An Easter message for the doubter. Christmas (see here for my Christmas for the doubter essay) and Easter are two deeply meaningful days for Christians to spiritually connect with their Savior Jesus Christ. Going through faith deconstruction made those two days especially difficult for a few years until my faith reconstruction helped me piece it back together.
Information in the internet age is causing faith crisis for many LDS, who are doubting some aspects of the restored gospel, and not sure what is “true” anymore. For me, learning the Book of Abraham was not a translation from the papyri led to questions that eventually led me to wonder about all historical aspects of scripture, even the New Testament. The critical analysis of Bible scholars suggest the verses that emphasize the divinity of Christ appear to be added later to bolster the message of Christianity. This research is compelling to me; I’m not sure what to believe.
Before questioning this historical information, I felt I knew Jesus. I testified of this. I felt it spiritually. I knew the experience of Jesus. So questioning the historicity has been troubling for me, until I found a new approach to scripture and religion. Marcus Borg is a liberal Christian scholar who does not believe in the historicity of the resurrection of the historical Jesus Christ nor the miracles or other aspects of divinity. He views these as parables and symbols, and the meaning resonates with him the same as it does to LDS. He expresses a strong testimony of Christ as shown below in the youtube video. Adopting this view has enabled me to combine the same spiritual elements I always have felt about Jesus and which are taught in the LDS church, while not being concerned about the historicity.
As a youth, I believed the Easter stories were literally true. In my pre-critically naivete, the early childhood state that we take it for granted that whatever the significant authority figures in our life this is important and important really is true. And it never occurred to me as a youth to wonder whether the Easter stories really are literally and factually true or are they symbolically and metaphorically and parabolically true, that distinction just hadn’t occurred to me yet.
It no longer matters to me whether the tomb was empty or not.
The message of Easter is:
1. Jesus lives. Paul and many others had visions of him after his death. Many experience him today. He is not found in the land of the dead. He is found in the land of the living.
2. Jesus is Lord. When Jesus appeared to Thomas, he cried out “My Lord, and my God.” There is something about the experience of Jesus that causes people to call him Lord.
Both of these affirmations 1)that Jesus lives. He’s a figure of the present not simply a figure of the past. And 2) Jesus is Lord. Are true. Independently of whether the tomb was really empty or whether something spectacular happened to the corpse of Jesus.
He tells two of his favorite Easter stories, here is the first. It’s worth listening to the youtube to get the full message.
It’s set on the afternoon on the day of what we know as Easter Sunday and two of Jesus’ followers are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus which was about seven miles away. And I’m not saying it literally happened, but within the narrative of the story, that’s what we need to imagine. And as these two followers walk to Emmaus, they are joined by a third figure, whom we know is the risen Christ. But they don’t recognize him. And when the stranger asks them what is it that you’re talking about? They respond are you the only person who doesn’t know what is happening in Jerusalem these last few days? (little but of humor there) So they tell him about Jesus and they continue to walk together what we should imagine is an hour or so and they don’t recognize him. And at twilight they get to Emmaus and the stranger in their midst is about to leave them. And they say to him stay with us, for the day is far spent. Stay with us, for the night is coming on. Or in the words from that well known hymn based on this story: Abide with us, fast falls the eventide. And so he agrees to go in with them for supper and as they sit down for a meal, the stranger takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and then we are told in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized him. And then you know what happens next, he vanished from their sight. Now, I don’t want to belabor the point of whether that story happened exactly as it was recorded, but when you think about having been there with a video camera, how much of that story do you think you could have captured on tape? It doesn’t sound like that kind of story. It sounds more like a parable of the resurrection.
He then goes on to talk about parables and how we don’t think that when Jesus gives the parable of the Good Samaritan that we think he is reporting on actual facts. Parables are given for the meaning. And what is the meaning of this story, if it be a parable?
The risen Christ journeys with us. Whether we know that or not. Whether we perceive that or not. Realize that or not. And sometimes there are those moments of recognition. And I suppose another meaning of that story is that we sometimes experience the presence of the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread (sacrament.).
He is risen. What is the importance of that, according to Borg? What does it mean that the tomb was empty?
You’re not going to find Jesus in the land of the dead. The tomb couldn’t hold him. He was executed and crucified by the powers that ruled his world. But they couldn’t stop him. He’s out there again. He’s loose in the world. And he’s still recruiting for the Kingdom of God. On Good Friday the powers said NO to Jesus. On Easter, God said YES to Jesus and what Jesus was up to, and what Jesus was up to continues to be and to operate.
Today, the kids will wake up and find their Easter baskets with candy and clothes. The Easter lily, a symbol of life and beauty and purity, sits on the kitchen counter. Girls will wear their new Easter dresses to church. I will sit with my family on a pew of the LDS church, dressed our best and polished up, presenting ourselves to worship God and commune with the saints. I will probably shed a tear as we sing together those words and reflect on his grace and the love and strength I feel from him.
He is risen! He is risen!Tell it out with joyful voice.He has burst his three days’ prison;Let the whole wide earth rejoice.Death is conquered; man is free.Christ has won the victory.
I’m not 100% sure the stories of the historical Jesus Christ’s divinity are literally true. Yet, today I will enjoy Easter and be touched spiritually by the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as much as I ever have in the past with a literal testimony. He is alive in my life, and he is my Lord.