This is where it gets scary. The resurrection only makes sense as God’s “showing his hand” about the meaning of the cross. So I can’t have Easter joy if I don’t find joy in Jesus-on-the-cross. In fact, I can’t even believe in the resurrection, unless I want to believe in a God who would be so crazy as to identify himself with the crucified Jesus. God identifies with Jesus’ choice to risk being crucified, his refusal to make the compromises that could have saved him from it. Paul speaks of the foolishness and weakness of God shown on the cross. The resurrection, far from supporting the notion of a triumphalistic deity of power, mysteriously confirms how deeply hidden and baffling the Creator truly is, as he reveals that he is at one with the man who so willingly exposed himself with an open heart to the fate devised by political power and religious expediency to crush him.
Authentic Easter joy—the genuine pearl of great price—is unfeigned delight in my heart of hearts that a hidden God turns out to be so different from all the stuff, aggressive or sentimental, that gets fabricated about him. Centuries ago, a custom grew up of beginning Easter sermons with a joke, known as the risus paschalis. The subtlety of Easter joy is like getting a joke. It is impossible to explain the resurrection to someone who doesn’t get the foolishness of the cross. You either get it or you don’t. The real God has authenticated himself in an event only the poor in spirit can appreciate. Easter faith comes with a desire to be in on the secret, to get the joke.
From “The Real Thing” in Compass and Stars by Martin L. Smith (Church Publishing, 2007).