Afterward, Paradise

What if he hadn’t risen?
The first gospel written down
had no account of a risen Jesus.
The tomb was empty
and a man said he had been raised
but Jesus wasn’t actually there
and the women were so afraid
they ran away and said nothing.
They ran away.  That was the end.

The story had been carried orally,
as most stories were in those days,
until several decades had gone by.
Then it was written down,
and the women ran away.

This interests me.
A community of Jesus followers
cared so much about their teacher
and the beginning of their community
and the reasons they were still together
that they wrote everything they knew down
for others to see—
and there was no Jesus, resurrected,
just someone who said he had been,
and the women ran away in fear,
and the community still thought the story was a gospel:
the good news.

So perhaps it didn’t matter whether it happened or not:
perhaps the important thing was what the man taught.
His message of love was so powerful
that it ushered in paradise on earth
for those who lived it:
those who loved others as they loved themselves,
and shared all they had with those in need,
and gave thanks to God for their beautiful life.

Maybe the resurrection is beside the point.
Maybe it was an afterthought, a punctuation mark, italics:
a way to emphasize that the Empire cannot kill love.
Love wins.  Love wins and we need not fear death
because we will return to Love in the end.

Which is a good thing
because Stephon Clark is unlikely to rise again
and neither are all the other
brown and black folk shot by police
nor the teenagers shot by classmates
nor the women shot by their partners
unless we learn from their lives and their deaths
something so powerful and so transformative
that two hundred years from now the only way
we will be able to make sense of having sacrificed
these beautiful lives to the Empire
(which is us)
is to tell everyone:

“On the third day they rose from the dead,
and saved us from our sins,
and afterward, it was paradise.”

(Beloveds: This poem is revised from the first version, posted on 4/2/2018, with a not-quite-correct assertion about how the resurrection is treated in the Gospel of Mark, the first gospel to have been written down. The oldest version of Mark ends at 16:8. (See The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, NRSV with Apocrypha, Abingdon Press 2003.)  The women find the tomb empty and a man says Jesus is not there because he has been raised, but there is no actual encounter with a risen Jesus. The women run away in fear, and that is the end of the gospel.  The idea of the resurrection is there, but not the actual risen Jesus.  I have revised the poem and left it up, because the main points still stand.)