What is Easter all about?
I think that for centuries we have misunderstood the concept and the whatabouts of Easter.
Let me give you the traditional understanding of the why and the what of Easter:
God created mankind and man rebelled against him at the first occasion. They ate the forbidden fruit to become like God and now knew the categories of good and evil. That made them responsible for their doing and susceptible to lust and temptation.
Since they were disobedient, God was angry with them. He gave them rules to follow so they at least could have some sort of relationship, and the burning of sacrifices calmed God down somehow for a while. But then, God sent his son to fix the relationship by dying on a cross, taking all past and future sin upon himself. We are now forgiven if and only if we accept Jesus’ death as the ransom for our lives and, with his help, try to live a holy life.
For that, we are individually given 70-80 years on average. As humanity, we have an unknown time span available until the measure of people that obeyed and the measure of sins committed are full. Then, God will pour out his wrath on those that did not obey and humble themselves and will live happily forever with those that submitted to him.
The others, he loves so much that he prepared a place of eternal torment for them for not loving him back.
This is the Christian story, in a nutshell, the mainstream evangelical version. Easter is the turning point of humanity, starting in perfection, first going downwards, but then, at least some are saved.
Is this truly what Easter, what this whole journey, is all about? Obedience? Saving the few? Did the all-knowing and all-loving God truly devise a plan that failed most and that needed his own death to succeed?
I doubt it.
How about reading this whole narrative differently?
What if the creation story archetypically tells us how humanity became conscious and how each baby still does today? What if language–Adam named all things–, pattern recognition–the snake has to be detected–and color vision–the fruit amongst the leaves– are the ingredients of developing self-consciousness–it fell like scales from their eyes–developing shame and not guilt–and they saw that they were naked and covered themselves with fig leaves?
What if the old testament’s narrative resembles a child’s development? Family ties, rebellion and power games, growing into greater interest groups? And as humanity was ready for the next steps, Jesus was born–and as the time was fulfilled, God sent his son.
When do we need a pattern for possible development the most? I know that we need it all the time, but right at the beginning of puberty, we need somebody to look for and up to as a model of healthy adult life. We are torn and insecure.
I believe that Jesus came to give us all such a model, a pattern. First to humanity, which at that time had learned to somehow tame their egoism and mere force with laws, making obedience to the laws of a higher power like a monotheistic God, a driving force of behaviour.
At that time, Israel was a model case for a law based society, while not perfect. Also, the big power of the day, the Roman empire, had developed a civil code that was more refined than any other but maybe the Old Testament system in history. Again, it was far from perfect and mostly benefitted Roman citizens, but the direction was rather good and we still build on it today.
What life situation today could be likened to this? How about elementary school? Lots of power games are kept at bay by a higher power, the teacher in the authority of the school system, and the rules of the system. Perfect by no means, yet we can historically see the benefits a public school system has brought to humanity, for example by teaching children to work together outside of blood ties only.
But back to Jesus. What then was the purpose of his life and the cross?
Jesus showed us what human life was capable of. He followed his own calling, the destiny of his life, even unto death. He did not falter in the garden of Gethsemane–if this cup could pass, but not my will but thine.
He showed us that nothing can hold us back if we truly follow our own calling, not even death.
This includes the notion of the individual. It includes inclusion, because our calling usually is too big for one person. And this includes a transcended, bigger view of the concept of obedience as a necessary part of a bigger picture, a tool for better cooperation, but not a mean in and of itself.
Is then Revelation, the so-called book of the end times, something different as well? Could it be the archetypal story of each person to grow up, find and break through into their calling? Could it in very ancient language tell us how to overcome the ego, played by the serpent in Paradise, Satan in the wilderness, and the dragon in Revelation?
Is our traditional understanding of the story both grace and an error? It is grace because we needed it to grow past some things, when punishment was the only driving force towards good behaviour we understood. But it became a stumbling stone, holding us back from further growth.
Like a teenager, humanity since entering puberty has behaved like a little child, a rebel, at times like an adult, only to fall back, and still does not know who and what they are.
Some have retrieved into the security of an obedience based religion, because they fear responsibility, uncertainty and insecurity.
Most have broken with the system all together and are right in the midst of puberty and rebellion, looking to their peer groups for counsel instead of the role model.
And God in all that is a loving father that does not require us to do anything. He will never give up on us, but encourage us to live our lives to the fullest by following our individual calling together, even unto death. It will, as we learn from the story, not hold us back.
Have a happy Easter. Maybe even a personal one.