Moltmann Monday: 3 Dimensions of Easter Vision

Happy Easter! Today’s selection comes from The Way of Jesus Christ in a section on the eschatological resurrection of Christ.

If we look at the way these christophanies* and the Easter seeing of the men and women concerned were interpretatively perceived, we can discover three dimensions in their structure:

The first is prospective: they saw the crucified Christ as the living One in the splendor cast ahead by the coming glory of God.

The second is retrospective: they recognized him from the marks of the nails and in the breaking of the bread: the One who will come is the One crucified on Golgotha.

The third is reflexive: in this seeing they perceived their own call to the apostolate: ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you’ (John 20:21).

*Christophanies” is a fancy word to describe sightings of Christ after the resurrection

Moltmann gives us a simple way to enter into (some of) the mystery of Easter by describing it as a sort of three-fold vision. By prospective, he means it colors the way we see the future. As he said a page earlier, “The Christophanies were not interpreted as mystical translations into a world beyond. They were viewed as radiance thrown ahead of itself, the radiance of God’s coming glory on the first day of the new world’s creation.” At Easter, we glimpse a view of God’s new creation, and what it looks like is life in the midst of violence and death. Seeing this, we find courage, which is exactly what we see the disciples showing when they return to Jerusalem, knowing it might well cost them their lives. They are able to live faithfully because they trust in the power of life and love over death.

By retrospective, he means it colors the way we see the whole of Jesus’ life and what it means that Jesus is Lord. The disciples and followers of Jesus were confused before about what it would mean for the Messiah to come. Now it is clear, at least to those who will claim Jesus as Messiah- Jesus, the Crucified One, is Lord. Not Jesus the political leader or Jesus the triumphant ruler or Jesus the rebellion inciter. Jesus, who faced death and was brought by the power of God out of death into new life- He is the One who leads us forward, and he has been this One all along.

By reflexive, he means it colors the way we see ourselves as part of the Easter story. Moltmann writes, “In the Old Testament, these revelations of God’s future are linked with the callings of his prophets…The people who experienced the christophanies became apostles, both women and men– Mary Magdalene and Paul and the rest.” So, too, it goes with us. When we see and experience the power of Easter, we become involved. As the Father has sent Jesus, so he sends us.

This third way of seeing is so important, because it seems to me that Western Christianity so often stops at the first two. Because while it’s absolutely, beautifully true that Jesus does for us what we could not do for ourselves, and the God of Life raises Jesus which we also could never do ourselves, and the Spirit of God makes the risen Christ known to us, which is an absolutely free gift we could not provide ourselves, it is not true that we are not called into active faithful life at Easter and because of Easter. In response to the overflowing gifts of new life, we are called to be resurrection people. We have seen his glory, and we are now called to live into this future, the future of the resurrected crucified Lord.

We cannot only look upon Jesus as the risen one. The beauty of Easter is that we are also given Easter vision, three-dimensional and active and in everlasting technicolor.

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