Freedom New Mexico
For reasons having more to do with modern secular culture and commerce than religious significance, Christmas is more elaborately celebrated. But for believing Christians, Easter is the centerpiece of the faith. It marks the improbable miracle that God’s messenger in human form was killed by the agents of the powers of this world, yet rose from the dead.
In so doing, he triumphed not only over the grave but revealed the pretensions of the powerful of this world, whether that purported power resides in material wealth or political mastery, to be utterly empty.
The execution of Jesus reveals the utter arbitrariness of political power. As both Pilate and Herod acknowledged, in different versions of the story, Jesus had done nothing to deserve death, under the laws of the Jews or of the Romans who occupied and ruled the Holy Land at the time. Yet the authorities were uneasy about this man and saw him as a threat to their power, even though he had raised no army of rabble to oppose them or sought to unseat them.
When questioned he gave only short and cryptic answers and often no answer at all, sending the message that the powers of this world have no right to demand answers from those over whom they claim authority and that the righteous man is not required to answer to earthly authority.
So the uneasy authorities decided that such impertinence must be silenced once and for all. But if Jesus really rose from the dead after being duly executed, then he stands as a challenge not only to the Roman empire and the religious authorities of that day, but to every empire from the beginning of time down to the present day, to every mere human being who claims the right to rule over another human being, thus usurping the authority of God. The authorities of the time were right to be uneasy, but they had no idea how profound the challenge to the powers and principalities of this world would be.
The overturning of the existing order continued. In a society that was intensely patriarchal, the gospels say it was women who discovered the empty tomb, were told of the resurrection and were instructed to tell the other followers the good news. This upset yet again the worldly understanding of proper authority.
The promise of Easter is that all who believe can not only share in the promise of eventual resurrection, but share already in a transformed life that amounts to living in the kingdom of heaven, whatever their sorrows and travails in this earthly pilgrimage. The promise is more audacious even than most who profess Christianity can fully understand.