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The End of All Tragedies

The mystery and the wonder of this day too often vanishes from our minds. We celebrate today the most wondrous eruption of reality, and for us it has become ordinary, a ritual shorn of its profundity and mystery. That God should break into his creation as one of the mortals, suffer a wretched death as the reward for perfectly acquitting himself before God and man, and then come bursting forth from the grave in which they buried him is not only extraordinary, not only supernatural; it is as earth-shaking as the convulsions that tore the veil at his last breath.

Every myth yearns for this. Every fairy-tale, every epic, every twisting tragedy, is filled with the childlike belief in something beyond the mundane, the hunger for a life saturated with meaning and billowed up with victory, the aching pain that feels the horror of death’s triumph and futility’s relentless march. And every longing these stir in the human hearts, Christ answers perfectly.

He is the fairy story come in the flesh, the magic found now not in some mystical land but right here in the midst of the green earth and the raining sky and the morning dew. He stands triumphant in a human body shot through with power as well as glory.

He is the great quest brought to its climax: the hero who stands with the corpse of death lying headless at his feet, smashing down the doors of every cell in this hellish jail of sin and shattering every chain that wraps humanity in perpetual defeat. The sword of his death pierced transgression through the heart, and the hammer of his resurrection crushed to pieces the strength of the Enemy.

He is the culmination of all tragedies and the end of all tragedies. The God-man died, but his death ended death. The great King was ruined, but in his ruination the world tasted freedom from the curse that settled over it as Adam fled the garden. Then the God-man was raised, casting aside as so much rubbish the funereal shroud of despair with his own burial linens. The King stepped from a tomb to his throne and the world began again to live.

His death and resurrection are the true eucatastrophe, the sudden turn for good that makes everything before a matter for hope and not anguish. In his death the old world started dying, and in his resurrection the new world started rushing in.

From that moment a hundred score years ago when the morning sun shone on a tombstone rolled back on a empty hole inhabited only by empty linens, the whole world has been changed. And though the hills and plains and cities groan still under the weight of slow-dying death and long-enduring sin, that morning marked them each indelibly with the hope of salvation.

Every dingy water tower and every square foot of faded tarmac is filled with wonder, if only we had eyes to see it and hearts to grasp the mystery of a world in which death is not the final end, in which even the mundane and the ordinary are wrought with splendor because all things are being made new. All things. The cities no less than the rivers proclaim the glory of God, and if their brokenness is writ larger for the failings of their makers, so too will their glorious redemption shine all the brighter for the contrast when their makers are set to rights at last.

The resurrection is more than the hope of a vague and spiritual hope. Christ’s scarred, perfected body shouts to all with ears to hear: All the bad things are coming untrue, and every good for which the human heart longs are coming true! The resurrection is more even than the marvelous promise of a good end far in the future. It is the moment in which that future good comes crashing into the present with the force of a hurricane, shattering the delusions and showing up the absurdities of this age. It is the moment in which life begins for everyone who will simply follow in the path that Christ walked before us.

So we ought not be surprised when our path leads us through Gethsemane and up the long hill to Calvary; but we know the path does not end in the tomb any more than it ended in the garden. The tomb is empty, and the garden of God will bloom again. Where once we had graves for hearts, now we sing. And though we die, yet shall we live; for though he died, yet today he lives.

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