I think just about every fan of Stark Trek has opinions on which captain is their favorite. Star Trek fans can be divided by their favorite captain. A lot of fans have strong opinions why Picard is the best captain to helm the enterprise, or why the underrated Janeway is really the best captain. Honestly, I have a hard time choosing a favorite a captain. However, if I had to choose one, I would give the edge to Captain Kirk for the original series for one specific reason. He did not believe in an unwinnable scenario. One of the famous tidbits from Star Trek lore is that Captain Kirk is the only person who ever beat the Kobayashi Maru. This was a test that featured an “unwinnable scenario”. It was meant to teach captains to face defeat. However, Kirk believed that everything was winnable and he found a way to win. He cheated and reprogrammed the scenario to make it easier. Facing certain defeat and finding a way out of an unwinnable scenario became a prominent theme in many iterations of Star Trek after the Kobayashi Maru was first introduced in the Wrath of Khan movie.
In the liturgical life of the church, Holy week goes through the last week of Jesus’ life. It starts with the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday, continues with the tension of the last Supper on Maundy Thursday, and reaches tragedy on Good Friday. During Holy Week, the faithful remember the time when Jesus faced his own version of Kobayashi Maru. Starting with his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced his own unwinnable scenario, and by all accounts after six hours of hanging on a cross on Friday it looked like he lost. Despite the events of Good Friday, Jesus was fully confident that this was going down as a “W”, and as the scripture reminds, he even told his disciples this when they were still in Galilee. Jesus must not have believed in no-win scenarios either, because like Captain Kirk, he cheated. Jesus broke the rules. He destroyed the system of sin and death. He made all things new, and found a way around the unwinnable scenario. On Easter we celebrate that not only did Jesus come back for the win, but he made it possible for us to find victory in our own unwinnable scenario.
We, humanity, were in an unwinnable situation. We were created to be in relationship with God, but we were cut off from God because of our own sinful decisions. Worse, we seemed to be incapable of overcoming our pride, our selfishness, and our greed. On our own our best intentions we fell short. We could not overcome our sin and we could not reconcile ourselves to God. God fixed this relationship once and for all. He sent his son, part of his very self, to be our Savior. Jesus showed us a better way to live. Jesus fulfilled the old law by following its heart of loving God and loving others. Then, even though Jesus was the only person who had not sinned, even though he was the only person innocent, and the only person who didn’t deserve to suffer consequences for misdeeds, he was punished. Jesus died for the sins of the world, but he did not stay that way.
Jesus was resurrected. He was fully alive, as he was before he died. He had a staring contest with death, and death blinked first. The rule of reality is that dead is dead, but Jesus changed the rules. He created a new option. In the letter to the Corinthians Paul put it this way, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death, is your victory? Where O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus won the victory. He beat the unwinnable scenario by refusing to stay dead. The reason why we celebrate Easter is because Jesus did this for us. Jesus did not go for the win for his own benefit, but he did it for us. Jesus took on the impossible. He faced an unwinnable scenario so that we too might experience victory. When we confess our sins and believe that our sins were crucified with Christ, then they are gone. Wiped clean. Forever forgiven. We are reconciled with our Creator once more, in relationship with the God who created us and never stopped loving us. Because Jesus won the victory, we too can triumph in our unwinnable scenario. This is grace. This is the gospel. This is why we celebrate Easter.