This is the central event, and concept, in Christian theology. The events of Holy Week, leading up to Easter Morning, are the highest holy days of the Christian year.
So how have we become a “life and death and life again” people of faith?
I believe John’s Gospel is our best teacher here. Whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke tell the Jesus story from the perspective of his teachings, healings and miracles among the people of his time, John fills out the spiritual character of Jesus, in a sense telling the Gospel Story from Jesus’ own point of view.
Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus; birth: John tells the story of how the Light of God came into the world; how God’s word (logos) became flesh and blood. John the Baptist, who witnessed the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus, tells the story of Jesus’ baptism.
For the Gospel author, Jesus’ first miracle takes place at a wedding in Cana, which he attends with his mother and disciples. When the wine runs out, Mary – clearly knowing what her son is capable of – simply says, “They have no wine.”
Because that’s how mothers get things done in these circumstances. I love to imagine that moment when she tilts her head slightly and raises her eyebrows as if to say, you were made for this moment, son. Do your thing.” To which Jesus replies, Woman. (A term of deep respect here) Do you know what you are asking?” But then: “My hour has not yet come.”
John continues this theme, explaining Jesus’ actions by declaring that “his hour had not come.” Finally, in the 12th chapter, after his arrival in Jerusalem for the Passover, pilgrims from Greece ask to see Jesus. He understands this request as a sign that indeed, his “Hour had come.”
The events that unfold from this moment are the ultimate revelation of Jesus’ highest and deepest purpose on earth. He declares that now, finally, «The hour has come for the Son of Man to be truly glorified.” And now we have the moment when Jesus finally reveals the purpose of his death and resurrection: “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Curiously, this teaching is an allegory from agriculture, of all things. But it is such a powerful metaphor: that its profound, life-changing, even history-changing implications echo the truths of Creation. The focus is not on the death, but on what the death makes possible: They thought they were burying a body, but they were planting him like a seed. They thought they were ridding themselves of a political nuisance; in fact, they were sowing for a harvest beyond any hopes or imaginings.
Now the preaching, the teaching, the healing, the miracles, are not just the work of one man, but of a world of people living lives of compassionate, sacrificial love in light and in truth.
Why are we life and death and life people? Because we know the value of planting seeds and seeing through the guise of death. We are a resurrection people.
A Happy Easter to all.