It is Eastertide once again, that time of the year when the Christian community pause to affirm a central tenet of our faith – the resurrection story of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate and dragged to the hills of Calvary where he was nailed to a cross along with two others, named as thieves. This is by no means a pleasant way, to greet this Easter season. However, it is in the sordidness of this account, leading to Easter, that Christians find the basis for hope.
Good Friday highlights the injustice of systemic oppression, abusive power and the conspiracy of silence. Jesus was crucified by the oppressive system of the Roman Empire, which neither understood the mission of Jesus nor could countenance the thought of an alternative to the empire. The abuse of power by those to whom leadership and guardianship of the law were given contributed to the death of Jesus; and the silence and silencing of those whose truth was required to stem corruption and free the innocent made Good Friday anything but good.
Unfortunately, the horror of “Good Friday” is being repeated over and over again in our day and age. Those in positions of power and privilege continue to flaunt these in ways that denigrate and demoralise the rest of society. The voices of significant numbers of the community are being silenced by a culture of domination and the conspiracy of silence while the dominant few continue to parade as demigods, above reproach and untouchable. The result of this toxic environment is brokenness – broken body, broken spirits, broken relationships and the consequent hopelessness and despair – and death – of dreams, of hope and of future.
Easter is good news because the bold, unthinkable and uncompromising message of the first resurrection disciples was that Jesus was risen from the dead, that although death had done its worse God defied its power and declared that life in all its fullness was the ultimate statement of victory. Those whom Jesus encountered on the Emmaus road, were troubled at the death of Jesus, whom they “had hoped… was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24: 21); but even more troubled, even more perplexed, that this resurrection message was being proclaimed by women, those I call “the first resurrection disciples” (Luke 24: 22-24). The power of the resurrection story, therefore, is not only that God raised Jesus from the dead but that God raised up those who were silenced by a culture of domination; and they came to life with a message that could not be avoided or even contested. “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said” (Luke 24: 24).
Herein lies the basis of hope for those of us today who would be tempted to succumb to the tyranny of systemic oppression, abusive power and the conspiracy of silence. The resurrection story is a statement of victory and an invitation to hope, to reject the propaganda that all is lost and claim the liberating message of resurrection – that life, not death, is God’s final word. Accordingly, resurrection theology is both revolutionary and subversive; it is God’s counter-argument to those who believe that death has done its worse and that, with death, all hope is lost.
May the God of resurrection inspire hope is all creation today, causing the Earth and all who live in it to speak boldly, act courageously and live confidently, defying the death-dealing structures of our time and declaring the life-giving alternative to which Jesus committed himself and to which he called us to be his disciples.
On behalf of the entire family of Council for World Mission, I wish you a happy and hope-filled Easter.
Rev Dr Collin Cowan