So, what have the Rolling Stones to do with Easter? Well, actually, the link is a bit tenuous – on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers, they recorded and brought to everybody’s attention a Mississippi Fred McDowell song, You Gotta Move.
You may be high, you may be low
You may be rich, child, you may be poor
But when the Lord get ready
You gotta move.
Mick, Keef and the boys may or may not have realized, but this is a song about Christian hope – it’s about resurrection. No matter who you are – man, woman, black or white, rich or poor – when the Lord’s good and ready – them bones gotta move! It’s Gary Davis Jr’s “great gettin’ up morning” when he “heard the angels singing.”
Now Jesus – we’re fine with him as great teacher – depending on your preference or politics you can have “the poor you always have with you,” “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” or “my kingdom is not of this world” or, if you’re game for being a bit more challenged, you can focus on the golden rule, “love your enemies”, “blessed are the peace makers.” So long as he’s an de-historicized prophet or philosopher, he’s pretty safe – maybe a bit profound here and there, like Aristotle or some other religious guru and worth knowing about – but once we start putting resurrection into the mix, that starts to get a bit rich for us.
Early Jesus follower Paul realized this pretty much from the get-go. “If the Messiah isn’t raised from the dead,” he wrote in his letter to a group of Jesus followers in Corinth, then “our faith is worthless.” Might as well “eat and drink,” he said, “for tomorrow we die.”
Paul tells us he knew a load of people who’d seen the risen Jesus, apart from himself, and everything stood or fell one this fact. Paul and other people in the first century may not have shared our scientific worldview. But they knew dead when they saw it. Dead men didn’t get up. Dead was dead.
But Paul and his friends had seen Jesus raised from the dead and their Jewish theology led them to the conclusion that this fact meant that Jesus followers – those in-the-Messiah, as Paul puts it – could hope for a similar outcome at the last. Christian faith revolves around resurrection – the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus followers. Nowhere does the New Testament encourage a hope for a disembodied existence after death in a heavenly city in the sky. Christian hope is much more earthy, tangible – it’s about the hope for a new world, a transformation of the here and now and a share in that through resurrection. This sort of hope is the impetus for Jesus followers to live as if that day had already arrived, focusing their lives on the justice, peace and love that Jesus taught about.
This is why Christians celebrate Easter Sunday – God raising Jesus from the dead means everything has changed; something fundamental in the universe has shifted and each of us can be a part of it. No matter who we are – as Fred McDowell said – rich or poor, a women or a policeman, whoever – we can have a share in God’s future. When the Lord get ready – you gotta MOVE!