When the hero won’t stay dead

Last year, Phil and I caught a couple of summer blockbusters in the theater. We don’t get out to the movies much, so for us to see more than one “must-see” while it’s still in the theater is unusual.

I’ve noticed a theme in movies of late. Maybe it’s always been there, but something stuck out to me in the movies we watched last summer. (No spoilers. I won’t tell you which ones, but maybe you’ll know them anyway.)

Here it is: The hero doesn’t stay dead.

And I’m not talking about crazy action sequences where no human being should have survived but it’s the movies so it’s okay.

I’m talking about when the movie comes to an end, and the hero appears to have died, and we can’t believe it could be possible. Yet in the final scene we get a clue that maybe he didn’t die after all. Maybe he somehow survived. And there’s hope that maybe the story isn’t over and we’ll get to see the hero perform saving acts again.

cross

Easter is like that.

Jesus is a hero–an unlikely one–to the Jews living under Roman oppression. He rebels against the religious system of the day. He speaks with authority. He heals people. He draws crowds of followers. And when he rides into Jerusalem on a donkey on what we call Palm Sunday, the crowds are ready for what they expect to be a heroic act: the overthrow of Rome. In this scene, Jesus is, to them, a conquering king, a hero poised to rescue them from a foreign government.

It plays out like a movie.

Jesus eats a final Passover meal with his closest friends. He prays a dramatic prayer in a garden. One of his own followers betrays him to the government. He is arrested, without a fight (at least from him). He is mercilessly beaten and mocked. Falsely accused. And sentenced to death.

The stories of Holy Week are some of the most dramatic you’ll find. And from the point of view of the characters in it, the story is rapidly coming to an end. An end they didn’t expect.

Jesus is crucified. A cruel execution for the worst offenders. His friends and family and followers can’t understand how it ends this way. Maybe they’re still looking for deliverance. For God to intervene.

But He doesn’t. Jesus dies. They put Him in a tomb. They endure a Sabbath where they aren’t allowed to prepare His body for burial.

The story, it seems, is over. And those who followed Jesus are distraught. Grieving. Confused. Afraid.

Following Jesus had cost them. And now it seemed it was all for nothing.

As early as they could on the first day of the week–we call it Sunday–some women went to Jesus’ tomb to prepare His body with spices. They had no plan. The tomb was guarded by Romans and sealed with a heavy stone. They went to finish the burial preparations they could only perform in haste on Friday.

Then it happens.

The story isn’t over.

The tomb is empty. An angel appears to tell them that Jesus isn’t dead after all. He is alive. He is risen from the dead.

And the women, stunned, run back to the village to tell the rest of the followers.

Jesus, Himself, appears to the women, to the disciples, to men walking on the road to a neighboring village, to hundreds of people. In the flesh. They touched him. Ate with him. Talked with him.

The hero of this story–he didn’t stay dead.

We cheer it in the movies, grateful for the chance at another adventure. And we “believe” it because it’s a movie and anything is possible.

Yet when it comes to Jesus, we dismiss the possibility of resurrection.

We call it a hoax. Or we mock it, saying Jesus is a zombie, the walking dead.

We’ll say anything to discredit the truth of the resurrection.

I get it. I was a doubter. When God caught up with me in college, I knew what I felt but I didn’t know if it was true.

I hoped it was. I wanted to believe. I felt I couldn’t disbelieve, but I wanted facts.

In a college class about Jesus and the Gospels, I was given evidence. And my head confirmed what my heart felt.

Maybe you want those facts.

Maybe you don’t.

It wasn’t my intention to present a case for the resurrection here. Others can do that far better than I can.

I just want you to consider this: Jesus is the hero of the Christian story. And he doesn’t stay dead.

And that, alone, is the reason for our hope.

Yesterday may have been Easter Sunday, but Easter continues.

In the church calendar, it’s the next 50 days until Pentecost.

In our lives, every Sunday is Resurrection Day, and every day a reason to celebrate.

He is not dead.

He is risen.

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