Monday, 16 January 2006

A three-year-old’s Easter hymn

Yesterday I was in bed with a cold, and I decided to cheer myself a little by reading Gerd Lüdemann’s book The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994). My three-year-old daughter came and asked me what I was reading, and I told her it was a book about Jesus rising from the dead. She was delighted to hear this, and she broke spontaneously into the following song (she is always inventing songs):

God died on the cross
The soldiers killed him on a cross
He died on the cross and it was the saddest day in the world

They buried him in a tomb
They buried him a long time ago
They buried him many, many years ago

He died at night and rose again in the morning
He rose again and now he just lives in heaven
And he’ll never die again
Because he never changes anymore

For now he doesn’t do anything normal
No, he doesn’t do anything normal
No, he doesn’t do anything normal
He just lives and lives and lives

You can imagine how impressed I was with this little hymn. Here is my own textual and theological commentary:

1. The entire hymn preserves the basic structure and sequence of the church’s primitive kerygmatic formulae: death, burial, resurrection, ascension.
2. “God died on the cross” expresses the christological mystery of God’s identification with the dead Jesus.
3. “And it was the saddest day in the world” is probably an allusion to Hegel’s statement: “God is dead—this is the most appalling thought…”
4. “The soldiers killed him” carefully avoids any semblance of anti-Semitism.
5. “He rose again and now he just lives in heaven” preserves the fundamental New Testament unity between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.
6. “And he’ll never die again” highlights the fact that Jesus’ resurrection was not the mere resuscitation of a corpse, but the movement of the Crucified One through death into the new life of God’s future.
7. “For now he doesn’t do anything normal”—here the hymn achieves a startling theological conclusion. The statement of Jesus’ abnormality should not be taken in a Docetic sense, but rather as an expression of the strange otherness of Jesus as the Risen One. With death forever behind him, he now lives in and from the “wholly other” future of the kingdom of God. And he continues to be present as the one “lives” right “now.”
8. Finally, Jesus “lives and lives and lives”—this is probably intended as a subtle reference to the trinitarian structure of the life of the Risen One. The crucified Jesus now lives from the Father through the power of the Spirit: i.e., he “lives and lives and lives.”


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