The focus of the life of Jesus as we have it recorded can be interpreted different ways. Here’s a take that may interest you, and put Easter in a new perspective. (Here is a take on Christmas.)

I’d put the conflict of Jesus on two main axis. One is “relationship vs. points-based rules” and the other is “reign of God vs. reign of humanity.”

Jesus rejected the idea that if you were pure and followed the rules, you were right with God. Work your way down the checklist, do the right things, avoid doing the wrong things, and God would accept you.

Instead, Jesus suggested that God could not be bought off by doing the right things. God wanted to be in a relationship, a relationship that could not carefully bound God’s role in a person’s life or limit what God could ask for. God refused to be compartmentalized, but instead wanted to have a living presence with give-and-take in the lives of the people God loves.

To this end, God emptied an element of self of divinity, and created a new way of being–fully human, fully divine. Capable of transmitting the divine to humanity, but capable of transmitting the human experience back into the divine as well. God experienced the worst of being human, to change from sympathy to empathy with creation. God wanted to bolster understanding of what love can mean, so humanity could be in a deeper relationship with the divine.

Jesus did not establish an institution to encode, preserve, and transmit the correct doctrinal points. Jesus flung himself into messy, inappropriate, shocking, and deep relationships with broken people. Jesus scolded and rejected the powerful religious authorities, and instead emptied his heart tenderly with those his people scolded and rejected. “No, seriously,” Jesus said, “I love you.”

On the other axis, Jesus crashed into the Iron Law of Distribution that defines human government, life, and culture in all ages: “Them that has, gets.” Instead, he insisted that power was in service, life was in devotion to something beyond self, and meaning was in wholeness of others being part of wholeness of self.

So this is what Easter can mean–God will not be defeated by human rules to limit the divine, or by the power of the Iron Law of Distribution.

Jesus was mocked, tortured, and executed. He could not longer be in relationship with anyone, and it was obvious that his idea of power through service was thoroughly crushed by the grinding machinery of empire, fueled by the crab-bucket desperation of the religious authorities of the occupied state.

Jesus was killed. His followers were off-script; I mean, what the hell, right?! The dream was over. Jesus was never going to be a proper messiah after all. He wasn’t going to sweep Roman occupation out of the land, he wasn’t going to unite factions of the faith into one whole, he wasn’t going to reinstate the Davidic tradition of self-rule and anointed kings.

Easter is God gently reminding the world that it can’t win against a love under and beyond it all. Easter is God pointing out that even death cannot separate us from a relationship that needs to exist at such a vital level that God accepted the limits of mortality long enough to explain that to a handful of humans who were changed forever.

You can think of the world as a game of chess, in a way, where there are rules for how kings and queens move, and pawns have their roles. Easter pulls the camera back from the checkerboard and shows that beyond that limited board, the pieces are plastic and the players are flesh and blood that will always survive the outcome of the game, and look each other in the eye afterwards, and resume the proper business of being friends.

This world will pass away, but Easter suggests that this world is not all there is and that there is a love beyond it we can only just begin to grasp.

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