Jesus: The sudden and unforeseen happy ending for the hopeless condition of man
In the early 1940s, the now-famous author JRR Tolkien coined the intriguing word, eucatastrophe, to describe happy endings in his stories such as the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Tolkien, being a student of language, added the Greek prefix “eu-”, meaning “good”, before catastrophe, turning this word’s meaning a full 180o. Whereas “catastrophe” refers to a sudden calamitous evil event, eucatastrophe, as conceived by Tolkien, was “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings you to tears.”
The eucatastrophes in Tolkien’s stories occur when the outlook is bleak, and all hope is lost for the beloved character. There is no exodus from the proverbial “rock and a hard place”. And then… a eucatastrophe!
What a great word! And what a great word to describe the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Fourteen generations after the Jews’ return from exile, (Matt. 1:17), their story seemed mired in hopelessness. The crush of Roman oppression and the spiritually suffocating religion of the pharisees. And then…a eucatastrophe! Jesus Christ arrives on the scene – a sudden happy turn with eternal significance! His life was marked by power, compassion, and the promise of abundant eternal life. And even when the hope He offered seemed finally out of reach while He hung on the cross, God raised Him from the dead!
The breathtaking surprise was that His death was for the payment of our sins! Jesus, the perfect lamb, was slain for us. He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him. By His stripes we are healed…we are saved…made righteous in God’s sight! (Isaiah 53:4-5) It is by grace that the protagonist (you and me) has been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, as it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
May this sudden happy turn pierce you with joy once again. And may you lean into the transformative and eternal ramifications of this eucatastrophe for YOUR life!