Saturday, April 16
God is Dead
by Pastor Greg Harris
Demoralized disciples were hiding away as their master lay conquered in a cave. The Jewish leaders had killed the “blasphemer” from Nazareth on the beams of a Roman cross. Surely these same leaders would come for his closest followers to ensure the movement is sufficiently pruned. The “Hosanna” shouting crowds that anticipated rescue from Rome, through this slain Nazarene named Jesus, were left staring into the abyss of unmet expectations. The man who claimed to be God, who should be enthroned as a king, was entombed as a corpse. For those who believed that Jesus was who he said he was, the situation was shocking and shattering: God is dead.
GOD IS DEAD
And now what? How do you live when God is dead? News like that unhinges a person from all that they once held to be good and true. Everything that was being built was dismantled.
It is as though a table holding an enormous and elaborate wedding feast was suddenly flipped over. What was diligently prepared, and carefully placed on the table, now haphazardly covered the floor and splattered nearby walls. The feast was ruined. All that work for nothing. All that anticipation snuffed out. In a situation like this, there are two options.
“God is dead.” The wedding feast that was promised is ruined. Now what? One response is to fall on the ground in defeat. To sulk. To wallow amongst the spilled drink in the disappointment and despair. To look around at the purposeless mess. If God is dead and there is no ultimate purpose, then some believe that life is not worth living. One moment, they are smelling the food and anticipating a feast, the next it all crashes down and they begin to journey on a dark path wondering if the sleep of death would be better than the pain of life.
“God is dead.” The other response to the ruined feast is to fall on the ground and gorge yourself. If the wedding feast won’t happen, then some just indulge on everything and anything they see that might provide a moment of pleasure. They eat the splattered wedding cake by hand until they’re filled. If God is dead and there is no ultimate purpose, then they strive to make each moment memorable.
A CULTURE OF HOPELESSNESS AND HEDONISM
Western culture in the 21st century is, for all intents and purposes, living as though God is dead. Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century German and atheistic philosopher, wrote a famous story of a madman entering a village shouting news that townspeople were not yet prepared to hear:
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”
In this famous parable, Nietzche was saying that it is objectively clear that God is not real, but people were not yet prepared to accept that truth (and its necessary implications). The townspeople looked at the madman and ignored him because this news could simply not be true.
If the madman came into our towns and cities today with that same message, the crowds would not find him so mad. They would look at him with confusion, but only because they would be surprised that he thought this was news!
So here we are, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The day we realize the shocking truth: Jesus is dead! Many people live as though every day were between Friday and Sunday. Some in hopelessness. Some, as Nietzsche himself preferred, in hedonism. These are the only logical ways to live if everyday were Saturday.
THE POSSIBILITY OF HAPPY HOLINESS
But, listen! The clock is ticking.
Look! The sun is setting.
We are not left with only hopelessness or hedonism. There is still a possibility for a happy holiness.
A vague recollection comes to the disciples’ minds:
“Didn’t he say something about rising again?”
The Son is coming. Sunday is coming.
Maybe the madman was wrong after all.