“The rising of the sun had made everything look sodifferent-all colors and shadows were changed-that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.
“Oh, oh, oh!” cried the two girls, rushing back to the Table.
“Oh, it’s too bad,” sobbed Lucy; “they might have left the body alone.”
“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
Recognizing Christ is no simple task. Perhaps C.S. Lewis knew this well for he spent a large part of his life an atheist. Always the intellectual, Lewis used to describe this phase as a time when he was “very angry with God for not existing.” I believe that he knew that recognizing the Risen Christ is tricky business even when you think you know what it is that you are looking for.
In his beautiful allegory for Christ, the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis describes the death of Aslan the Lion, that great Messianic savior of his book. The young Susan and Lucy, who have followed him until this point, watch in horror as Aslan willingly gives himself as a ransom for them and all who we have met so far in the story, Lucy and Susan’s brothers Edmund and Peter, the faun Mr. Tumnus, Mr. and Ms. Beaver, the Giant Rumblebuffin, and perhaps even those in the army of the White Witch herself.
Susan and Lucy watch as Aslan is bound and dragged to the stone table that has been prepared for his gruesome death. Aslan is humiliated as his grand and proud mane is cruelly shaved from his flesh as the White Witch and her ghouls laugh. Watching from a hidden place, the youngest sibling, Lucy, looks to Aslan’s face in this moment and notices that “the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.”
And then, with her silhouette cast against the moonlight, the Witch raises her arms with the strange and evil knife and plunges it into Aslan’s flesh and Aslan dies.
Lucy and Susan stay with the body after the White Witch and her army march off to war now that the great Aslan has been defeated.
But then it happens. The morning comes and Susan and Lucy notice that the “rising of the sun made everything look different – all the colors and shadows were changed…” That sunrise of that Easter morning was so blinding that they don’t see what C.S. Lewis so eloquently calls “the important thing.” Upon hearing his voice, they turn around and barely recognize Aslan for his mane has miraculously grown back but he seems different, larger than life, alive and yet mysteriously something that we hadn’t seen before. After defeating the armies of the White Witch and crowning Lucy, Susan, Edmund, and Peter as Queens and Kings of Narnia, he quietly slips away only to reappear throughout the Lewis’ larger Chronicles of Narnia.
The Resurrection often leaves us with more questions than it does answers. Perhaps like Susan and Lucy, we are left blinking on that Easter morn, our eyes adjusting to the brilliant light, asking “who’s done it….what does it mean?” Clearly the eyes of the followers on the road to Emmaus were still adjusting to the light for they do not recognize the Risen Christ. They, for a moment, do not see the important thing. Jesus, though, apparently seizes the moment and decides to have a little fun.
“No, I don’t know what has happened. We have a long walk; why don’t you tell me all about it?”
After the long walk, they urge him saying “stay with us!” Jesus obliges and then does a curious thing:
He takes bread.
He takes bread and breaks it.
He takes bread and breaks it and blessesit.
He takes bread and breaks it and blesses it and gives it
And then they see the important thing.
Their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
And then he vanishes.
The bread quite literally falls into our hands as the One whom we now recognize disappears. Slips away. Just when we think we have this resurrection thing down, just when our eyes adjust to the light, just when we see the important thing, that thing vanishes. Why? We know that we are to taste and see. Taste and see what?
I don’t know exactly what the Resurrected Christ looks like. But I have seen him and I will see him because his vanishing only draws me in deeper. Make no mistake, Christ is Risen, he is risen indeed. But he is on the loose, no longer confined to a cold stone table or a lonely tomb. No longer restrained to one image or one place, he is on the loose. The Risen Christ is made known to us in the breaking of the bread not so much because we recognize him as we did before, but rather because we taste and see a glimpse of what Christ is now capable of. Christ vanishes, slips away, to remind not that he has abandoned us (for that is certainly not the case!), but rather, quite the opposite. He vanishes to show us that he is out and about. Christ leaves us wanting more because the Resurrected Christ looks different.
For C.S. Lewis, the Resurrected Christ looks like a lion who breathes humanity back into persons turned into cold, lifeless statues.
For the followers of Jesus, the Resurrected Christ looks like one who takes, breaks, blesses, and gives.
For a local congregation, the Resurrected Christ looks like a thousand multicolored paper cranes floating amidst the people.
For someone who has screwed up, the Resurrected Christ looks like a verse of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
For a congregation emerging from a split, the Resurrected Christ looks like a deliciousloaf of broken bread on a broken plate.
For a little girl taking Communion, the Resurrected Christ looks like a morsel of bread that she just has to have.
Friends, the brilliant light of this Risen Christ makes everything look so different! As we taste and see, our hearts will burn within us as we look back on where the Risen Christ has taken us, perceive where it is that Risen Christ is with us now, and hope toward that final banquet when the Risen Christ will vanish no more. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Amen.