Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Joy

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:8)

I recently re-read C.S. Lewis's masterpiece of children's literature, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I read it as a child – it still is my favorite of the Narnia series – but back then it was just a fun adventure story in which all of the allegory and Christian allusions were completely lost on me. It has taken returning to it as an adult to fully appreciate what Lewis was trying to say, and to see particular passages in a completely new light. Today's article is about one such passage which I thought was especially appropriate for the day, so we are taking a brief break from our journey to the Lonely Mountain with Bilbo.

In Lewis's land of Narnia, the lion Aslan quite clearly represents Christ. At the climax of the book, he gives himself to the White Witch to be killed in the place of Edmund, who failed to bring his siblings to her as she asked. Later, Lucy and Susan sneak away from the camp and return to the Stone Table where the terrible deed took place. There, they are surprised to find Aslan as he was when they first met him, very much alive and returned to his former leonine glory. Like the women who discover the empty tomb, the girls are in awe and probably a bit afraid, but both they and Aslan are overcome with great happiness, as demonstrated by what happens next:

"He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, though she didn't know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hilltop he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs. It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind. And the funny thing was that when all three finally lay together panting in the sun the girls no longer felt in the least tired or hungry or thirsty."

I love Aslan's display of such unbridled joy at his resurrection – it is certainly much different from the picture painted by the gospel writers of Jesus's first tentative encounters with Mary Magdalene and other disciples and followers that Sunday morning. After reading Lewis's description, I can just imagine Jesus, a huge smile on his face, arms spread wide, running to meet his friends, but that's not the picture we get in the Bible. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John describe people hiding in fear and unaware at first that they are talking to the risen Savior, and sometimes even after they recognize Jesus they are still fearful and in awe. If children had been first to meet him after he left the tomb, I bet the scenario would have been much different, and maybe that's the key for all of us. After all, how many times did Jesus tell his disciples that they must be more like children?

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Let us not be restrained, but instead let us run to him, grab his hands, and pull him into our joyful celebrations!

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