Easter is upon us, it is just a few days away. Brace yourself for all the zombie Jesus jokes. Haha. How clever. And of course not many of us really celebrate Easter anymore. Or rather, I don’t know many people who do. I can honestly tell you that I cannot remember the last time I celebrated Easter in earnest. In fact I might have never done. But this year I view things differently.
The last year has been an amazing one for me. Amazingly good things have happened and amazingly bad things have happened. And actually they have kind of happened side by side or apace of one another.
So in the past year I came out of many years of eastern spirituality in general and Buddhism in particular. Over the past year I have begun to rediscover the western spiritual tradition through people like Jordan Peterson, Gordon White and Stoicism. Interestingly, in that same period of time, much of the stability that I thought existed in my life has crumbled…not all of it, thank God, but significant portions for sure.
I say this is interesting because my (current) understanding of the spiritual heritage of the West is connected to just these kinds of devastating circumstances. And it is important to recognize how this ties into Easter.
“Crucifixion aint no fiction”-Chuck D
What does he do? Well at first he reacts by not wanting to experience the suffering obviously. He wants it to pass him by, leave him untouched. But that never works. Suffering will not just pass you by. It never just passes you by. Then what? Well…Jesus picks up his cross, his unjust portion of the suffering, and he faces it.
What happens next? Well, Jesus is tortured and killed. But then he is resurrected. What does that mean? Sure, it is easy to just laugh it off as a silly old story. It is easy to reject it as obvious nonsense…but think deeper. The direct confrontation of suffering, as a path to rebirth, is one of the central motifs of the western tradition. And it is a damn good one.
If you are not currently experiencing something akin to the unjust suffering of the world, then look around you. It is a sure bet that there are people that you know who are experiencing exactly this kind of suffering. They (or you) have been betrayed by a loved one. They (or you) have suddenly lost employment. There has been tragic death or a horrible accident. There is sadness and pain, deep sadness and pain. And if you think about it, you likely know of some examples of people who have been completely crushed under the weight of the suffering. I have had friends who have committed suicide. I have friends who have been lost in years of drug addiction (I did this too) in a hopeless attempt to have the “cup pass before them” (Matthew 26:39). I know people who have just never bounced back from being laid low by the unjust suffering of the world.
Because , here is the thing, you can get crucified and just be dead. After the Spartacus rebellion the Romans crucified 6,000 slaves on the road between Rome and Capua…that road is approximately one hundred and twenty five miles…that is one crucified man every 30-40 yards for one hundred and twenty five miles. All around us we have examples of the crucified who never are reborn…they are just destroyed.
Christ was resurrected. Christ is the promise of the possibility of resurrection. Sitting at the heart of the western spiritual tradition (and this is something older than Christianity, and expressed in many ways) is the idea that if we voluntarily confront the unjust suffering of our lives and of the world, there is the chance that we can be reborn, resurrected, made new. This is tremendous.
Without the possibility of resurrection, of rebirth, then the options, when the sufferings of the world slay you, are depressions, bitterness, destruction and death. With the concept of resurrection suffering is transformed.
So this year I am not going to mock one of the most profound concepts that human beings have ever discovered, that suffering can be a path to redemption and transformation. This year I am going to celebrate Easter. This year I am going to celebrate the defeat of death.