Perhaps you’re familiar with the movie Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and starring Bruno Ganz as the Fuhrer himself. Ganz brilliantly portrays Hitler much as he was in the final days of his life- a tottering ruin of a man, crumbling both physically and mentally, sealed in the bunker that would ultimately become his tomb. With the Nazi army devastated and the Russian troops steadily tightening their grip on Berlin, baby-faced members of the Hitler Youth take to defending the streets of a city now reduced to ash. Everyone in Hitler’s bunker- from generals to the high ranking party officials- know with certainty that the Reich they had hoped would last a thousand years was about to face its end. And so what do they do? They party. In a particularly memorably scene in the movie, Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, gaily orders that champaign bottles be uncorked and drinks poured for one and all. Within minutes, jazz music is blaring from the gramophones, a dance floor is cleared, and the Nazis are partying like its 1945. As the evening wears on and the allied shelling continues to shake the concrete bunker around them, the aryan elite of the nation abandon all decorum and drink themselves into oblivion.
I believe that, in this one instance, the behaviour of the Nazis was quite rational. After all, if our time on earth is short and life proves to be nothing more than a meaningless cheat, then why not plunge ourselves in all manner of excess? We see such thinking, not only in defeated Nazis, but in people who see life and the world around them as nothing but a cosmic joke played at their expense. They celebrate but there is no joy in their celebration but only a wild, frenzied despair. This is a worldview characterized by a profound sense of defeat, the very kind of mentality that the Apostle Paul was referring to when he said, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:2). The gospel message, however, awakens humanity from despair and to a worldview of victory. Paul speaks of this victory at length in the fifteenth chapter of his letter to the Corinthians- a chapter whose theme centers around the resurrection of Christ. Here, Paul speaks of the victory of life over death. He speaks of the darkness being overwhelmed, swallowed, consumed whole by the light. “Death has been swallowed up in victory,” Paul writes, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The answer is clear: Sin and death, cruelty and injustice have been undone. How? Through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. “Thanks be to God!” Paul rejoices, “He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:7).
The joy of the Christian worldview is this: We believe that humanity is not beset on every side by enemies that are destined to destroy us. Rather, we believe that, as dark as things may seem, we stand in victory. The game of life has been rigged in our favour. Victory over the powers of cruelty, greed, injustice, sin and death is guaranteed- not on the basis of anything that we’ve done- but on the basis of the empty tomb of Christ. What, then, are we supposed to do in light of all of this? I suggest that we party. But not in a spirit of despair but in a spirit of joy. Indeed, not only may we party. We may also labour in a spirit of hope, knowing that whatever good work we put our hands to is, in the words of Paul, “not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
As we move into the third week of this Easter Season, Jasmine and I wish you joy in all of your partying and all of your labours.
By Terence Chandra