What is your image of Jesus this Easter? What do you most notice about his appearance? On a cover of a church pamphlet, printed by a denominational publisher for Easter worship, was an image of the resurrected Jesus. Jesus was standing before Mary Magdalene in the garden with his hands outstretched in triumph. He was risen. David Buttrick, in his book, The Mystery and the Passion, tells the story of how a church janitor, having taken just one glance at the image, saw the trouble immediately: “No nail holes,” he said. He was glorious, but not the crucified Christ.
The risen Christ is the crucified Christ. In Luke 24:39, the very first thing Jesus says, as he stands among his disciples is “Look at my hands and my feet.” Buttrick, writes, “The Jesus who was put down by the human world, God has raised up to be Lord of lords. But, raised up, the nail scars still define Christ’s character.” Jesus Christ, who was put to death, is Lord of life.
The Christian message is not a denial of death, or pain and suffering. We are mortal and death is real. Quite the opposite of Easter denying death, Easter boldly preaches it: “They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again” (Mark 10:34). If anything, Jesus teaches us how real and prevalent suffering is in the world. Jesus advocated for the poor and the suffering, and those who were the most vulnerable of his day. He suffered on our behalf, for our sin.
“The resurrection is not therapy for our death fears” says David Buttrick, “No, instead, [Easter] resurrection is a witness to the power of God-love that gives life in the midst of a deadly world.” I’m drawn to those four words in the middle of that last sentence, “in-the-midst-of”. That is after all the proof of both our humanity, and our greatest hope as people of faith. We live in the profound truth and power of Christ’s resurrection, and we live it, daily, in the midst of what would otherwise — without his nail printed hands and resurrected life — surely be our undoing.
Terrible things, throughout time, have happened in our world. Horrible things have happened to people, throughout history, as well as to those we know and love. But the character of Christ then and now, is that his rising takes place with hands scared by the nails that had been driven through them on the cross. He knows our suffering, in our time. He understands our pain. And he has overcome death, that we too might live. Easter gives Life in the midst of whatever we are going through at the time, or will go through in the future. “…thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
My picture of Jesus includes the nail holes. It is this Easter picture of the risen Christ that gives me hope. We will get through this. Here’s why: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears” (Philippians 1:6).
This is how I choose to live through this moment in history, and in-the-midst-of this global pandemic. I choose to live in possibility; and I choose to live in the promise of God, and without the slightest doubt that God’s Spirit is actively working to bring about “a flourishing finish”. I can’t wait to see what that will look like. For now, all I can do is my part, and experience progress and joy in the faith that Christ has given me.