The Resurrection Code - Some Thoughts on Easter
Updated: Apr 4
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
There's a line in the Bruce Springsteen song "Atlantic City" that I like to read with a quasi-theological lens. The lyric is, "Well, now, everything dies, baby that's a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back." Springsteen might not be a prophet, but I like to think there's some truth in that statement.
Death and Rebirth is a common theme throughout the great cannon of world literature and myth. The phoenix dies in flames and is born again out of the ashes. Osiris is killed by Seth and chopped into fourteen pieces and flung over Egypt. Isis finds the pieces and buries them, allowing Osiris to not only rule the underworld but cause vegetation to sprout up from the ground. Thus, his death is the cause of new life. There's the ouroboros, that ancient symbol of the serpent eating its own tail, which has come to represent the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Avatar, Harry Potter, The Matrix and countless other films have death and rebirth as prominent features of their climax. I would argue most modern fiction will have a protagonist that undergoes at least a spiritual death and rebirth to complete their character arc.
But even in nature, we see this pattern. The food chain is a perfect example. Animals are killed to provide nourishment and life to those who consume them. The caterpillar must cease being one in order to become a butterfly. Scientists believe an explosion of a massive star can throw a large cloud of dust and gas into space. Some of those dust particles will become asteroids and planets. Some of those planets will have life. Thus, the death of a star could mean the future life of a planet. This is what Carl Sagan meant when he famously said, "We're made of star stuff."
The New Testament tells us that after Jesus was killed on the cross, he rose from the grave three days later. It's an interesting number. Why three days? Why not two? Why not instantly? Tradition holds that three is the number of completion. Every story has three parts: Beginning, Middle and End. I don't think it's a coincidence there are three branches of our government: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. Christians believe in a triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For those of you old enough to remember, Schoolhouse Rock told us back in the 70s, three is a magic number. Perhaps Jesus felt the same.
Not long ago, I was reading the creation story in Genesis 1. I noticed something for the first time. God is fashioning the earth in some secret primordial place, and right after he separates the water from the land, he creates vegetative life. The principle of the seed is instituted. So before the rest of the vast universe is formed with its billions upon billions of stars, galaxies and the like, which he did not speak into existence until the fourth day, God creates something that is perpetually buried and raised to new life. A seed falls to the earth, is buried and seemingly gone forever. But miraculously, it comes out of the ground in new life. I see this as a metaphor. An analogy of the resurrection of Christ, birthed before time and space, as we know it. Even more interesting is that it was done on the third day of creation.
For me, Easter is the ultimate symbol of death and resurrection and new life. And who knows, Bruce Springsteen might be a prophet after all. Maybe everything that dies, someday comes back.