Murray Rae is professor of theology at Otago University in New Zealand. He wrote to James M. Houston this letter on August 14, 2003 which Dr. Houston included in his Letters of Faith through the Seasons for Holy Saturday.
The women who went to the tomb that first Easter morning and found that the crucified one has been raised, were witnesses to the great and final goal of God’s creative and redemptive love – the goal of new life! This mystery of God’s will, decisively known then, we still cannot know in all its fullness, although the apostle prays we shall go on learning.
It is important, of course, to know that it was the crucified one who was raised. In the agony of crucifixion, culminating in that anguished cry of “godforsakenness,” Christ entered the dark valley of human suffering and evil, and thus took upon himself, the agonies of all human history. How often we frail human beings struggle to make sense of suffering. How deeply we are wounded, not merely by physical pain, but by the anxiety that there is no end to it, and ultimately no relief. But that the one who was crucified should be raised, that the one whom the Creed says, “he descended into hell,” should not be left to languish there but be raised again to new life – this is the basis of Paul’s words that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:38-39).
Through the resurrection of the crucified one the Word of God resounds throughout history calling forth all those who have suffered, all those who have known forsakenness, and all those whose lives are stained by tears. The Word of God resounds after human words have come to an end, after they have uttered their worst – “Crucify him!” – or after speech has been reduced to groans. The Word of God sounds forth from the first Easter morning, and what is heard there is the sound of forgiveness and new life; it is the sound of Christ weaving a new melody into the strains of history that one day will swell into a great oratorio of praise. This is the plan for the fullness of time, that suffering and death will be no more, that every tear will be wiped from our eyes, and all flesh shall see together the glory and the love of God.
(James M. Houston, LETTERS OF FAITH THROUGH THE SEASONS, Volume 1, p.258)