The Uprising Begins: An Easter Sunday Reflection

This is an excerpt from We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 33: The Uprising Begins (Easter Sunday)

Ezekiel 37:1–14
Luke 24:1–32
Colossians 1:9–29

Let’s imagine ourselves with the disciples on the first Easter Sunday.

Here’s what we heard. At dawn, before the sun has risen, some women who are part of our movement went to the tomb to properly wash Jesus’ corpse and prepare it for burial. When they arrived, they had a vision involving angels. One of the women claimed that Jesus appeared to her. The rest of us think it was just the gardener.

The gardener! What a place to be buried—a grave in a garden! A bed of death in a bed of life!

The women came and told the disciples. Peter went running back and found the tomb empty. Empty! And the burial cloths were still there, neatly folded. Who would take a naked corpse and leave the bloody cloths that it was wrapped in? Peter wondered what was going on—but he didn’t have any clear theory.

We all speculated, but none of us knew what to think. We decided to go back home. That’s where we are now—walking on the road back home. It’s about a seven-mile walk to our little town of Emmaus. It takes a couple hours. Along the way we’ve been talking about all this, trying to come up with some kind of interpretation of the events that have transpired. Now we notice this other fellow walking toward us, a stranger. We lower our voices. He comes a little closer.

“What are you folks talking about?” he asks.

One of us replies, “Are you kidding? Are you the only person in this whole region who doesn’t know all that’s been happening around Jerusalem recently?”

“Like what?” he asks.

We tell him about Jesus, that he was clearly a prophet who said and did amazing things. We tell him how the religious and political leaders came together to arrest him. We go into some detail about the crucifixion on Friday. “We had hoped,” one of us says, and pauses. “We had hoped…that this Jesus was the one who was going to turn things around for Israel, that he would set us free from the Roman occupation.”

We walk on a few steps, and he adds, “And this morning was the third day since his death, and some women from our group told us that they had a vision of angels who said he was alive.” It’s pretty clear from the tone of his voice that none of us take the report of the women very seriously.

That’s when the stranger interrupts. “You just don’t get it, do you?” he says. “This is exactly what the prophets said would happen. They have been telling us all along that the Liberator would have to suffer and die like this before entering his glory.” As we continue walking, he starts explaining things to us from the Scriptures. He begins with Moses, and step by step he shows us the pattern of God’s work in history, culminating in what happened in Jerusalem in recent days. God calls someone to proclaim God’s will.

Resistance and rejection follow, often culminating in an expulsion or murder to silence the speaker. But this isn’t a sign of defeat. This is the only way God’s most important messages are ever heard—through someone on the verge of being rejected. God’s word doesn’t come in dominating, crushing force. It comes only in vulnerability, in weakness, in gentleness…just as we have seen over this last week.

At this point, we realize we’ve reached home already, and as we slow down, the stranger just keeps walking. We plead with him to stay here with us, since it’s getting late and will soon be dark. So he comes in and we sit down at our little table for a meal. He reaches to the center of the table and takes a loaf of bread and gives thanks for it. He breaks it and hands a piece of it to each of us and…

It hits us at the same instant. This isn’t a stranger…this is…it couldn’t be—yes, this is Jesus! We each look down at the fragment of bread in our hands, and when we look back up to the stranger…he is gone!

And we start talking, one interrupting the other. “When he spoke about Moses and the prophets, did you feel—?” “—Inspired? Yes. It felt like my heart was glowing, hotter and hotter, until it was ready to ignite.” “Did this really happen, or was it just a vision?” “Just a vision? Maybe a vision means seeing into what’s more real than anything else.” “But it wasn’t just me, right? You saw him too, right? You felt it too, right?” “What do we do now? Shouldn’t we…tell the others?” “Yes, let’s do it. Let’s go back to Jerusalem, even though it’s late. I could never sleep after experiencing this!”

So we pack our gear and rush back to the city, excited and breathless. On our earlier journey, we were filled with one kind of perplexity—disappointment, confusion, sadness. Now we feel another kind of perplexity—wonder, awe, amazement, almost-too-good-to-be-true-ness. “Do you realize what this means?” one of us asks, and then answers his own question: “Jesus was right after all! Everything he stood for has been vindicated!”

“Yes. And something else. We never have to fear death again.”

“And if that’s true,” another answers, “we never need to fear Caesar and his forces again, either. Their only real weapon is fear, and if we lose our fear, what power do they have left? Ha! Death has lost its sting! That means we can stand tall and speak the truth, just like Jesus did.” “We never need to fear anyone again.” “This changes everything.” “It’s not just that Jesus was resurrected. It feels like we have arisen too. We were in a tomb of defeat and despair. But now—look at us! We’re truly alive again!”

We talk as fast as we walk. We recall Jesus’ words from Thursday night about his body and blood. We remember what happened on Friday when his body and his blood were separated from one another on the cross. That’s what crucifixion was, we realize: the slow, excruciating, public separation of body and blood. So, we wonder, could it be that in the holy meal, when we remember Jesus, we are making space for his body and blood to be reunited and reconstituted in us? Could our remembering him actually re-member and resurrect him in our hearts, our bodies, our lives? Could his body and blood be reunited in us, so that we become his new embodiment? Is that why we saw him and then didn’t see him—because the place he most wants to be seen is in our bodies, among us, in us?

It’s dark when we reach Jerusalem. Between this day’s sunrise and today’s sunset, our world has been changed forever. Everything is new. From now on, whenever we break the bread and drink the wine, we will know that we are not alone. The risen Christ is with us, among us, and within us—just as he was today, even though we didn’t recognize him. Resurrection has begun. We are part of something rare, something precious, something utterly revolutionary.

It feels like an uprising. An uprising of hope, not hate. An uprising armed with love, not weapons. An uprising that shouts a joyful promise of life and peace, not angry threats of hostility and death. It’s an uprising of outstretched hands, not clenched fists. It’s the “someday” we have always dreamed of, emerging in the present, rising up among us and within us. It’s so different from what we expected—so much better. This is what it means to be alive, truly alive. This is what it means to be en route, walking the road to a new and better day. Let’s tell the others: the Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Visit Brian McLaren’s website here, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  Check out his recent books: Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World) and We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation.

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  • Jerry Lynch

    Death will come anyway, no matter how brave or fearful I may be, and what does it matter when, where or how, whether how young or old I am, for eternity awaits. It seems a simple choice, although not purely logical, to be bold each moment. To live as if I will live forever, to live as if this is my last breath. Death has lost its sting, for now I see it never had one; that was just my imagination toying with me. Thank you, wonderful piece.

  • Julie

    “We never have to fear death again.” Thank you Mr. McLaren for taking us through the experience. I am a Christian and believe in eternal life, tho I claim no divine knowledge as to how that will be. I am mindful too that Muslims share this view. However, extremists in Islam also believe in eternal life along with details of that life, and have no fear of death.
    IMHO, It is one thing to have faith in eternal life but a quite different one to use it as a reason to fight wars. Some wars are necessary of course, but in all religions, there are factions who think being a martyr, only to war against another religion, adds stars to their crown. The promise of eternal life is a blessing – not a bomb.

  • Andrey Bolkonsky

    Epicurus > Jesus.