Each year the Easter season offers us a moment in time to take the opportunity to consider the deeper meaning of life.
Is life really just about the body and various ways to manage its limited age and health expectations? It’s not – and we inherently know that. We sense that things of the Spirit are present with us and eternal.
From legislation on assisted suicide, to discussions about the need for better palliative care, the death process has once again become a major topic of conversation in the news media, as well as in religion, medicine, politics and families. And the discussion surrounding the subject of death is often painfully emotional, divisive and full of fear.
A movie released in 2016, Risen, attempts to shed some light on the Easter story and a search for the meaning of life. It’s the story of a Roman centurion who is sent to investigate the disappearance of the crucified body of Jesus. It begins as a sort of biblical criminal “whodunit,” i.e. a who-stole-the-body investigation. But somewhere along the way the centurion begins to perceive that something has happened that is outside of his narrow human beliefs about life. “I don’t know what to believe any more,” he states. His comment echoes what many people feel about this subject. And, while it’s a creative tale about an experience of “faith”, it doesn’t tell us much about the deeper meaning of our existence that was the very essence of Jesus’ life’s work.
And, whether we are Christian, Jewish, agnostic, Buddhist or atheist, most of us yearn to know that our life has meaning beyond simply feeding and watering a body; and we want to know what happens after the body dies. Statistics show that most of us believe that death is not the end of life.
Increasingly, we are also hearing reports of people who have had an experience that seems to confirm our beliefs about life continuing beyond the body, such as Dr. Eben Alexander. They’ve been labelled as clinically dead and yet come back, or have been cured without medical intervention in the final stages of a diagnosed terminal illness. Additionally, physicists and other researchers are investigating the concept of consciousness as being independent of the human brain. These developments further compel us to question the accepted fact that life is inherently material. So, what Jesus had to share with us about eternal life through his teachings, healings and own experience, no matter how many centuries ago, deserves our attention.
Contentious and controversial as ever, Jesus’ resurrection stretches human credulity and its belief systems that say: once someone’s vital organs, etc. have shut down, that’s it. Yet, if we are prepared to explore and understand his teachings, the resurrection makes perfect sense; for Jesus wasn’t talking about life as dependent on the heart, blood, brains, and so on. He said, “… eternal life means to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, whom you sent” (Gospel of John). I take this to mean that a deeper understanding of God and of Jesus’ teachings, healings and resurrection show us that life is of God, Spirit, and, thus, unlimited and eternal.
So, rather than thinking of Jesus’ teachings, healings, crucifixion and resurrection as an exclusive belief system, what if we see it as an invitation to consider a whole different way to think about, and experience, life? For example, Christian healer, Mary Baker Eddy writes about eternal life this way:
Life is eternal. We should find this out, and begin the demonstration thereof. Life and goodness are immortal. Let us then shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness, and continuity, rather than into age and blight.
Taking time to think about the real meaning of Easter, offers us an opportunity to uplift our thought, so that we see life much more expansively. It’s like a view from a mountaintop that transforms our perspective of the valley below, and we say, “Wow, this is beautiful!”