Beginning Anew… and Continuing to Live
Some folks will groan at the movie’s mention, but I rewatched The Passion of the Christ on Friday night, and many of the points that struck me when the movie was new are still valid, although their social and spiritual implications have long since been integrated more deeply into my thought.
This time around, the scene that resonated most strongly for me was the Easter scene at the end: The mere moments when the stone rolls from the tomb, the death shroud shimmers, and Jesus steps forward to triumphant music. From years of conversations, taking both sides on the question of Christ’s divinity, I’ve found a number of people who disbelieve the Gospel story mainly on the grounds that history continues to unfold. If that event, directly affecting a small group of people in the outskirts of civilization, was so profound, why then must we continue to face down our demons? If Jesus defeated sin and death, why then do we continue to fall to both? How the ebbs and flows of Christians’ prominence and fidelity?
These are mysteries beyond my reckoning, but it does occur to me that the lessons given through His life would have been little more than a summary of how people ought to have lived if His death and resurrection were meant to end the need for their application.
Another difficulty that we have, being human, is that most of our lives are spent in anticlimax. One might suffer through immense pain if bolstered with the knowledge that its outcome will be an improved life, and yet life tends just to go on. Improvement becomes stasis becomes tedium becomes difficulty, requiring further struggle. Our task is never done, at least until we die, and perhaps not even then.
Here’s where the symbol of a phoenix falls short of the Christian image. The former repeats in an endless cycle. For the latter, each resurrection is but a stage of development. Jesus suffered, died, and rose, and observing the world as it’s been these two thousand years, one might discern that we’ve continued to make Him suffer in an even deeper sense. But then, in an even deeper sense will He rise again, raising us with Him.
So it is Easter once more. Most of us return to work tomorrow. We’ll continue to stumble through life, to err in our judgment, to fall short of the ideals that we uphold. Having not died and risen, we will continue in our foibles, although perhaps a bit less with each passing year.
If it’s true, though, that our salvation comes in stages, each deeper and more profound than the last, then today’s suffering will seem as nothing tomorrow, like lessons that we once found difficult but now see to have been basic building blocks that we should not have permitted to frustrate us. We should take that lesson forward, understanding that tomorrow’s perspective will make our current problems mere recitation. Let the triumphant music play, and don’t think it foolish to be inspired and uplifted by it, but understand that the music does not end when we step into the light. Neither does it become boring with repetition.