Much of the imagery associated with the Easter season seems to focus on the violent death suffered by Christ Jesus at the hands of political and religious leaders. The talk around this time seems to zero in on the image of Jesus on the cross, a martyr, a sacrificial lamb.
In a recent article in The Boston Globe, James Carroll, a former Roman Catholic priest, shared a thought-provoking insight that questioned the conclusion that God's anger had to be appeased by the death of His innocent Son. He wrote, "... what if the cross is intended not to change God's mind, but humanity's? What if God's attitude toward creation is one of permanent loving mercy, and what if Jesus came to disclose that? Then resurrection - a symbol of that mercy - replaces crucifixion in the center of belief."
The resurrection of Jesus is indeed at the heart of the Easter story. And its message tells of God's love overcoming all the earthly pain and suffering that is symbolized by the cross. It's a timeless message that brings fresh hope each Easter. In truth, it's God's gift of hope for all humanity, whatever your religious denomination, whether you do or don't have one. In his triumph over death, which happened through his profound spiritual understanding of God's love, Jesus was not just sending a signal to a select set of people of his time. Rather, he was demonstrating a divinely scientific fact that is truly applicable to all people in every era: God is everyone's Life, eternally.
After his resurrection, Jesus walked and talked and even dined with his disciples. He continued to tell them about God, elaborating on the lessons he had been teaching them before his betrayal. But now those lessons hit home with extra force, because his students had seen practical proof that hatred and death do not have the power to extinguish love and life.
Nor did these wonderful lessons end with the resurrection. After spending some more time with his followers, Jesus rose even higher spiritually, absolutely out of the sight of his disciples. The ascension, as we call it now, brought closure to the human record of Jesus. In contrast to the morbid (and groundless) sense of finality that hung over the disciples at the time of his crucifixion, the ascension of Jesus was a joyous spur to their spiritual growth and a catalyst for them to realize more fully their own calling as Christian healers.
The perception of these vital events matters as much to us now as it did to those who experienced them firsthand. Today, drawing inspiration from the spiritual significance of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus still heals and saves.
It's worth pausing at Eastertime to think about these things. It's worth remembering the Easter message every day. Understanding the meaning of Jesus' defeat of death fuels a growing conviction that life is spiritual. It transforms daily experiences because it fosters better thinking and living. It leads to physical healing. The logical conclusion of the resurrection and ascension is that death - and the suffering and lack and sin that in their own way preview death - is never ordained of God. It is not the fate of anyone. Man is made in the spiritual image and likeness of God to glorify God, infinite Life, as the Bible indicates (see Gen., Chap. 1). All men and women can be seen as representing that spiritual man, expressing Life. Prayer, in which we strive to understand this, unveils the original and eternal identity of all. That is why prayer brings about healing of sin, sickness, lack, and unhappiness.
To the degree we experience mental and physical restoration through prayer - which draws on the same spiritual power that resurrected Jesus - we will increasingly be able to echo the sentiments of Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the Science of Christ and wrote, "I love the Easter service: it speaks to me of Life, and not of death" ("Miscellaneous Writings," Pg. 180).