Easter: Announcing New Creation Through Genesis Echoes
I love Genesis.
It depicts the beginning of a revolutionary unveiling. A slow interpersonal unveiling of the ordered nature of the creation and the Creator.
And "in the beginning" the creation was good. And the goodness echoes on ... Day 1 good, day 3 good and good, day 4 good, day 5 good, day 6 good and very good.
It was good.
In the world known as the Ancient Near East - inclusive of lands from ancient Egypt to Assyria, Babylon and surrounding nations - Genesis was a revolutionary creation narrative.
It revealed a unique theological narrative about our world.
A revolutionary narrative.
In Egypt, Babylon, and elsewhere around that ancient world, creation narratives were numerous. They told of "nature gods." Re, the "sun god in Egypt", Ishtar the "moon god" and Baal the "storm god" in Canaan, Apsu and Tiamat - the "male sweet water" and "female salt water gods" of Babylonian narratives.
And stories of other nature gods were many.
People were shaped by polytheism in a seemingly hostile world of personalised nature. They believed in the personal divine power of many nature gods. The River Nile and the bull in Egypt for example.
Their creation myths related the love stories of their nature gods - gods were gendered.
And the wars of the nature gods were recounted as evil played among the gods' societies creating chaos. In many such creation myths human beings were the slaves of the nature gods.
And into the chaotic world of such creation narratives comes Genesis.
It announced creation was good - fitting for divine purpose.
And in that Genesis narrative the chaos which is formless and void in Genesis 1:2 is ordered by Elohim. Chaos is not sustained in Genesis 1 as in other creation narratives.
Rather on the first day of this Genesis creation narrative darkness gives way to light.
And on day 1,2 and 3 the formlessness is formed. And on day 4,5 and 6 that which is void is filled.
In Genesis 1 creation is ordered.
And at the pinnacle of this Genesis 1 creation narrative, humans are created to care for and steward creation. Human beings are not the slaves of the nature gods.
These humans are to image the Creator - Elohim.
And creation is good.
Its goodness is echoed and re-echoed across the ordered days.
Thus this Genesis creation narrative is unique.
No evil dwells in this narrative. Its creation is very good.
In Genesis 2, another wonderful narrative tells an alternative narrating of the creation of humans. And Genesis 2:7 finds the Creator, Yahweh Elohim , breathing life into the very nostrils of the man who had been formed.
As we consider Easter, the narratives of Genesis 1 and 2 will find echoes in the Easter story narrated in the Gospel of John.
And the author of that resurrection Sunday story deliberately uses images from the first creation narratives to theologically emphasise a stunning reality - New Creation.
The Gospel of John has prepared us for Genesis echoes to arise in its Jesus narration through its opening phrase - "in the beginning".
How does this work?
For Australians born, raised, and educated here, the words April 25th are far more than the day following April 24 or preceding April 26. April 25 memorialises both history and then a growing tradition rising out of that initial history.
April 25th holds meaning central to Australia's self-identification as a former colony in a post-European imperialist world.
April 25 is ANZAC Day. A day central to the identity of Australia and New Zealand (the A and NZ of ANZAC).
So in a similar way the words "in the beginning" prepare us for echoes of those first creation narratives in the climax to the much larger Israel story found in the life of Jesus. And throughout John, but particularly at Easter, we will find in John 19 and 20 that the narration is theologically startling and profound.
In John 19:5 the political power in Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate, brings Jesus, crowned with thorns, before the religious powers of Jerusalem.
Pontius Pilate announces: BEHOLD, THE MAN.
The imagery is stunning.
In a scene that represents the most powerful religious and political systems together we are presented with Jesus.
Jesus, John 1:1-18 tells us was the WORD there in the beginning, speaking into being the cosmos as good creation. This good creation climaxes in the creation of human persons male and female in the image of the creator god.
That creating agency, the WORD, the incarnate one, is now presented by Pilate: "Behold the Man".
It is important for us to dwell in the echoes of "in the beginning" with that announcement.
We need to consider all the meaning engendered in the thorn-crowned presentation of this particular person with the announcement: "Behold the Man!"
And he dies the death particularly used by the Romans for rebellious treason against the great military and political human power.
In other words he dies the death that was devised for betraying the greatest human power believed to be present in the world of that time.
The great human powers - political and religious kill him.
A man representing humanity, all humanity who from the first rebellion in Genesis 3 confronted thorns, dies wearing a crown of thorns.
And in encouraging this man's death the Jewish religious leaders announce: "We have no King but Caesar."
After the descendants of Abraham escaped the rule of the Pharoahs, the freed slaves sang in a hymn of liberation that Yahweh would rule forever and ever. Exodus 15:18
But now the religious leaders of Abraham's descendants in Jerusalem herald their enslavement to the foreign emperor - Caesar. Even in 1 Samuel 8 years oIsrael's religious elite had never so clearly manifested their rebellion against their Creator God, their Liberator God Yahweh.
And so the one announced by the political powers to be THE MAN, is crucified, condemned with the death reserved for those who have betrayed the greatest human political powers.
And the religious powers applaud.
The one who was there "in the beginning" dies.
And in the darkness - as darkness echoes from the original Genesis story...
Will this darkness persist..
In that darkness Nicodemus who had come before in darkness, came again with Joseph of Arimathea to take this dead body of "THE MAN" to a garden.
And in this new garden story darkness does not last as the narrator tells of a new event we are to discover.
From the Genesis narrative the garden now echoes into the second creation account.
In John 20, it is the first day of the week.
For any Jew, the first day of the week memorialises "in the beginning" when via the speaking: THERE WAS LIGHT.
And on the first day of the week expecting to find THE MAN dead, Mary Magdalene enters the garden.
A women is first in this garden.
Not like Genesis 2.
There is no dead body of THE MAN
Mary goes to seek "Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved".
And on finding no body, the disciple Jesus loved, believed.
But it was to a woman, Mary Magdalene, to whom the WORD who became flesh - the risen Jesus - gave the first command in this new garden.
Once dead, now alive from the decay of death, THE MAN - the WORD made flesh - gave the first command in this second garden to a woman.
And the command was for the woman to proclaim Good News.
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
And the first Easter proclamation of post resurrection new creation came from a woman.
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
She announced a message of profound theological truth.
Patriarchy had been cast aside in her receiving this command.
But the echoes of the first creation narratives do not end there.
As in Genesis 2:7 the breath of life is breathed into disciples to form new human persons:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
With the resurrection of Jesus, the command to Mary, the sending of Mary Magdalene, and the Spirit being breathed into the disciples, the Easter events are a heralding that New Creation has started.
Darkness has given way to light.