Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter J

Today we commemorate the unthinkable.

The Ancient of Days, Who put on human flesh and Whose flesh was torn beyond recognition, rose to all new life. The Life His followers considered utterly lost to death on Friday afternoon conquered death Sunday morning. These things you know. 

But perhaps today, as writer, you may ponder Easter anew. Easter is the ultimate plot twist. Consider the plot line of human history.

Act 1. In love, God creates a world teeming with life. He commissions a man and a woman to fill and subdue His creation. For a time the man and woman are delighted, but in time they doubt God, believe Satan and cross God. In a moment, all creation falls.

Act 2. For generations men and women grope to satisfy their craving souls. Some abate their hunger by placing faith and hope in God. Most do not. The massive divide between God and man continues.

Act 3. In time Jesus comes to show men and women His Father. Some believe. Most do not. Tension escalates to the climax of crucifixion. To those who witness it, the story is finished. An iron door has clapped. The crucifixion represents an unmistakable tragedy to His followers, the ultimate victory to His enemies.

Easter ushered in a eucatastrophe. J.R.R. Tolkien coined the term, adding the Greek eu, “good” to catastrophe, “catastrophe.”  By eucatastrophe the story line is overthrown. Sure doom crumbles under the weight of exquisite, unimagined delight.

In his lectures on Ruth, Doug Green of Westminster Seminary goes a step further. In the gospel story a new literary genre is introduced. Were the reader to plot the major events of the protagonist’s life and connect the dots, a clear J would emerge.  From the inciting event there is a downward trend to the climactic low point of catastrophe. But at the catastrophe there is a dramatic change of course. Out of calamity—pain, loss, death—major events shoot upward. The resulting new life is far better than if the calamity had not occurred.

Of course the genre echoes in stories that unfolded before the Gospel. Consider Ruth, heroine of Ruth. Out of widowhood and relinquishment of her identity she became an ancestress to the Messiah. Consider Joseph of Genesis. Out of betrayal and slavery he rose to prince of Egypt and rescuer from regional, if not worldwide, famine. Consider Lazarus, beloved friend of Jesus. Out of illness, seeming betrayal and death he was called to a second life, living proof that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

And there ought to be echoes ahead. What events in your life draw a distinct J over your life? And how will the J curve transform your fiction? Ponder anew.


  1. What a wonderful way to look at it! Thank you.

    Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluiah!

    1. Glory to God in the highest, and joy to the world!!

  2. Very good, Renata. Thanks for sharing.

    One thing I find interesting comparing the Christmas story with the Crucifixion/Easter story. My hunch is people resonate with the former because there is a good villain (Herod) but everybody else are nice people we can identify with (Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise guys -- er wise men, and even the inn-keeper can be sympathetic); in the latter, there is nobody above reproach except Christ (though Mary, John, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus are more sympathetic) showing us to be totally depraved.

    Okay, I'll stop preaching now. Happy Easter.


  3. Isn't that the truth?

    Easter is painful for me. The crucifixion is a mirror, revealing sin's horror. I hate looking into it. But the more I realize the size and weight of my sin, the more I value and delight in Christ's sacrifice resulting in my salvation, which could be accomplished no other way.

    Thank you for your encouragement. A blessed Easter to you.