At the otherwise-wonderful Great Vigil of Easter this morning (a.k.a. the sunrise service), our rector quoted from John Updike's Seven Stanzas at Easter in his sermon:
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall. [Emphasis added; read it all.]
I've tried and failed to read these lines, and the rest of the work, as merely a literary device. They're not. Updike is clearly drawing a line in the sand about what he thinks actually happened on Easter Sunday.
I can't understand how Updike can be so certain. We simply don't know what happened on that Sunday so long ago (or could it have been Saturday?).
We can say, with reasonable confidence:
that some of Jesus's disciples found an empty tomb where they had expected to find his body;
that Peter, along with some unknown number of other disciples, later genuinely believed they had encountered their executed Teacher alive and well;
that in the years that followed, stories circulated in various early churches, to the effect that Jesus had supposedly appeared to as many as 500 of his followers; and
that Saul believed he himself had personally encountered the risen Jesus.
That's pretty much it. We know nothing of what happened in the tomb between Good Friday evening and Easter Sunday morning. It's a mystery, and likely always will be. Acknowledging this — facing the facts about our limited information — need not detract from our trust in God and our veneration of Jesus.
Barely 48 hours ago, we commemorated Jesus's extreme faithfulness to God. He, Jesus, deserves better than Updike's ipse-dixit, false-choice assertions.