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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hidden Resurrection

We enter Holy Week on April Fool’s Day.  Delightful synchronicity for my musings.  Holy Week is often a time when we contemplate the Mystery of Resurrection.  Lately, I’ve also been contemplating “Hidden Resurrection,” such that the ignorant are “fooled" into perceiving that one who has come "alive" remains instead in his prior state, "dead."
The first story I discovered in scripture of “hidden resurrection” is the one of Isaac in  Genesis 22.  We imagine, like all the pictures depict, that Abraham and Isaac were alone on their journey.  But we discover in verse 3 that Abraham took not only Isaac, but also “two of his young men” to whom he says, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you” (5).  Perhaps they both do, but the text doesn’t say that.  Instead, after Isaac is freed, the text reads, “So Abraham returned to his young men” (19), suggesting Isaac’s absence.

Christian readers may roll their eyes at such an absurdly literal reading of this scripture, but the Jewish sages have made it common practice to observe the “plain text” and see what mysteries may lie there.  The Midrash apparently did ask, “And Isaac, where was he?” (Sasso, “What if the Angels should come too late?” in God’s Echo: Exploring Scripture through Midrash) Although the Midrash may have been more interested in why Isaac wasn’t mentioned, where he was, what he might have been doing, and how long he was absent ((traditionally answered as three years), what interests me is what the two young men may have thought.  To them, was Isaac dead?  Had they thought he had been sacrificed?  Were they aware he was alive?  If not, then Isaac experienced what I am calling a “hidden resurrection.”  Following the Midrashic interpretation, it could be that after three years, the young men discovered something extraordinary: April Fool’s!  He’s alive!

A New Testament corollary to Isaac’s “hidden resurrection” takes place for a little girl whom Jesus raised, but we’ll wait to share her story until A New Testament corollary to Isaac’s “hidden resurrection” takes place for a little girl whom Jesus raised.

"And one of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up,
 and upon seeing Him, fell at His feet,
and entreated Him earnestly, saying,
“My little daughter is at the point of death;
please come and lay Your hands on her,
that she may live”
(Mark 5:22-23)

The symbolism may have been far too controversial in the wake of the destruction of the Temple had the gospel writer chosen a Temple official for the worried father of the sick daughter in Mark 5.  Hence, a synagogue official provided a nice substitute.  Perhaps this following interpretation may be understood by the mystics, but I have never before heard it, so bear with my own discovery of the “daughter” of the synagogue official, who was “at the point of death” (Mk 5:23), as potentially representing the Temple.  True to form, the “daughter” apparently dies, but Jesus tells the father, “Be not afraid, only believe” (36).  When Jesus finds the people in “commotion,” “weeping” and “wailing,” he asks why they are making such a raucous and says, “The child has not died, but is asleep” (39).  In secret, he then raises the child to life and she begins to walk (41-42).  The few witnesses of the event (the parents and three disciples) “were completely astounded” (42).

Perhaps even more astounding is what he tells them: “He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this” (43).  Generally, we read this verse to mean that “no one should know” that the little girl was not yet dead.  What if, instead, we read it that “no one should know” she was raised to life?  In other words, according to the weeping and wailing people outside, she was still dead!  In this mystic reading, the ignorant weeping masses are fooled that she remains dead.  April Fool’s!  She’s alive!

Even today, the commotion surrounding this daughter, the Temple, continues with very literal “wailing” at the “Wailing Wall.”  Meanwhile, even orthodox Christians have adopted the mystical interpretation of the Temple as “raised” within us, the followers of Christ.  "Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16)

Still, Jesus foresaw a time of “sleep” for the new Temple he was raising among his own followers.  In the parable of the ten virgins, in fact, “all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Matt 25:5) – even, then, the “wise” ones.

Jesus' own resurrection, hidden from the many and revealed to the astonished few, continues to mystify us all.  As each of these, in some way, may be a hidden resurrection, so may be the series of little hidden resurrections within the mystic.  Then when the ignorant wakes, the two can look upon one another and laugh: "April Fool's!  We're alive!"

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