My favorite holy day in the church year is Easter, which forms the heart of my faith.
I don’t believe in a literal, physical resurrection of a man who died by crucifixion. That is impossible—dead is dead. A body starts decomposing four minutes after death, and the process cannot be reversed.
Furthermore, to read Bible stories as literal truth is to misread them and miss their underlying points. We always need to look closer to find the hidden truths or deeper meanings.
The Jews call this process of scriptural interpretation midrash. With midrash, the Easter story takes on different meanings. Instead of a preposterous fairy tale, we can find a wealth of important metaphors and messages.
Remember—the early Followers had no written stories about Jesus until the Gospel of Mark was written around 70 CE, and the original version (ending at 16:8) had no postresurrection appearances. (A redactor added the appearances contained in Mark 16:9–20 sometime in the next century.) Matthew, written up to twenty years later, featured a more elaborate Resurrection tale wrapped around powerful metaphors.
My main midrash of the Resurrection stories centers around the metaphor of Jesus being crucified (Good Friday, or as I like to call it, Bad Friday) only to rise anew (Easter). This is analogous to the challenges we all experience in life but then, using the tools of agape, rise above to continue living creatively.
Easter reminds me that, with agape, I can face every difficult experience life throws at me head-on. (I’ll share some examples in a future blog post.)
For now, I want to do another midrash centered on those who still felt Jesus’s presence even after he was dead.
Remember the Roman centurion who watched over the crucifixion of Jesus and pronounced him dead? The centurion felt Jesus’s presence and proclaimed, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:39).
My favorite example is Mary of Magdala. While standing outside the tomb early on Sunday morning, she mistook Jesus for a gardener but then felt his presence and called him rabbouni, which was Aramaic for “teacher” (John 20:11–18). To Mary, Jesus was with her even though he was dead and gone.
We also have the stories of the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35) and of the disciples hiding behind locked doors, all of whom who felt Jesus’s presence in their midst after his death (Luke 24:36–49 and John 20:19–23).
This is the twenty-first century. I do not believe any of these stories are true, but I feel truth and the presence of Jesus in each of them. I know how to turn my Good Fridays into Easters through unconditional love, forgiveness, and caring. As I use these transforming tools, I also feel a presence that manifests as a peace that surpasses all understanding.
So, my Easter present to you this year is the hope that you, too, will feel Jesus’s presence every day and that it will transform your life as it has mine.
The Pilgrims of Emmaus on the Road by James Tissot