Seventy years ago, in April 1947 the Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth, gave an Easter sermon in which he expressed his shame about the fact that even we as theologians have great difficulties to grasp the message of Easter, to grasp its relevance and the radical change what it entails. Barth wrote: „We are deeply ashamed to see how miserably little we have comprehended the sentence „Jesus Christ has risen“, that is the Easter message. One is ashamed of oneself how little one is able to cope with this message: not with the head and more certainly not with the heart and conscience and with its life certainly not at all.“
Barth poses the question what the reaction might be if someone shouts the message „Christ has risen!“ into a pastors’ conference from the open window from outside one week after Easter, when they are all a bit tired and somehow unbelieving. We might imagine what our reaction would be.
It might be that we do not really have grasped this incredible, revolutionary message of the resurrection of Christ which means the total change from old to new, from death to life, from darkness to light, from evil to good, and from despair to hope. Resurrection is the new reality which the Apostle Paul expresses with the word: „Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.“
Karl Barth says: „What happened on that day (of Easter) became, was and remained the centre around which everything else moves. For everything lasts its time, but the love of God – which was at work and was expressed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – lasts forever. Because this event took place, there is no reason to despair, and even when we read the newspaper with all its confusing and frightening news, there is every reason to hope.“
It seems to me that these words are even more relevant in our times than in those days 70 years ago. Today we need cheerful Christians who in faithful prayers, courageous testimonies, and hopeful deeds are witnesses for the resurrected Christ.
Dr Klaus Bensel is secretary of the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians, pastor in Siegen (Germany), and teaches New Testament Studies at the Biblisch-Theologische Akademie Wiedenest and at the Staatsunabhängige Theologische Hochschule Basel, Switzerland.