In the room of the doctor for oncology hangs a cross with the body of the crucified. Surely no surprise in a catholic hospital. Here I’m with my mother. She is ill with cancer. The cross touches me. I remember stories of the bible around the death of Jesus. Gethsemane: the desperate crying Jesus who struggles with God and feeling restless abandoned from him. The dark night of the soul. I remember the lots of chemo therapies, the sprouting of hope and the going out of hope. Cancer is not overcome. The dark night of the soul. God let this cup pass me by. But we are not alone, that becomes clear. Jesus himself went the way until the end. He drank the bitter cup of suffer. My mother didn’t become healthy again. When my father was dying one year later, I put a crucifix and a candle beside his bed. “You are not alone.” The horror face of death now has become a human face. I don’ t need to be afraid.
Now I can understand the words of the disciples of Jesus totally different and deeper. I can speak with their words, or I can find my own words. They experienced personally that Jesus is not dead but risen.
The discussions about the empty grave are narrow-minded. If it really was empty the one take it as a proof for the resurrection. The others think the grave was empty because his disciples stole his dead body, or the women of the third day would have visited the wrong grave. To theirs opinion that are arguments against resurrection. But it’s about totally another dimensions. It’s about God’s reality of which you cannot even talk about big enough. We say: Life and death are in God’s hands, but God himself is life and death. And again and again: Life, life, life.
The disciples knew themselves as “died with Christ”. We died with Christ and have risen again. Marcus was still Marcus and Martha still Martha, but also still not. Died and rose again – in this life. The experience of Christ put everything around. At first, it’s not about a physical dying and making alive again of the body after death by God or the infinitive living of the soul as Volker Schunck or Kathleen Smith, but it’s about dying during lifetime. I don’t get that. No, this can’t be understood intellectually and the words and pictures may lag behind. The power of life which the disciples experienced after the death of Jesus filled them with the certainty: Jesus is not dead, but he is alive. Filled with the Holy Spirit they must talk about their experiences.
God himself transformed them through their encounters with Jesus. They understood against the background of the Jewish religion not until after Jesus’ death his sermons and his dealing with people. Jesus makes no difference to the humans. Whether sinners, prostitutes, junkies, bankers or on welfare, high society or drags of society. He loves them all equally and gives them their dignity back. And something else they get: God cannot see blood any longer. He is tired of your bloody sacrifices. This still knew the prophets of the Old Testament. And now once and for all: Look how this human Jesus lives and speaks – this way God is with you. “For in him all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form.” The horizon of the disciples has been widened suddenly.
God is the way he is exemplified for us through Jesus. Mercy instead of justice. Love the new righteousness. God shows his human face. It’s not about “an eye for an eye” or a “tooth for a tooth”, but about the helplessness of the victim, that even if someone strikes them on the right cheek, they turn the other to them. The mainstream doesn’t understand that – then and now. Who criticizes the religious and political system is being put away. Then such a consistant way like Jesus’ ended at the cross. Today in mobbing of church or society. The german theologians Hans Küng and Eugen Drewermann are being kicked off by the church and a child abuser gets promoted to a superintendent because he shuts up and doesn’t protest against the system.
The death of Jesus was fast pressed in a religious frame. And this religious frame was the Jewish religion. Since the Old Testament it can be seen: God is not a bloody God of revenge who must be calmed down by a bloody sacrifice, but God wants the hearts of the humans – of his humans – as a sacrifice. So the prophets understand the sacrifices in a deeper sense. A mechanical sacrifice is useless, when a human doesn’t love God with body and soul. Religious exercises, meditation, bible reading, confessions, a religious lifestyle or a flawless character. Nothing can impress God. Nothing, totally nothing, can improve our image in front of God. You not even need a doubtless faith. What we live, we live not by ourselves but by God. Christ lives in us, or the Holy Spirit lives in us, or God lives in us. I hardly can understand myself. But I know the more I am nearer to myself the nearer I am to God. “He must increase, I must decrease.” Died with Christ. Rose with Christ. A lifetime is not enough to get that.
The great hermeneutic Gadamer says at the end of his life this simple sentence which a student can say at the beginning: Hermeneutic is the art of understanding. His understanding has been become from an intellectual understanding of a student to a being. This simple sentence hides the effort of thinking of a whole life.
The Brazilian star architect Oscar Niemeyer who created over 600 buildings and who founded an own style of art comes to the conclusion at the age of 100: Life is a whiff.
It’s easy to tear this or that verse out of the biblical or historical context: “Believe that or you will be lost”. To understand biblical truth you need a lifetime like the two old men needed to understand life. And this own effort of understanding nobody can do for us. Neither the authors of the bible nor the church. At the end:
Jesus lives. Death lost his horror – and life too, because resurrection means: living beyond life and death in the presence of God. Eternal life, sheltered and hidden in God. So I live no longer, but Christ lives in me. (Volker Schunck)