The Status Quo
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the traditional site in Jerusalem marking Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Roman Catholics, Armenians, and Eastern Orthodox (primarily Greek Orthodox) share custodial responsibilities of the site. Each takes turns worshiping in various parts of the compound, but they can’t agree on its operations. They rely on a local Muslim group to hold the key to the door. A man greets tourists as they enter. The document that maintains calm is called the Status Quo agreement. It dates to 1853 when the Ottoman Turks wanted to preserve the holy sites for everyone to enjoy.
The phrase status quo literally means “the state in which [things were before].” We use it today to preserve the past and keep tradition alive. The great irony of course is there is nothing status quo about the crucifixion or resurrection of Jesus. As Matthew describes, it breaks through time and eternity. A new era begins, and a new covenant is signed that changes humanity. If the birth of Christ becomes the pivot on our calendar marking temporal years, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ changes our eternal sense of time. Death is defeated, new life is offered to all, and a door is opened through the Way of Jesus Christ.
Jesus returns to the people who denied and abandoned him just days earlier, creates a new community through them, and empowers them to go and testify to the world about the person they have just witnessed. He sends women to testify as the first apostles of resurrection to the other weary and afraid disciples. He offers a meal of bread and fish on the beach to disciples who have gone back to work and shows them the power of a resurrected Christ. He ascends to take his throne in heaven and await to return until all the forces that oppose him have been defeated.
This is the message that we proclaim this Easter. It compels us to come and see the place where the old passed away and where the new begins. God has ratified a new agreement with the world. Through the power of the resurrection, we go together and tell the news.