Many Christians forget that Easter is not a one-and-done celebration, but rather the beginning of a season called Eastertide, a time that lasts until Pentecost Sunday (this year, May 20).
During Eastertide, the church proclaims the resurrection and explores its deep mysteries and many implications. A careful reading of scripture reveals the resurrection is about much more than going to heaven when we die. It concerns a mysterious transfer of energy. The forces of sin, hell, death and evil are absorbed and their dark power is used against them, morphing into unstoppable love, forgiveness, life and hope.
I’m not much of a martial arts kind of guy, but I am fascinated with the ancient Japanese combat method known as jujutsu, using an opponent’s strength against him. The word “Ju” can be translated “gentle, supple, flexible, yielding.” What better description of Christ’s voluntary offering of his life on the cross! His attacker’s greatest weapon — death — became God’s doorway to eternal life. In the cross of Christ, God took evil’s strongest assault and transformed it into resurrection life — a sort of cosmic jujutsu. Easter: the supreme energy transfer!
Biblical examples of spiritual jujutsu abound. Joseph, forgiving his conniving brothers for betraying him and selling him into slavery, announces, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
In the Book of Acts, the early church was persecuted in order to stamp out the movement, but it only served to spread the faith.
This principle is repeated over and over again in our time. Years ago, the Cuban government decreed that Christians could meet in homes, but with no more than fifteen people in attendance per household. Instead of extinguishing the church, the rule actually guaranteed that followers of Christ would follow the biblical model of cell group multiplication. Today, in that part of Cuba, the baptism ratio (baptisms per established believers) is one to nine. By one count, the U.S. ratio is one to sixty!
At a recent gathering of the Baptist World Alliance, I heard an amazing story from an Asian country where believers are systematically persecuted. As a pastor was praying, “Lord, stop the persecution,” an elderly man jumped to his feet and interrupted, “Lord, don’t listen to this prayer. We don’t want to die like the Western Church.” Ouch! How might the resurrection principle of jujutsu work in our personal lives? As we face disappointment, bitter betrayal, suffering and tribulation, could we consider a more supple, flexible and pliable way to respond to unpleasantness?
How much of our life energy is spent in brooding, pouting and grudge-holding? In anger, we fight and resist. Perhaps the answer is Easter jujutsu. Instead of flailing and screaming against the powers of darkness, we could allow God to transform them into opportunities to trust and grow. When our enemy’s face comes to mind, we could pray for her by name and ask God to bless her. When some controversy hovers over our church family, we could ask what new thing the Spirit is teaching us.
The current interest in mindfulness shows us a healthier way to receive suffering into our lives instead of living in denial or rage. Only after naming our pain do we gain the insight to realize it does not define us or overwhelm us.
C.S. Lewis once remarked that the good in this universe is infinitely creative, while evil is monotonously boring and unimaginative. The God of the resurrection never runs out of Easter surprises, taking those things intended to defeat us and using their energy to bring about the new and redemptive. Perhaps there is a reason Easter fell on April Fools’ Day this year. We all needed a good laugh. God wins.
Doyle Sager is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo.