Most readers of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have no trouble seeing the parallels between Aslan’s death on the Stone Table and the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In both cases, the innocent Aslan and the sinless Christ are killed on behalf of a traitor (Edmund, Adam and his heirs) whose betrayal and disobedience have enslaved them to the power of the enemy (the White Witch, the devil). In both cases as well, the blood shed by the righteous scapegoat provided the ransom to buy back the traitor from the power of evil.
In Narnia, this exchange is called the deeper magic—an ancient promise that when an innocent, willing victim died in the place of a traitor, the Stone Table would crack and death would start working backwards. In our world, the exchange is called the atonement—the powerful and eternal promise that when Christ died on the Cross, he brought us back into a right relationship with God the Father.
As a pledge of those promises, both Aslan and Christ rose from the dead, and, in doing so, crushed the power of the White Witch and the devil. In Narnia, this resurrection occurs at dawn, some six hours or so after Aslan is killed; in our world, it occurred on the third day, on that first glorious Easter morning.
That Lewis means these two resurrections to parallel one another is also something that few readers miss. However, there is a deeper level to Lewis’s reworking of Easter that often goes unnoticed by even the most careful reader—a reworking that has the power to open our eyes to a dimension of the Resurrection that is too often overlooked by Christians.
In Lewis’s telling, after Aslan rises from the dead, he leaps into the courtyard of the White Witch’s castle to rescue the poor Narnians whom the Witch has turned to stone. One by one, Aslan goes up to the statues and breathes on them, causing them to regain their status as living creatures. Though Lewis does not say this directly, it is implied that before experiencing and defeating death, Aslan did not have the power to breathe on statues and bring them back to life.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes a vital distinction between the first Adam, whom God made a living soul, and the last Adam (Christ), whom God made a life-giving spirit. Unlike Adam (that is, us), who possessed a life that eventually ran down and died, the Risen Christ possesses Life itself—a life that can never get sick or grow old or die.
In Mere Christianity (IV.1), Lewis makes an equally vital distinction between our own mortal, creaturely life (bios in Greek) and the eternal, indestructible Life of God (zoe). To become a Christian does not mean gaining more bios: to do so would merely extend our life by a few decades. No, becoming a Christian means having our bios killed and replaced with zoe.
And that is why, Lewis concludes, the transformation from an unregenerate sinner to a saved saint is less like a sick man becoming a healthy man and more like a statue coming to life.
When Christ rose again on that first Easter Sunday, he went through death (bios) and came out on the other side. As a result he now possesses Life (zoe) and can share that Life with others.