By Valerie Minard
The Easter story, “Risen,” is a powerful and unusual movie portraying the last days of Jesus after his resurrection. Although the script attempts to stay true to the Biblical account, the story is told from the perspective of a fictional character, Clavius, a Roman tribune, responsible for finding Jesus’ missing body.
When we first meet Clavius, played by actor Joseph Fiennes, he is a war-weary military man numbed by all the violence and death he’s witnessed. Although a worshipper of the Roman god of war, Mars, he is also a spiritual seeker that has perhaps lost hope. In his search for Jesus’ body, we see a transition from a curious observer to one that has become intrigued by, if not converted to, Jesus’ teachings. He’s one of the few men who sees Jesus alive between his resurrection and his ascension. One can only imagine how this experience must have shaken Clavius’ assumptions about mortal existence and how he afterward viewed his own relationship to God.
Even though the concept of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension may seem beyond material comprehension, there are basic questions that it generates for all of us. For instance, is there life after death? Is life eternal? If life continues on a spiritual plan, is man essentially spiritual, or does he need death to become spiritual? If man is essentially spiritual here and now, what are we here for? These questions are important because how we think about them impacts how we live our lives today --how free we are from the limitations and discords of material dependencies.
Deep spiritual thinkers have been considering these metaphysical questions for ages. This was certainly true for nineteenth century theologian Mary Baker Eddy. She was driven to explore the spiritual dimension of life, after having a quick healing from a near-fatal accident. Lying on her death-bed, Eddy read and pondered the Biblical account of one of Jesus’ healings and found herself well. She got up, dressed herself, and walked into the next room to the astonishment of all.
But it didn’t end there. She began a spiritual journey of searching the Bible for an explanation of her healing. In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she wrote, “For three years after my discovery, I sought the solution of this problem of Mind-healing, searched the Scriptures and read little else, kept aloof from society, and devoted time and energies to discovering a positive rule. …I knew the Principle of all harmonious Mind-action to be God, and that cures were produced in primitive Christian healing by holy, uplifting faith; but I must know the Science of this healing, and I won my way to absolute conclusions through divine revelation, reason, and demonstration.”
Exploring the spiritual dimensions of life and health led her to the conclusion that God was the source of all life--even Life itself. Since God was immortal, Life must be immortal, eternal, spiritual, and this would be true for all of God’s children. This new-found conviction about Life set her on a new path, and she devoted the rest of her life to healing others and teaching others to heal.
Although the end of “Risen” doesn’t show us what happens to Clavius as a result of seeing the risen Jesus, I suspect that something more than Jesus’ body had risen. It’s easy to imagine that Clavius was stirred by the events he had seen. Perhaps his dark brooding about death was finally lifted to a new sense of spiritual life and its divine possibilities. One can only imagine how this new perspective might have changed the rest of his life. And isn’t this the promise the Easter story holds for each one of us?
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