The Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, is both the victim of the story, and its hero. “He was crushed for our offenses,” in the language of an anonymous Jewish prophet. Jesus personally experienced rejection by his own people, envy, hatred, and extreme cruelty, understood by his disciples to be for each of us, and for all. And by the power of divine love, Christ overcame evil, sin, death on behalf of all. “Love is stronger than death.”
You and I must suffer and die. But our suffering need not be meaningless or wasted. We can accept it as a sharing in Christ’s salvific suffering—meaning, accepted to benefit ourselves and others, leading us to God. And our death in the body is not an ultimate end, but in faith-union with Christ, our dyings and physical death itself are a passing over into life eternal, “the Kingdom of God.”
“Death and Life have contended in that astonishing war.” As I write these words, I can hear in my mind the masterful treatment of this event by the incomparable composer, J. S. Bach, in his Easter cantata, “Christ lay in the bonds of death.” Through his music, he has Life swallowing up death, and even making a mockery of it, resolving into an ecstatic “Alleluia!” In Christ, we see and hear that evil gets defeated by goodness, sin is expunged by divine mercy, hatred yields to the greater power of divine Love, and death is transformed into the midwife of true Life.
In Christ, with the Jew Jesus as victim and as hero, God has triumphed decisively for every human being. Or in the more grandiose vision of the Apostle Paul, God is “liberating all of creation from its bondage to decay,” and giving each creature a share in “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Or in the simpler words of Jesus in St. Luke’s gospel, “To God all are alive.” That is the reality we celebrate in the death and-Resurrection of Christ Jesus.
To the One, ever living and true, be thanksgiving and love now and into eternity.