Chaplain’s Corner: CLXXII

“Easter: The Story that has no Ending”

Bernard Shaw, in a preface to his play, Androcles and the Lion discussed the New Testament Gospels. Here is part of what he wrote about Matthew’s Gospel: “Matthew then tells how after three days an angel opened the family vault of Joseph, a rich man of Arimathea who had buried Jesus in it; whereupon Jesus rose and returned from Jerusalem to Galilee and resumed his preaching with his disciples, assuring them he would be with them to the end of the world.”

Then Shaw added: “At that point the narrative abruptly stops. The story has no ending.” Shaw said there was more than he intended. He rejected the traditional Christian interpretation of Easter, but in writing, “The story has no ending,” he underscored inadvertently, what Easter has meant for Christians through the centuries. For the Christian believer the crucifixion of Jesus does not mark a tragic ending, but rather, a new beginning.

For those who stood around the cross on Good Friday, it was the ignominious end of Jesus of Nazareth. For officialdom it was the end of an awkward and challenging incident. For Jesus’ disciples it was the violent and tragic end of a glorious hope.

Then came Easter morning. The Gospels declare that God raised Jesus from the tomb. And soon Jesus’ followers came to an awareness that He was alive, that He had ongoing life-and out of this awareness, out of the Resurrection presence, came the Christian faith and the Christian Church.

The details of the Resurrection, its means and its mechanics, its “how,” are shrouded in the mists of history. There are serious inconsistencies in the accounts and of the event in the four Gospels, and there can be no simple, agreed account of what happened. Proof and disproof are quite beyond us here. But the Resurrection experience and the Resurrection conviction have persisted–and this has been the dynamic of Christian faith through the years.

The Christian religion is not simply a matter of honoring the memory of a great man and trying to live in accord with His teachings. The Church should not be merely a memorial society, a sort of Jesus fan club. Christianity is not essentially in the remembering of a dead hero. Christianity is experiencing a living Lord. “The story has no ending.”

Ron Naylor, Chaplain