If I thought that when you strip it right down to the bone, this whole religion business is really just an affirmation of the human spirit, an affirmation of moral values, an affirmation of Jesus of Nazareth as the Great Exemplar of all time and no more, then like Pilate I would wash my hands of it. The human spirit just does not impress me that much, I am afraid. And I have never been able to get very excited one way or the other about moral values. And when I have the feeling that someone is trying to set me a good example, I start edging toward the door.
So what do I believe actually happened that morning on the third day after he died?
I can tell you this: that what I believe happened and what in faith and with great joy I proclaim, is that he somehow got up, with life in him again, and the glory upon him. And I speak very plainly here, very unfancifully. He got up. He said, "Don't be afraid." Rich man, poor man, child; sick man, dying; man who cannot believe, scared sick man, lost one. Young man with your life ahead of you. "Don't be afraid."
He said, "Feed my sheep," which is why, like the chief priests and the Pharisees, we try to make that tomb as secure as we can. Because this is what he always says: "Feed my sheep...my lambs." And this is what we would make ourselves secure from, knowing the terrible needs of the lambs and our abundance, knowing our own terrible needs.
He said, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
Anxiety and fear are what we know best in this fantastic century of ours. Wars and rumors of wars. From civilization itself to what seemed the most unalterable values of the past, everything is threatened or already in ruins. We have heard so much tragic news that when the news is good we cannot hear it.
But the proclamation of Easter Day is that all is well. And as a Christian, I say this not with the easy optimism of one who has never known a time when all was not well but as one who has faced the cross in all its obscenity as well as in all its glory, who has known one way or another what it is like to live separated from God. In the end, his will, not ours, is done. Love is the victor. Death is not the end. The end is life. His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream. Christ our Lord has risen.
—Frederick Buechner, “The End Is Life,” from his book The Magnificent Defeat