The Final Solution
Jeremiah 31.4 Once again I will
rebuild you. Once again you will take up your tambourines and dance
joyfully. Once again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria.
It's a natural human tendency to
look for final solutions. We all do it. Sometimes whole nations choose a
final solution through a particular political philosophy or the person of
a national "saviour". Final solutions take many forms. But they have one
thing in common - they are responses to difficult life questions and
As a cub reporter I recall being sent out to the scene
of an accident. The dismembered corpse of a man lay scattered beneath of
the wheels of a train. The sight was a considerable shock to my young
sensibilities. It brought home to me the absolutely certain end awaiting
us all. It also raised for me one of those large questions requiring a
final solution. Why do I have to die? Why does anyone have to die?
The traditional final solution of Christians to this
question is to propose that death has been defeated through the physical
resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
And yet, I know in my bones that the death I saw on the
railway line is final in terms of my experience. One of the great
discoveries of our times concerns the nature of the physical world. God's
creation does not allow resurrection of a dead human. Or if it does then
all our scientific disciplines are ultimately nonsensical. The physical
world simply does not work that way.
Physical death is sad, especially if it's premature. That can't be
denied. On Good Friday, accompanied by millions the world over, we mourn
the early death of Jesus, our pioneer in the faith. Yet death is natural,
normal and ultimately inevitable for us all. It's part of God's creation.
Death is not the consequence of a primal sin committed by Adam and Eve.
It's the way God designed things. Dare I say that a timely death is good?
One of several great crises facing Christians today is
the suggestion that the physical resurrection of Jesus must perforce be
abandoned because it can longer be acknowledged as something which "really
happened". This controversy will continue for a long time to come.
Yet many ask (myself among them) what essential
difference it makes if Jesus did or didn't rise from the dead in the dim
and distant past? How can such an event affect us? We look for a
difference to our lives here and now. A resurrection two thousand years
ago doesn't prevent the death every year of millions of children, for
example. It makes not a bit of difference to the corpse under the train.
There are many kinds of death. There is emotional death brought about
by intolerable stress. Relationships crack, break and die. What is more
difficult to accept isn't death but despair - the mental and emotional
conclusion that life isn't worth living. Many of us have known someone who
has reached this end, and have perhaps experienced the puzzlement,
exasperation and eventual horror of those who have failed to help.
Why the dismay?
Surely because we all know in our heart of hearts that resurrection is
a natural and normal fact of life. The astounding truth is that new life
comes to all who choose it. Paul affirmed this, the central message of
Jesus, when he wrote,
For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his
love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or
powers, neither the present nor the future" (Romans 8.38).
Since then countless others have affirmed the same
truth, each in his or her own way.
In other words, Easter is concerned with resurrection as a fact of life
in the here-and-now. We all have the free gift of resurrection from the
various kinds of potential death which life brings. Individuals,
organisations, whole communities and entire nations can rise again from
destruction. Resurrection is a natural gift available to all who will have
So the final solution announced at Easter is one which works because it
is a natural gift available to all. We celebrate Easter as the greatest
day of the year not because a belief-stretching miracle may or may not
have happened two thousand years ago, but because we have experienced and
can witness to resurrection in ourselves and others.