Welcome to the New Life

written on 05 April 2021 by Erin Iwata & Indy Hollway

Art by Nat Iwata

On Good Friday, we chose to dwell on the darkness and grief that comes with the acknowledgement that we are responsible for Jesus’ death. Our core message was ‘Jesus didn’t die, he was murdered’. Even though it was hard and uncomfortable, it is good to acknowledge our grief, our burden, how we fail ourselves and others; how things are not how we hoped they would be.

Jesus also sat with the uncomfortable truth of his death. Jesus was aware of his impending murder and yet He chose to spend the moments leading up to His own death washing His companions’ feet, breaking bread with his flawed followers, healing the ear of his accusers, and allowing his friend to betray Him with a kiss. How does this example shape how we face our own suffering?

When we suffer, we can be quick to make excuses. We lick our wounds and shove everyone else away. We can be oh so quick to selfishness and forget our enoughness; when we are in pain, we can hoard our time, affection, and money, indulging our own needs, and blaming others for our suffering. Jesus was so different. The story makes it clear He knew He would be killed- and He continued to heal, He continued to be present, He continued to love and serve.

It was important for us to sit in the darkness because this is a dark story. Imagine watching Jesus die, and not knowing how the story really ends. But we do know how it ends, and this is what we celebrate today. We can look at the cross, that horrible cross, and not just see death, but also eternal life.

In the temple, which was the place where the presence of God was “housed” (in the arc of the covenant) there was a thick curtain that separated the human space from the “Holy of Holies”, or God space. In the writings of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when Jesus died it says the curtain was torn. Sit with that for a moment: The separation between God space and human space was ripped apart. Now we, all of us, have access to the Holy of Holies, we can walk with God now.

This isn’t a promise for some distant future, but an unfolding of redemptive life as we turn towards the Way of Jesus. Even here and now, we are filled with the very Spirit of God alive in us today (look forward to Pentecost, the Spirit of God inside us). We are to carry on Jesus’ radical message of love, freedom for all, radical equality, standing against injustice, hope for the oppressed, and bravery amongst the community to believe it is possible and worth striving for. We can walk with God now, we can live now, in the very midst of our suffering, our mess, we have access to redemptive life- to heaven life. This is the Good News.

The empty tomb may be the most audacious belief Jesus followers hold on to: we believe that Jesus did not stay dead. On the surface this can feel like a fairy tale or even a zombie story. But what does this mean? If Jesus lives- He just walked into full resurrection life- no waiting for another planet, or heaven, or another ruler to make things right. He surpassed even the ultimate ending to show us how to live. Jesus didn’t come back and destroy the Roman oppressor, or obliterate the religious establishment that was responsible for His murder. Jesus came back in the midst of oppression, occupation, confusion, and mess. In doing so, He gave even the ones who had betrayed Him a chance at new life. There was the resurrected Jesus, complete and unhampered by even death, continuing to do what He was doing before: teaching and healing. This was no zombie-Jesus, he was human, walking, talking, and even eating.

Easter is the demonstration of atonement, the true picture of reconciliation of God and humankind, the literal and spiritual conquering of death, the curtain is torn and there is no separation anymore. The tomb is empty, we don’t have to live as if we are dying. This is the Good News! Many people live scared- like death is near and time is running out. What if we didn’t live that way? What if we lived as if we have everything we need? What if we loved like everyone belonged, even those we don’t agree with? What if we participate in resurrection life now? As if it wasn’t a far off goal for someday- but a new reality we can choose to participate in today? What if we build that idea into the way we spend our energy? What if we stood up for the oppressed, pushed against injustice, protected the environment, worked in the face of poverty and against all odds because we believe that this life is redeemable? Our core message for today? Change is possible and even death cannot stop us.

We want to leave you with an Easter Benediction:

May we leave the tomb of a temporal life.
May we see everyone around us through resurrected eyes.
May we walk with no separation between us and God.
May we see the Kingdom of Love all around us.

Jesus is risen, and you are too.