Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. Who are you what have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ, Superstar. Do you think you’re what they say you are?
— From Jesus Christ, Superstar
Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice
Passion week and Easter always bring us back to the heart of our faith. The story at the center of it all is the high drama of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem: his teaching in the temple, his last supper with the disciples, his impassioned prayer in the garden, and then, in rapid succession, his arrest, trial and crucifixion. All of these events are reasonably well-attested historically. Up to this point, although some insist on quibbling the details, we can be fairly confident that we’re at least in the ballpark of events most reasonable people can accept. Reason fails us, however, as soon as we arrive at the empty tomb on Easter morning.
The Resurrection is in a class by itself. Being entirely outside the realm of common human experience, it does not naturally lend itself to rational explanations. That’s not to say that people haven’t tried. There are whole wings in theological libraries devoted to arguing the details of Easter. But reason is never on solid footing when the supposed “facts” it rises from are themselves a matter of faith. We can and have applied our best scholarship to the materials available to us. But thus far, the effort hasn’t managed to get us past the core issue. Resurrection fundamentally defies logic, which means either that it simply isn’t possible and didn’t actually happen, or that our logic itself is flawed. In either case, Jesus’ resurrection is, and will likely remain, a matter of faith.
Personally, I’ve come to prefer it that way. I consider myself a fairly reasonable person in most ways, but I don’t buy the notion that rationality has all the answers. The story of Easter inspires awe, wonder and devotion in ways no collection of cold hard facts ever could. Explanations, as interesting as some of them are, always fall woefully short of the wonder, possibility and mystery of it all. Reason takes us just so far, and then we either do, or do not, take the “Leap of Faith” that Soren Kierkegaard made famous.
Being a child of the late 60’s and early 70’s, every time Holy Week rolls around I find the music of Jesus Christ, Superstarplaying in my mind. Judas is given the lines I quoted above, as well as these below.
Every time I look at you I don’t understand,
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand.
You’d have managed better if you had it planned.
Why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?
If you’d come today you would have reached the whole nation.
Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass-communication.
Don’t get me wrong, Jesus. I only want to know.
Believe me, I understand the desire to narrow Jesus down to something more comprehensible. But I also believe that the whole truth of Christ participates in the whole truth of God, which is infinite. That “whole truth,” in my experience, can only be partly known by our rational minds. To fully understand the Resurrection, we have to open our hearts as well.
And so, once again, I invite you to open your hearts and minds to the story that lies at the center of our faith. May the power, majesty and mystery of the resurrection of our Christ dawn upon you once again this Easter morning.
See you Sunday,