So … Easter. The most important holiday in the Christian church year, usually corresponding to the Jewish festival week of Pesach/Passover, celebrates the story of Jesus of Nazareth’s miraculous resurrection three days after a horrific public execution. The words of the Christian Scriptures illustrate how a group of women went to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea to care for the body of their dead rabbi, only to find that the tomb was empty and the body was gone. Later, Jesus’ disciples claimed to have seen a resurrected Jesus, walking and talking, even eating food! If that’s not transformation, I don’t know what is.
So … what are we to make of this? Is it a myth, a story, a historical event? People don’t commonly die for three days and then come back to life as if it’s no big deal. This whole escapade strains credulity. It can’t be true, right? We humans don’t usually undergo that kind of transformation. Perhaps, however, the transformative resurrection is what Unitarian Theodore Parker spoke of when he wrote about details in religion that are transient and the broader truths that are permanent. Perhaps, resurrection is one of those truths.
Here’s what I mean: When I read this story, I don’t question the logistics. I’m over it, it’s not interesting to debate the hows and the whens and the wheres. What’s more interesting is to look at the broader picture, the bigger truth, like why does the Scripture insist on a bodily resurrection of human being? Why is Easter morning accompanied by the lines: “He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’”
The Jesus of Easter morning is not a ghost, not a spirit, not an alien. He hasn’t been transformed into something else entirely. He goes through every measure to assure people that he has flesh and bones, organs and skin. To the witnesses, he says, “Look, touch, feel, experience. The body you see is a body, it has hands and feet, it has scars.”
In short, it’s human.
What I find most interesting in Easter’s truth is that it’s a fundamental affirmation of the goodness and importance of being a human being. Its truth is how miraculous the human body is, and how resurrection can happen in a variety of ways. Just as the flowers that spring forth in this season annually reaffirm life’s beauty and wonder, so does the Easter message remind us how good it is to be alive and to have a body that breathes, ticks, loves, cries, heals and lives. In this Easter season, the insistence of the goodness of the body is a call to us to practice a little resurrection of our own, and engage in some transformative work. We don’t seek to become something totally alien, but we seek to heal, to renew, to be resurrected from long nights and scary newscasts. We seek to become more authentically human, shaking off the wintry dust and re-emerging into the sunlight of transformation that can occur when we open our souls up to the hope of a brighter future. So, with Easter’s miracle still fresh in our minds, as the blooms of the flowering trees open to greet their transformed neighbors, may we practice resurrection in small ways and embrace the feeling in the air: How good it is to be human.