March 29, 2010

Practicing Resurrection

It is a well known line from Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, “Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection.” When Jesus determined that it was his time to go to Jerusalem, he made more tracks than necessary. At first he said he was not going to the Feast of Tabernacles and sent his brothers on ahead, and then he went up, “not publicly but in private” (John 7: 10). Soon enough he would be public, boldly teaching in the temple of the ways of God being revealed through him. As the opposition grew, so did his courage. In a sense he was practicing resurrection even before dying as he entrusted his life to God.

Passion Week is full of drama. It begins loudly with shouts of “Hosanna” and concludes quietly as life ebbs to its end. All the conflicting emotions and behaviors of humanity are contained in the cup Jesus voluntarily drinks—suspicion, political intrigue, betrayal, misunderstanding, and unholy alliances. Amidst the tumult of the city during the Season of Passover, Jesus sought places of quiet for shared meals and prayer. He sought to establish enduring connections with God, with friends, and even with enemies because he believed in a future, with hope.

Did Jesus go to his death believing that God would raise him on the third day? That is how the Gospel writers retrospectively narrate it; however, I believe that Jesus traveled the journey to Golgotha trusting God to enact resurrection “at the last day,” as the eschatology of late Judaism held. The Pharisees of the first century believed in the general resurrection, but there had not been a concrete case to prove this conviction—until Jesus. And Paul spills a great deal of his epistolary ink in constructing a theological interpretation of this new reality.

This holy season sharpens our perspectives on living and dying. Death touches our lives regularly, and we are challenged to practice resurrection by believing, like Jesus, that end and beginning are closely aligned in the paschal rhythm of God’s mercy.

Molly T. Marshall

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