“Jesus of Nazareth was a free man in his own life, who attracted followers and created enemies according to the dynamics of personality and in a manner comparable to the effect of other liberated persons in history upon people about them. He died as a result of the threat that such a free man poses for insecure and bound men. His disciples were left no less insecure and frightened. Two days later, Peter, and then other disciples, had an experience of which Jesus was the sense-content.
They experienced a discernment situation in which Jesus the free man whom they had known, themselves, and indeed the whole world, were seen in a quite new way. From that moment the disciples began to possess something of the freedom of Jesus. His freedom began to be “contagious.”
For the disciples, therefore, the story of Jesus could not be told simply as the story of a free man who had died. Because of the new way in which the disciples saw him and because of what had happened to them, the story had to include the event of Easter. In telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth, therefore, they told it as the story of the free man who had set them free. This was the story which they proclaimed as the Cospel for all….
It could also be expressed by saying, “For freedom Christ has set us free.”
Paul M. van Buren, The Secular Meaning of the Gospel.
That something intensely earth-shaking occurred to the followers of Jesus after his crucifixion is clearly obvious to me. What happened and what it means today is a work-in-progress for me.
I used to be a literal bodily resurrection believer, most of my life, actually. From before I can remember, I accepted unquestioningly the biblical narrative. That lasted until I was in my mid-30s, relatively late compared to many other deconversion experiences. So, I have decades of faith to draw on, as well as over two decades of a more skeptical consideration.
One can view the world in more than one modality, for example the “scientific-logical” which focuses on the facts and empirical investigation. Or one can use a more “relational-experiential” approach that focuses on feelings, motivations, and interconnections.
The biblical emphasis is on “faith/believing” in a deeply relational sense that is not not brutely logical. This kind of Faith is about love and the richer, deeper knowing that comes from loving others intentionally and immersing the “facts” about those one seeks to love within a positive, caring intention.
I wrote the following poem about the resurrection a few years ago.
basilea ho theon
It was a promise
The poor would be given a revolutionary society
The hungry would be given a satisfying provision
The suffering would be joyful
The persecuted vindicated
It was an execution
The rich hated revolutionaries
The bloated class hated well-fed peasants
The entertained hated real happiness
The persecutors lynched a leader
It was a subjugation
The poor were scattered in their fear
The hungry driven to renewed desperation
The suffering cast into shattering sadness
The persecuted were utterly defeated
From within this hopelessness, came a vision
From within destruction, came a power
From within death itself, came an aliveness
It was a reconstitution
The poor envisioned a revolution
The hungry envisioned satisfaction
The suffering envisioned joyfulness
The persecuted envisioned vindication
It will be a transformation
The poor will be poor no more
The hungry will be hungry no more
The suffering will suffer no more
The persecuted will be vindicated
It will only take time
I look at the resurrection within a theo-political framing that centers the revolutionary liberation of humanity that pulses in the heart of the teaching of Jesus, esp. Luke 6:20-26.
20And he, raising his eyes to his disciples, said: “How blissful the destitute, for yours is the Kingdom of God; 21How blissful those who are now hungry, for you shall feast; how blissful those now weeping, for you shall laugh; 22How blissful you when men hate you and when they exclude you and reproach you and reject your name as something wicked, for the Son of Man’s sake: 23On that day, rejoice and leap about; for look: Your reward in Heaven is great; for their fathers accordingly did the same things to the prophets. 24“But alas for you who are rich, for you have your comfort. Alas for you who are now replete, for you will be hungry. 25Alas for those now laughing, for you will mourn and lament. 26Alas for you when all men speak well of you, for in like fashion their fathers did the same things to the false prophets.
This is the ethical, compassionate core of the gospel.
Not miracles. Jesus himself warned against relying on “signs and wonders.”
And yet, relationally, miracles occur within us and among us.
The followers of Jesus moved from the Traumatic Passover Execution to Enthusiastic Pentecostal Communism with history-shaking power.
As I read the history of Christianity, I’m by turns appalled and inspired. As I sort out the differences, it is when the followers of Jesus aim at world-shaking compassion versus aiming at doctrinal certainty that I fall in love with the Ekklesia being made real by the Divine Pneuma/Breath/Life-Force.
So, yes, I reason at a scientific-logical level that the executed physical body of Jesus ended up in “hell” as he “descended.” The deadly crucifixion must be as awful as possible to break our hearts in solidarity with the billions of evil unjust deaths that satanic principalities have visited on the oppressed.
And, the relational-experiential transformative resurrection miracle is that some followers of Jesus began a journey towards radical, revolutionary compassion, inspired to believe that this crucifixion was not the last word, but only the beginning of a new possibility of aliveness.