Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!” This shout of exultation often marks the arrival of Easter, but I have never resonated with it. When I studied today’s passage, I understood why.
For many, the story of Christianity is the story of Easter, and the story of Easter is the story of the resurrection. I, on the other hand, have centered my faith in the story of the Incarnation. To paraphrase Athanasius, God became flesh so that we might become divine. (See John 17:19-26.) For me, the path to Christian perfection becomes possible not through the Resurrection but through the Ascension.
The key proclamation of John’s Easter story comes in Jesus’ command to Mary. He tells her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Unlike Matthew and Mark, who recount Jesus commanding Mary to tell the disciples of his resurrection, here John focuses on Jesus’ ascension. His return to the Father opens for us the possibility of knowing God in a new way, for his God is now our God.
John’s Gospel begins with the proclamation that “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18). The Gospel winds down with Jesus telling his disciples that he is ascending to “my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). The joy of Easter is not simply that we will rise as Jesus rose. By means of his death, resurrection, and ascension, we can live as Jesus lived, beloved of God, full of knowledge and truth.

God of new life, draw our eyes heavenward that we may live beyond the shadow of the cross and into the divine community marked by love. Amen.

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