Here’s Easter in two contrasting images.
The first is the kind of Easter picture most of us are familiar with. It’s the lone Jesus whooshing up out of the tomb.
There’s nothing wrong about the image. Jesus certainly defeated death. But, in their new book, “Resurrecting Easter,” John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Crossan identify this solitary riser with our Western notion of Easter, which skews toward an individualistic vision of resurrection: One man defeated death and the grave, and you can too.
By contrast, Eastern Christianity saw the resurrection of Christ more like this:
Notice the difference? Christ isn’t coming out of the tomb alone. He’s got Adam in his right hand and Eve in his left. In yanking our universal parents out of their graves, Christ is pulling everyone with him into deathless life. It’s a communal view of resurrection.
In some Eastern icons, like the one below, it’s not just Adam and Eve it’s—a party!
Often the ones who join the uprising are Mary and John the Baptist, as well as Old Testament figures like Abraham, King David and King Solomon.
If this universal vision of resurrection is making you smile, it gets even better. In the West we generally see Christ’s resurrection and his descent into hell as two separate events. But Eastern icons of the Anastasis (Greek for “resurrection”) routinely show the Risen Christ invading hades. Take a look at this icon. Have you ever, in all your Western born days, seen a rendering of the resurrection like this?
Christ has broken open the walls of hell, Satan crushed beneath his feet. And as far as the eye can see, the ransomed ones are coming to Christ. Notice the poor demons on the right. Hell!, they seem to be saying, He’s emptying the whole place! This, the iconographer is saying, is Anastasis. This is Resurrection.
Other people may be good enough, holy enough, faithful enough to share in the solitary Christ’s resurrection. I need a Christ who comes for everybody. A Christ who grasps me by the wrists and deadlifts me out of my grave with the rest of my brothers and sisters, because otherwise I’m not going to make it. I need a Christ who empties hades of everyone who wants the hell out of there. Because I don’t want to spend one minute in heaven as long as there’s one prisoner in hell.
Happy Anastasis. Christ is risen, and has pulled all humanity with him. Alleluia.
Who came out of the empty tomb?
How does a more communal vision of Easter change your sense of participation in the resurrection?
Matt Edwards says
The insurrection of Hades for the Resurrection of all! I love it! I don’t feel like you need death to witness a Resurrection – it’s been there waiting for me in various forms throughout my life. Happy Easter David, They are Risen! Thank you so much for guiding me through Lent! I hope more is to come!
David Anderson says
Thanks, Matt—it’s been a great journey together. More to come for sure.
Mark Raskopf says
That is beautiful, David. The best “Happy Easter” ever.
David Anderson says
Well, it’s a vision of resurrection that includes all the willing—and that’s worth celebrating.
I was thinking this morning: it does my soul good to do this quest with David. Thank you for this ministry—which is what it is—and for the camaraderie.
Loved today’s focus on group resurrection, the universalist, all-embracing, hell-emptying resurrection. As you say, it’s like Jesus saying, “I could ascend into heaven with just the faithful, but no. Why go through the torture, the suffering and the death for a half-victory?” He says to his father, “I will be up, but first I will go down.” And so he does, returning to heaven with Satan at his side, bringing him back to where the war began. Imagine that reunion! Imagine that treaty of peace!
And I imagine too all dogs and cats and cattle and sheep and scorpions, snakes, apes, owls, jellyfish—the whole of creation gathered too, ark-like, lions and lambs lying down finally, hell empty, heaven full, the whole creation gathered once again as one.
David Anderson says
So much I want to respond to here—but just to say, I’m glad you mentioned all creation being raised. That’s what this Eastern interpretation of the resurrection really says—that Jesus didn’t simply “rise from the dead” in just his discrete self, but that all humanity was lifted into Life and that all creation was restored to its pre-Fall condition.
Jacqui Griffith says
Thanks David, just looking to get your posts when they come out. This is wonderful.
I enjoyed the icons – a large part of my graduate work! I doubt that many in the West spent much time thinking about the time-defying nature of Jesus’ resurrection – none are excluded! Thanks for the words and images this Lent and Easter, David. Peace, Johnna
John Wall says
My very best to you and Pam on this glorious day for blessings and joy!
This blog opens up all sorts of thoughts and challenges starting with ‘whom came out out of the tomb’ question. I would consider, after so many thoughts put forth here, that simply stated, we all came out of ‘that tomb’. We have all been resurrected with Christ, from wherever we are in our lives and our journey. For that reason alone we should celebrate and rejoice. Let us all ring the tambourine and rejoice for we all are risen in the Lord.
When we were recently in Jerusalem, I was overwhelmed by ‘Adam’s Chapel’ at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. A thought I never had before. The sheer vision of Adam being pulled up to Paradise/Heaven was simply mind-blowing!
We have been redeemed and saved.
Thank you for all your thoughts and challenges! Blessings.
David Anderson says
Yes, one ancient belief is that the Place of the Skull where Jesus was crucified was in fact the place where Adam was buried. And so the Second Adam dies over the First Adam’s grave–and then in his resurrection pulls Adam from that grave. Beautiful.