Last week, in my lit. class, we had to read King Lear. Now, I’ve read some Shakespeare before. I’ve even been in one or two productions of his plays. Not just the comedies, but tragedies too (I mean, who hasn’t been required to read Romeo and Juliet at some point during their school career?). But this time was different. We had just finished reading As You Like It, which is an awesome comedy in my opinion. Suddenly I was thrown into another world of Shakespeare’s imagination–a world where good was disowned and insanity ruled. And in the end, the beautiful was destroyed alongside the evil. It’s a Shakespearean tragedy: everyone dies! Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but I was still disillusioned at the end. I hate tragedy. I detest tragedy. I want to go and dig Shakespeare up and make him write a happy ending! Okay, maybe not…
My vehement reaction to tragedy made me sit back and think about why I so despise tragedy. I’ve come to an interesting conclusion. I hate tragedy because it doesn’t reflect reality. Tragedy only catches part of the story. The truth is that–in the end–the story always ends with the good guys winning. That’s what Revelation is all about. The Good Guy wins. He conquers Satan and establishes His forever rule. But tragedy doesn’t see the end of Revelation. Tragedy sees history: wars and famines and plagues. Tragedy sees present: slavery and perversion and terrorism. Tragedy sees the destruction of the world and the horrifying judgments of God. But tragedy doesn’t see the end, and without the end, no story is as good and complete and beautiful as it could be. Tragedy loses sight of the final scene and wallows in the moments before the resolution. Tragedy finds itself stuck in the climax with nowhere to go. That’s why I hate tragedy.
What in the world does this have to do with Easter morning? Good question. While I was sitting in church this morning, my roommate leaned over and pointed to the passage about Jesus’ burial, the scene right before the Resurrection. She whispered, “Tragedy.”
And I got it! If Shakespeare had written Jesus’ story and had crafted it as a tragedy, the play would’ve ended there. Jesus buried, the disciples despairing, the women preparing spices for Jesus’ body. Then they would trudge away to honor the LORD’s Sabbath, all the while having no hope, no joy. It would be the greatest tragedy. And I would hate it.
But the story doesn’t end there. Instead, on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath had come and gone, Jesus rose. The women came to the tomb, ready to care for their friend’s body, but they found the tomb empty! Again, the tragedian might here have ended the story. The body stolen, hope completely destroyed, and the women left without any tangible reminder of the man they followed for so long. It would be the greatest tragedy. And I would hate it.
Still the story is not finished! Angels approach the women and tell them the good news: Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed. Overjoyed, the women run back to the disciples, eager to share the unbelievable truth. However, the disciples find this news ridiculous. In the NIV, Luke 24:11 reads, “But they [the disciples] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” Nonsense. The disciples looked at the women and said, “There’s no way. You’re not making any sense. He died. Remember? We watched Him die. He’s gone.” They were all grief-stricken and not thinking straight. It couldn’t be true. Hope was gone, yet these women had just proclaimed the impossible. But the impossible was true. And I love it!
This goes back to my comedy-tragedy thing. The fact of Jesus’ resurrection makes the account of the Passion Week a comedy (not in the sense that we think of it, but in the traditional, not-everyone-dies, happy-ending sense). Without Jesus’ resurrection, we find the story to be the greatest tragedy: God came to Earth and died. But the Resurrection changes everything. The death and burial of Jesus was just the climax, but it was not the final scene. The Resurrection was the final scene in that act. Even so, the grand story of history is not yet finished. We are still heading for the final, biggest, most terrible and wonderful climax. We are still awaiting the best, most beautiful final scene of the final act. Come, LORD Jesus! The impossible is true, and it is beautiful.