It’s Easter, and the whole world is locked down in fear.
But, during this last month of “social distancing,” it seems that we’ve had some surprising realizations:
#1 We are all going to die, although we seem to have imagined that we wouldn’t.
#2 We are all, like… one body. What happens to one happens to all.
#3 We don’t know who to blame.
In John 20:19, on Easter evening, while the resurrection still seemed an “idle tale,” the disciples had locked themselves in a sealed room for fear of “the Jews.”
They were afraid that what happened to Jesus would happen to them, that it would happen at the hand of “the Jews” (their own body), and they didn’t know who to blame—they had each fallen away, just as Jesus had said they would.
They were social distancing.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a time for social distancing.
In fact, the Bible is like the history of social distancing.
In the beginning—”the beginning,” and your beginning—humanity (ha adam, the Adam) was alone in a garden with his Helper, who is God.
He was alone, for he did not know that God is the Good, Love is Life, and God is our Helper.
“It’s not good that the man is alone,” said God, who was with him.
So, God split the Adam in two, making humanity male and female and creating the potential for social distance… and just the opposite of social distance.
He had placed a tree in the middle of the garden, creating the potential for social distance… and just the opposite of social distance.
The Liar said, “take some knowledge; make yourself in the image of God; surely you won’t die.”
We took knowledge of the Good that is the Life, and now we die… or are already dead.
Sin is choosing social distance. And succeeding is death—the first death.
People choose social distance. That’s called sin.
God chooses to enforce social distance. That’s called judgment.
With Noah, God enforced social distance with a flood.
With Abraham, God enforced more social distance but promised to bless all nations through Abraham’s Seed.
With Israel, God enforced more social distance and gave all sorts of rules for social distancing from folks with contagious diseases—like leprosy—as well as folks that had touched spit, poop, blood, death or sin.
From sinful Israel, God chose Judah and enforced more social distancing.
From sinful Judah, God chose Jerusalem, then the twelve, and then finally The One—The One and only righteous Adam that ever lived, now hanging on a tree in a garden covered with human excreta and sin.
If God is Love—three persons with no social distancing—how do we explain all this social distancing? Hebrews chapter 12 indicates that it’s all “discipline.”
When my son Coleman was little and wasn’t “playing nice” with his sister, when he was choosing social distance, his punishment was to sit on our “Green Couch”—“The Green Couch of Social Distance.”
“Perhaps this is why he was parted from you for a while,” wrote Paul to Philemon, regarding his runaway slave Onesimus, “that you might have him back forever, not as a slave, but as a beloved brother.” —That you might get all things back, but in a new way, with a new heart.
Why did I send Coleman to The Green Couch of Social Distancing?
So that he’d stay there forever? No! But so that he’d hate the thought of staying there forever, and, hopefully have a new thought.
I spent a lot of time on the Green Couch with Coleman; he’d tell me about his wounds—wounds to his little ego—and I’d tell him about mine.
We would experience social distancing together… And I’d suggest a new thought.
That’s where we pick up the story. God the Father is in Christ Jesus, covered in nothing but wounds, spit, puss, and blood, covered in our sin and our shame, hanging on a tree in a garden. He dies.
The disciples flee in an effort to save themselves and so lock themselves alone in a room on Easter.
Jesus appears, saying, “Peace be with you,” showing them his wounds and then breathing on them as he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He even takes the hand of Thomas and places it in the wound in his side.
It’s a picture that makes people uncomfortable on many levels; but on all levels, the discomfort has to do with the profound lack of social distancing.
And yet, from that room, that had been a tomb but is revealed to be a womb, the disciples emerge and take a new thought—the gospel—to Jerusalem, to Judea (Judah), Samaria (Israel), and the ends of the earth, until in the Revelation where we hear every creature in heaven and on earth praising God and the lamb on the throne.
The theologian Oscar Cullman would diagram the history of time as an hourglass on its side.
The Old Testament records an ever-decreasing group of people practicing social distancing.
And the New Testament records an ever-increasing group of people experiencing a social communion that is the manifestation of the Kingdom of God.
The turning point of history is the Judgment of God in Human Flesh hanging on a tree in a garden saying, “Father forgive them. They know not what they do. It is finished.”
He is the new and eternal thought of God.
And he recapitulates Adam. “This is the plan for the fullness of time to unite—to recapitulate—all things in him.” “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ [the eschatos Adam] shall all be made alive.”
At a tree in a garden, humanity was torn apart.
And at a tree in a garden, humanity is put back together but with knowledge of the Good and the Life that is eternal: where forgiveness is the Good, and unforgiveness is evil; where in a body, forgiveness is Life, and unforgiveness is the unforgiveable sin; where sacrificial Love is Life.
That’s a surprising realization: Death is social distancing, and the death of death is a social communion called Life. We are one body; we’re all to blame, and all are constantly forgiven.
It’s Love that binds everything together. Love is a decision to lose yourself and find yourself in the Body of Love. God is Love. Jesus is the Will of Love. He is a surprising and wondrous realization.
Of course, we should be practicing physical distancing for a time.
But we have been practicing social distancing ever since we first took knowledge of Good and evil in order to justify ourselves and hide from each other and God.
But human history does not end in an eternal social distancing called “Hell,” or whatever.
The End is an eternal social communion, which is the Body of Christ.
Jesus is the End. And we are his body… and bride.
The disciples were very glad when they saw the wound in the side of Christ—the eschatos Adam.
It is the wound from which we are made and the wound through which we are reunited with our Lord in ecstasy.
It’s what God was picturing when he made ha Adam, male and female.
When we are young, we don’t understand that wound.
When we age, we can be joined at that wound, and it isn’t death but rather the death of death.
And that’s still just the “reference;” anytime you sacrifice yourself for the love of another, it’s life—eternal life, even eternal ecstasy, even if it hurts for a time.
When Coleman got married, he asked if he could have The Green Couch.
It’s no longer The Couch of Social Distancing but The Green Couch of just the opposite.
Maybe the Corona Virus is like The Green Couch, and God is using it to give you a surprising realization. Jesus is the surprising realization. He is the Word of God, with you on The Green Couch.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples in a closed room.
And he rises from the dead in you—even as you—whenever you have this surprising realization: Love is Life. Love is the End. Love is saving us all. God is Love. And the Word of Love will not fail.
It is finished.