Easter’s Epistemology: A Meditation

While preparing the Sunday morning sermon, I noted several commentators’ hints that Easter has a lot to do with epistemology (how we know what we know). Of course this trickles over into the realm of apologetics, but I’m not going there now.

Willimon, for example, calls Easter “God’s ultimate intrusion.” In a sermon Luther preached on Easter, he said that if we would preach on these texts over and over again we could never exhaust them, “we would remain like infants and young children, just learning to speak, scarcely able to form half words, yes, scarcely quarter words.”

We think we know so much, can cure diseases, can stand behind a powerful war machine, can explain the mystery of the solar systems and human genome, but Easter does not fit into the “traffic” of our “conventional epistimologies of the present age” (Willimon). If we judge Easter from inside our own cause and effect world, it is utterly impossible. Or, as Hauerwas put it, “for anyone schooled in modernity, the resurrection is quite simply unbelievable.”

But Easter is an event that is completely outside of our little self-constructed worlds (extra nobis). Easter is an event that really crushes our homemade worlds. Easter smacks us down, makes our worlds topple; Easter laughs at the world’s limited and narrow way of thinking: and he died, and he died, and he died is interrupted by the explosion: and he lived!

Easter dethrones reason. Easter intrudes and assaults on our tiny stories. Easter tells us that if we have no room for an empty tomb in our lives, then our lives will be as dark and empty as that tomb, imploding in on self. Indeed, “we cannot explain the resurrection. The resurrection explains us” (Hauerwas). The resurrection must explain us or we have no hope in the world, nothing good to raise our eyes upon, nothing exciting to look forward to, nothing to pull us out of a story that goes nowhere but down.

Praise Christ for Easter! Praise him that there is more to this life than living and dying! The resurrection forever changes the way things are. “No longer is it necessary to live as if there is no alternative” to our fears, lusts, hopelessness, wars, ICUs, and morgues. “There is an alternative kingdom to that rule of darkness – it is called forgiveness. ” To have your world turned upside down (right side up!) “is to be made part of a community, a history, that would not, could not exist if Jesus were not God’s Christ, raised from the dead” (Hauerwas).

If the resurrection explains you, if the resurrection fits you into its world, you know well that God is in the business of life. If you read Genesis 1.1ff, then go to the empty tomb, the Christian screams, “In vain does Calvary proclaim that the Lord is dead! (Vos). Of course the tomb is empty! What did you expect?

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Articles (brief format) cited: William Willimon, Easter Preaching as Peculiar Speech and Preaching Easter Texts: Resurrection and Vocation. Stanley Hauerwas, The Resurrection and the Jesus Seminar: A Sermon with Commentary.

Books (brief format) cited: Martin Luther, Sermons Volume 6, Geerhardus Vos, Grace and Glory, and Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew (Brazos Commentary).

shane lems

sunnyside wa