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Coming Back, Going Forward

I am struck more by the difference between Christ’s Resurrection and the return of Aslan (Gandalf, Harry Potter …) than I am by the similarity.
| Mar 28, 2018 | 5 comments |

Of all the good old literary games, one of the most well-respected is Find the Archetype. It consists of taking a character, proving that he is like other characters who filled similar roles in their own stories, and declaring him an Archetype. It’s a simple game – there are only about six stories ever told, and you learn to see through the masks pretty quick – but it can be entertaining and may even see you through college English.

There is a special version of Find the Archetype played by Christians. Its purpose is to find the Messiah Archetype or, more casually, the Jesus-figure. One of the first proofs of the Messiah Archetype is a return from the dead. Returning from the dead is a common trope, from fairy tales to fantasy and from folk tales to science fiction; it’s a far easier commonality to find than, say, the Virgin Birth. (Not that this is impossible. Star Wars did it. It was stupid, but they did do it.) And because the Resurrection makes the Gospel the Gospel, and “He is risen!” was more significant than “He is born,” rising from the dead is the most important commonality to find, too.

Yet I am struck more by the difference between Christ’s Resurrection and the return of Aslan (Gandalf, Harry Potter …) than I am by the similarity. The apostles spoke of the Resurrection as a singular event; to take one example – from Acts 26 – Paul calls Jesus the first to rise from the dead. And we need to remember – Paul certainly would not have forgotten – that in the Gospels alone we have the raising of Lazarus, the synagogue ruler’s daughter, the widow’s son, and the “holy people” on Good Friday. Long before the time of Jesus, Elijah and Elisha also raised the dead.

And yet Jesus is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,” the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). The difference to be drawn here is this: The raising of Lazarus and the others was the reversal of death, a return to the life (and body) that we all have known; the raising of Christ was the resurrection from death – the body raised in glory, an onward journey into a life of which we have not even dreamed. “For the trumpet will sound,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”

We find some illustration of the change in the Gospels; Jesus famously declared that “the children of the resurrection” do not marry and cannot die (Luke 20). And there is a suggestion, however nebulous, of the nature of the resurrection in the Easter accounts. In an odd way, there is more continuity between the natural body and the resurrected body than might be imagined. Jesus invited Thomas to touch the nail marks in His hands and put his hand into His side; His wounds were healed but visible still. There may be others who will not lose their scars, or want to.

In a larger, and even stranger, way, there is less continuity than would be easily supposed. One of the mysteries of the Resurrection is the persistent trouble Christ’s followers had in recognizing Him. Mary Magdalene didn’t know Him at first, and neither did the men on the road to Emmaus, and there is something halting and almost fearful in the disciples’ recognition of Jesus by the Sea of Tiberius. As a final point, Christ ate after He was resurrected. And I know this sounds boring, but it means that all that talk about feasts in the kingdom of God wasn’t metaphorical, and I dare any of you to tell me that you don’t care.

The reversal of death is very different from resurrection. To come back from death is not the same as going forward from it. All the Messiah archetypes I know of are returns, not the forging of bright frontiers beyond death and merely natural life. Speculative fiction is bound only by imagination, but even artists have trouble imagining resurrection. And this resurrection, almost blinding in its glory – it is Christ’s triumph, and our hope.

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5 Comments on "Coming Back, Going Forward"

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This loops quite easily back to that discussion of The Frankenstein Chronicles and the plot-moving conflict being about the supply of corpses for dissection classes. Is the intact body important after death? Does dissection or cremation kick you out of the Resurrection Club?
Honestly I’m not worried about it myself (my grandma notwithstanding) and the culture at large isn’t, but it’s easy to see how people would be.

Sarah Parks

All right. I wasn’t going to say anything, but you dared me. I really don’t care that the feasts talked about in the Bible won’t be metaphorical. Eating is an inconvenience that can be pleasant on occasion, but is never enjoyable enough to be worth doing just for its own sake. Gatherings that focus solely on eating are about as interesting to me as a trip to the dentist.


I find this interesting, and now I have the urge to experiment on you to see if it’s because you haven’t been exposed much to good cooking or if you’re just idiosyncratic that way.
My mom is from the Midwestern school of cooking where you dump stuff in a casserole dish with cream of mushroom, and learning about “real” cooking has helped me when I can control and improve my food experience.
I’ve actually learned more about cooking theories from anime like Sweetness and Lightning (recommended) or Food Wars (dumb but can be informative) than from Julia Child (sorry Julia).

Autumn Grayson

I don’t know about Sarah’s experience, but even though I love food and eating, I don’t care to eat a lot and in fact do see it as an inconvenience at times. It kind of depends on what mood I’m in, but often enough I’ll be kind of zoned in on a task and then remember that it’s time to eat and pretty much feel too lazy to actually want to eat, even though I can cook ok. So it’s probably just a matter of how different people are. If I’m trying to work my way through a lot of food or am eating a lot of the same thing in one sitting, I start to feel a little grossed out or like eating is a chore at that moment.

Sarah Parks

I doubt it’s based on the quality of the food i’ve eaten. My mom might not have been the most varied or skilled home cook, but she certainly wasn’t terrible, and i’m pretty sure some of the people whose food i’ve eaten on semi-regular occasions qualified as actual professional food experts.
The main thing is, what benefits eating has are grossly outweighed by the detriments. The time and money required just to prepare it, plus the clean-up, all for something that *might* taste good, or might taste like old socks, or might make you spend the next two hours in the bathroom (not that i’ve eaten a lot of food that did either of those latter two things, but the risk is always there). For some people, eating is either worth it, or the preparation is enjoyable in itself. Me, i’ve always hated cooking and washing dishes, so that didn’t help.
Insofar as the reasoning behind it, i’d chalk it up to the differences between Sensing and Intuitive types (from the Myers-Briggs personality type perspective).