It is now Easter Sunday.
For many of us that means church in the morning. For some, it means brunch. For other it means egg hunts and candy. And for others, it doesn't mean anything, it's just a Sunday. What does Sunday mean to people? Again, for some it's the Lord's Day. For some, it's the night the tune in AMC to watch The Walking Dead.
Walking Dead is not on tonight; AMC is running the final season of Mad Men right now, but since it is Easter Sunday I thought that was a good time to talk about zombies.
The origin of the word zombie is not as much related to the current idea of them in pop culture. The term comes from voodoo, and applies to someone under some enchantment that makes him a mindless, soulless automaton, or a re-animated corpse. The notion of a re-animated corpse is the one that stuck, but you'll see the other sort of zombification in movies like I Walked With a Zombie or The Serpent and the Rainbow. In modern understanding, a zombie is the living dead, a body that cannot die, usually hungry for others. Often now this "zombie" state is seen as infectious, and a bite from a zombie will make you a zombie too.
Among some skeptics and atheists, Jesus is sometimes mocked as being a kind of King of Zombies, because of his resurrection. But I say, in a way, he is; not a king of soulless bodies under voodoo curses, but a king of those who once were dead and yet shall live.
Easter is the day that Christians celebrate that Jesus was risen to life again from death. He left his tomb empty and appeared to those who followed him. For 40 days, he continued living and being seen by many, including a large crowd of people, until vanishing into the sky. I understand why it may be hard for skeptics to believe, and seems like foolishness. But while you may not believe it happened, it is undeniable that Jesus' followers DID believe it happened. They claimed to have seen him. They told others they had seen him. The spread of Christianity is due to the resurrection belief. Peter and Paul make a point of saying that they weren't following "carefully designed fables" but that they had seen him with their own eyes. Now, you may also discount the gospels as written decades after Jesus lived and died, and therefore fabrications after the fact. But the letters of Paul are authentic and some pre-date the gospels as we have them. They attest to early Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection. Paul himself claims to have seen him; it was the moment of his conversion. I cannot doubt that Paul saw something that changed his life. We date the earliest of Paul's writings at around 50 A.D. (or C.E.) Assuming Jesus died somewhere around 30 A.D., that's only twenty years later. And the earlier gospels come only a few decades after that. Which means that if people did see Jesus after his resurrection, some of these witnesses would still be living. There are people today who continue to deny there was a Holocaust in Nazi Germany, but the living witnesses have been attesting to it for decades. And that was only about 70 years ago. There's still controversy about the JFK assassination, and that occurred just fifty years ago. You are free to disagree with the position of believers, but you can't write it off as fairy tales written long after the fact. It wasn't all that long, when you think about it, and certainly not late enough that any witnesses couldn't corroborate it. I choose to believe it. There's a moment in an early X-Files episode where Mulder is asked, "Why do people like you continue to believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary?" and Mulder replies, "Because all the evidence to the contrary is not entirely dissuasive."
So I want to call attention to one point put in Matthew's account. It says that when Jesus died, there was an earthquake, and this earthquake opened up graves. He then says that some who had died rose out of their graves after Jesus' resurrection and appeared to many (Matthew 27: 51-53). So not only was Jesus himself risen that day, but others were brought to life as well, testifying Jesus' resurrecting power over death. His resurrection was the firstfruits of our eventual resurrection, and the dead who rose in Matthew are a small reminder of that; that his life brings others to life. I don't know how long these zombie Jews were walking around. They must have died again at some point. But we can have hope that if the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us, he will raise us as well.
I used the word "zombie" somewhat jokingly above, but the people in Matthew were likely not mindless hulks looking for brains. But in Christ, we live forever. Death does not finish us. Modern zombies generally are unstoppable (unless you shoot them in the head or something), and so are we in a way in Christ. But we aren't under some evil enchantment robbing us of our will. In water baptism, we picture ourselves dying to ourselves and our old flesh, buried with Christ and raised again with him. So we are in a way a kind of walking dead, dead to the things of this world and single-minded in purpose: to follow Christ. Like zombies, we are not overcome by death, but we shall overcome the world. We seek to penetrate the minds and hearts of the lost in Christ, those dead in their sins, that we might give them the life that we have. Christianity was designed to be infectious.
So the song I chose for this final essay of Easter is Audio Adrenaline's "Some Kind of Zombie." We are dead to sin, walking in the life of Christ. We have hope because of Christ's resurrection. It is the proof that resurrection will come. As Paul wrote (and I'm paraphrasing, but it's in 1 Corinthians 15), if Christ is not risen, then this whole thing is pointless, we are still in our sins, and we should be pitied! But I believe he is risen, and it's not pointless. We can overcome the death of this world. The day is coming when all death shall be destroyed for good. Until then, we walk on as former dead men revived by the Spirit of God to make all the followers we can. But we are not decrepit, decaying bodies slowly wearing away. And we cannot be taken out by the enemy's killshots, because Christ is our head, and he is powerful and indestructible. In a way, we are like some kind of zombie, but of a kind never encountered in some movie. It's Easter, and there is life in Jesus.
Is there anybody out there?
4 years ago