I have been reflecting a lot over the last few days about the days in between Jesus execution and his resurrection. I find it a fascinating insight into the heart and mind of God. Why did God wait those days? It would have been perfectly acceptable for Jesus to be resurrected immediately after Jesus passed away. Or maybe God could have left it an hour, or even later that night. One can only imagine the despair endured by those closest to Jesus. What must the disciples of thought during those liminal moments? What torture, what confusion, what doubt and loss of hope must have been experienced by those who loved Christ? What a strange thought that God himself in human flesh rotted in the tomb.
In Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot the protagonist Prince Myshkin is both drawn to and disturbed by Holbein the younger’s painting of The Christ putrefying in the ground. He declares that the image is enough to make a man lose his faith. Which is precisely what must have happened to the disciples of Jesus during his time in the tomb. The concept of God dead is terrifying thought for us to grasp, but I believe a necessary one.
For the resurrection to happen, for life to spring from the jaws of death, we must have death, we must hold it as a reality, otherwise the emergence of Jesus from the tomb is simply a stunt. The days between good friday and easter sunday are a devastating reminder that we cannot have resurrection without death, we cannot have access to eternal life without first dying to ourselves and the world. We cannot enter God’s new life without contemplating the reality of our own deaths, and a world without life, in which evil triumphs.
Too often today I find many wanting a road to resurrection that circumvents the crucifixion, we want the abundant life of John 10:10 without the taking up of our crosses and the denial of our selves of Mark 8:34-35. Too many churches preach easter sunday but gloss over good friday. For without good friday we turn the good news of Christ into a lifestyle enhancement program, and we create congregations of believers whose faith is shallow and selfish.
Instead until sunday we must wait, we must contemplate, we must feel fully the impact of the idea of a world in which God lies dead in the ground. Only then can we truly understand and participate in the earth shattering reality of God’s emergence from the grave and the triumph of life, justice and love over death sin, and destruction.