“He is risen!
“He is risen, indeed.”
Why do we use these old-fashioned words once a year to remind ourselves of something we really know every day of the year?
For many reasons, I suppose, but mostly, I think, because we have a tendency to forget—at least I know I do.
It’s not so much that I forget the facts of Jesus’ life and death or the miracle of his resurrection, but that I forget how incredible and revolutionary it was and is.
Up until a few years ago, I don’t know if I was really able to conceptualize the enormity of life after death because I had never had a very personal experience of death.
Then my brother died. Suddenly. Inexplicably. Tragically.
I received the phone call at 4:00 a.m. I was home alone and the next hour was so terrible I’ve all but blocked it from memory. When my dad got home from work, we embraced like only two people who share the same grief can.
Then my mom, dad, and I were stuck in a car together for 12 hours, driving though the seemingly endless sameness of west Texas with no distractions, and all we could talk about was how and why this had happened.
This experience has given me a new perspective.
This is the state Jesus’ friends, family, and followers must have been in—especially given the fact that they were shut inside for their Sabbath, unable to distract themselves from grief with even the smallest of tasks. Except that these people were not just mourning the loss of a brother, a son, a friend—they were mourning the loss of their hope.
What a swing it must have been, when, in this, the lowest of low states, they began to hear the news—in whispers and in shouts—
“He is risen!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Is this some kind of sick joke?”
“Someone must have stolen the body.”
“No! He’s alive!”
“You’re crazy.” And finally,
“He is risen, indeed!”
He turned their worlds—all of our worlds—upside down.
Yet we forget how good the Good News actually is. We get bogged down by grief and sin and humanness—just as Jesus knew we would, when, on the night before he died he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Remind each other what this was like. When you get bogged down by death and sin, remind each other what I did.
This is why we remind each other of what we already know—so we can remember what it means: We might grieve now, but death won’t win.
In the words of Frederick Buechner, “What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was set next to life would scarcely fill a cup.”
He is risen, indeed.