This past Sunday, Christians around the world celebrated Easter, the commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Next Sunday night, fans of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead will celebrate the finale of the sixth season of the AMC TV show about reanimated corpses. Coincidence? We’ll see…
Frequently, it’s joked around the internet that Jesus was the first zombie, even going as far as to re-dub Easter as “Zombie Jesus Day.” Unsurprisingly, the two terms have experienced a surge in popularity every year around Easter since 2006. However, there are a few key differences between Jesus’ resurrection and a zombie’s ascent from the crypt.
Fish and flesh
When you think of a zombie, what’s the first image that comes to mind? For some, it’s the aforementioned Walking Dead. For others, perhaps a George Romero-style, shambling Dawn of the Dead sort of reanimated corpse. Perhaps it’s even a less classic zombie like those from 28 Days Later, or a less seriously threatening zombie, such as the ones in Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, or Warm Bodies. But whatever your preferred interpretation of zombie lore may be, I’d be willing to bet that the undead you imagined was clamoring for one of two things: flesh or braaaaaaaaiiinns…
Either way, that’s not how things worked for the Risen Christ. In Luke 24:35-48 (Thursday’s reading in the Octave of Easter), we see Jesus eat fish with his disciples, and he breaks bread with them as well (John 21:1-14). Also, just for the record, there don’t seem to be any disciples that went missing mysteriously after encountering the Risen Christ, so I’d say it’s a pretty safe guess that he stuck to bread and fish, and wasn’t using his buddies as a light snack on the side.
No headshots, please!
Pop quiz: How do you kill a zombie? Usually, the answer is a good shot to the head, whether from a bow, a gun, or simply a well-wielded blunt object — anything to separate the brain from the rest of the body and stop that thing from moving. It’s Zombie 101. The problem with this when it comes to Christ is that he was raised to eternal life rather than simply back to mortality, meaning that he wouldn’t be able to die again (and therefore isn’t really a zombie). You might recall hearing about this in Romans 6:9 on the Easter Vigil.
Closer to the typical zombie model would be Lazarus, whom Jesus brought back to mortal life at the tearful behest of his friends Martha and Mary of Bethany. Watch your head, Lazarus — just in case.
On the third day, He rose again (and then the virus spread)
Let’s get this out of the way, too — Jesus wasn’t infected. He didn’t have T Virus or Rage, or any other medical affliction that brought him back to life. He wasn’t reanimated by voodoo or scientific experimentation or anything like that. On the contrary, Jesus rose from the dead to welcome humanity into new life and to redeem us from our sins. That’s pretty much the opposite of zombie-ism. However, when he rose, Jesus did spread something that is rather infectious — saving grace. Like the virus zombies spread that makes others become likewise, grace brings us into the family of Christ as brothers and sisters. Unlike what zombies spread, grace quashes death’s designs and allows us to keep our sense and our souls.
So what have we got?
Well, although I wouldn’t argue against the notion that Jesus is among the closest things to a zombie humanity has experienced solely based on his resurrection from the dead, as you can see there’s clearly more to it than that. While you can try to make the argument that he fits the bill, it ultimately just falls flat in light of the evidence against it. That said, I’m looking forward to the resurrection of the dead as a whole just as much as anybody else — but that’s a discussion for another day. And when it comes, I’ll be ready. Happy Easter!