cross instead of going on to show the hope and joy of His resurrection irked me, perhaps more than it should have. Why? Well, to be honest, I think it started with the superficiality of the fact that I like the joyful ending of the production – the soaring melody of the angel at the empty tomb (written by my friend Dan Keeley), the powerful scene of Thomas seeing the risen Jesus and putting his trust in Him, the inspiring charge of Jesus to make disciples of all nations. But the more I thought about the whole scenario yesterday, the more I considered the implications of the resurrection.
To be honest, I struggle with Christian doctrine at times. Not all of it, and not all the time, but there are some things that I really just don’t get, and some things that I think I understand, but that I don’t really like. I find great comfort in the Bible; I also find great perplexity in it at times. But in my pondering over the past couple of days, I have only become more convinced of the centrality and importance of the resurrection.
If the resurrection is a fact, it changes everything. If someone was dead for a few days, then got up, folded His grave clothes, and started going around surprising old friends in locked rooms, it is not something that can just be ignored. If someone comes back from the dead, I have to pay attention to that person — I have to play by their rules, so to speak.
Much of my thinking in this post is shaped, more or less subconsciously, by Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God. In it he writes, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
Similarly, in a discussion about hard-to-accept Christian doctrines, my brother once said, “just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” I completely agree. The thing is, there is an awful lot to like about the resurrection and the hope of everlasting life that it gives! If Jesus was raised from the dead (and by the way, He raised a few other people Himself before that point), He has defeated the strongest enemy, the unavoidable and inevitable destructive force common to all life on this earth. Even if I don’t understand or like something He says, it makes no sense for me to oppose the One who has power over death. But even more than that, it makes no sense for me to oppose the One who took on death in my place out of love.
Despite what I said at the top of this post, I realize that when we were asked to stop our performance after the crucifixion, we were not delivering “bad news.” Good Friday is called “good” for a reason — there was great good accomplished through the work of Jesus on the cross. But that good is meaningless if He did not rise from the dead. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19 ESV). Or, as one of my friends put it (and this one’s for all my fellow music nerds), “If the gospel ended in death it would be about as satisfying as a symphony ending on a deceptive cadence.”
I’ve talked mostly about what is implied by the resurrection of Jesus, if it is true. I would highly recommend Keller’s book for a good overview of reasons to believe that it is in fact true. Or, if you would prefer, I challenge you to ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you. After all, if He was resurrected, then He’s still alive, and if you set your heart on seeking Him, you will find Him. As God said through the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 ESV).
Enjoy your Easter this year, and take time to reflect on the Good News of Jesus — His death and resurrection, and what that means for us right now, today.