In part 1 of this two-part series we encountered the story of Good Friday. The story of God reaching down to humanity through various means in an attempt to restore a broken relationship. In this story we encountered the nation of Israel who was chosen as a representative of all of humanity in that restoration process. Unfortunately, they consistently took that position for granted, making it about them and in the process transgressing their assignment of being God’s voice to the nations. In the midst of a mounting despondency arrives the final hero, the only elect one to successfully fulfil this mission impossible. However, at the end of part 1 we are drawn into an ironic finale. The hero is killed. At the point of his death he finds himself completely abandoned by the God he so faithfully served and also by all his mates. He dies alone. His dying words echo this isolation as he cries “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
We are living in unprecedented times, times in which those words of the protagonist could not be any more poignant. And as we asked in part 1, is this a question of history repeating itself? Does evil really have the last say? Are we doomed to constantly be victims of evil? How do we respond to the current COVID-19 crisis and what can we learn from the Easter story?
The death of our hero is unique not only because he dies with a complete feeling of isolation. It is unique because even though he felt alone, he was actually far from alone. In his death he takes with him the entirety of the cosmos, all of humanity as well as the very evil that annihilated him. As the final Israelite he fulfils God’s mission by standing alone as the single human to represent humanity. As we said in part 1, he stands before God carrying all of the disobedience of his predecessors as well as those who would follow after him. As he stands there before God dressed in nothing but the stains of the world, God has no choice but to turn away from him. This separation from God is the essence of death and the true definition of isolation. To be cut off from the source of life is the true definition of death. It is at that point that our hero utters his final words, “it is finished!”
Today is #Easter Sunday. I learnt growing up that after 3 days something changed in the story. I’ve been trying to do the math and it feels more like 2 days at the most, but I digress. Our hero is dead, and the party is on at evil headquarters. Oblivious to their inadvertent demise, they drink, eat and dance merrily. The party is interrupted by one of the guards who was stationed at the hero’s grave. “Hey guys! You’ll never guess what’s happened…He’s gone!” On the other side of town, the hero’s friends and family are gathered. Tears fill the house of mourning. Tears of shame for abandoning their loved one in his most vulnerable moment accompanied by tears of grief and despair as an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness sets in. The gathering is interrupted by a couple of women who had gone to the hero’s grave early that morning to put some flowers on the tomb. “He’s alive!”, they screamed, “he’s alive!”
Later that day, the hero appears to his followers and has a simple message for them. “I told you guys I’d be back. Now go and let the world know what you’ve experienced” Unlike most stories, there is no record of him attempting to avenge his death or of him making any appearances to his killers. He simply appears to a select few people and makes a promise to return at a later date to collect his trophy.
As we reflect on the story of Easter a few key thoughts are worthy of mention. Easter is significant because with the death of evil, God is once again able to relate to our hero. He is raised free from evil and any influence it had. While they may have gone down together, they certainly did not rise together. Humanity, on the other hand is resurrected with our hero who is raised as the perfect human. The perfect human who now has a perfect relationship with the perfect God. The death of evil marked the end of the complicated relationship between God and humanity.
We live in a period between faith and hope and we are called to live in this period typified by love. Faith always points us back to the Easter weekend and reminds us that evil is dead. It is finished! Hope projects us to the future when we will see this reality fully materialised, when the hero returns to claim his trophy. As we grapple with the remnants of evil that continue to linger as though not already defeated, we are encouraged to live in love. In the current context of #COVID-19, love requires us to see others with both our eyes and our hearts. The old neighbour who is isolated, the essential workers who struggle to deal with having to work and manage family commitments, those who have lost jobs, those who have fallen sick, those with family who are sick and vulnerable and yet cannot be with them, those stuck in lands far from their loved ones. And when elected to positions of authority or leadership, may we remember that we exist in those roles for the elevation of the people we serve. May we learn to see each other through the lens of the hero.
The story of Easter reminds us of our solidarity. We are all in need of a hero and all rescued by the same hero. In the current context, rather than to socially distance, we need to now, more than ever, be socially engaged. Love does require us, however, to be physically distant in order to avoid the spread of infection. We face the strange dichotomy of being brought together by this evil in the sense that this is a global phenomenon which does not discriminate based on race, gender or social status. At the same time this evil has physically isolated us from our social world as we once knew it. As we learn to live within the context of this new normal, may this weekend remind us that this is not the end of the story. The story ends with us perfectly resurrected with our hero and reunited to God in him. In a world characterised by a desire to be heroes, Easter reminds us that the only real hero in the story of humanity is the one who was killed on Friday and subsequently raised on Sunday. The one who chose isolation so that we may experience life. In our #isolation he stands in solidarity with us having been there himself. May we find comfort in the knowledge that though isolated, we are not alone!