“Why is it, I wonder, that we modern Christians so seldom tremble? No longer do we pause in reverence when a storm blows through. No longer do we fall to our knees in prayer when God’s fingers brush away our tears. And no longer do our hearts beat in awe when God’s power shakes the clanging chains from our lives.”

“We may acknowledge the advice of the apostle to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But the words to us are a quaint irrelevance. Fear? Trembling? What has that to do with us?”

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“It’s no wonder we turn Easter into a flower-filled celebration of spring, a season that’s warm, cuddly, and fragrant. The reality of Easter–the dramatic in-breaking of God’s power–is almost too fearful to imagine.” (Olson)

 

Have we lost the significance of Good Friday & Easter? When it comes time to remember the execution of God’s Son, have we layered that reality with a veneer of its larger significance and therefore missed the abiding horror of it all? I think so. And in so doing, we have turned the brutality of his slaughter into some inoffensive step in a “grand plan” for salvation. All we must do is simply give assent in order to gain access to paradise.

Jesus-on-crossSo, what can we do here? How do we keep from reducing Easter into something manageable? I think the gospel of Mark gives us a hint.

“Mark draws us into the center of the action” letting us feel for ourselves all the emotion that accompanies the sudden realization: “Jesus is actually risen from the dead.” The oldest manuscripts end the story abruptly in verse 8 of chapter 16. It is impossible to look at it analytically or objectively. The story needs a conclusion. Our participation is evoked.

Now, why do you suppose Mark would tell a story with such an abrupt ending?

I think it’s because the resurrection is not complete apart from the way it’s worked out in personal history. When a person realizes that Christ is actually risen, he may experience fear, joy, doubt. But these reactions in relation to the facts must be incorporated into a personal conclusion. The resurrection requires our personal participation worked out in the everydayness of our lives. This story’s conclusion is something only our personal participation can supply.

So, let me ask you, how will your Easter story unfold this year, with trembling or a bit more manageable?

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