Over the past year or two I’ve began to see the resurrection in a whole new way, I have begin to see it as something intrinsically important to the Christian faith.
The problem I find, more than often, is that we often think we know what it means.
“Jesus was raised to life which shows our sins were really dealt with”
Yes okay, fair enough but the resurrection cannot mean just that. Resurrection is not just the rubber stamp confirming Jesus ‘dealt with your sin’. Jesus resurrection, as a bodily human being, promises those who trust, obey and follow him and his way now, that the signs of that resurrection and restorative new creation are happening and energising their lives now; with the firm hope and expectation that they will walk again, after their death, on this earth, in what the Jews and Early Christians called, the age to come.
We may also say something like this about the resurrection.
“Jesus defeated death and now offers us eternal life because of the resurrection”
Again yes okay, but this is thoroughly nondescript. What does eternal life mean to you? Life forever in heaven? Was Jesus’ resurrection just the resurrection of Jesus, offering nothing more?
Eternal life is a life that begins now, here, on earth, with a new resurrection energy and quality that promises to continue bodily, on earth, when God comes to renew all things.
Resurrection is nothing short of a new world dawning in the midst of this one. A new creation working all signs of death and human sinfulness that make this creation a mess in reverse. This is anticipated in the resurrection. In short resurrection is not about heaven, it is about here.
I truly think that if resurrection is just the confirmation our sins are dealt with, and that if it is only Jesus who defeated death and all we get is life forever in heaven, that it is not really good news. The resurrection gives everything legs and if we do not let its expansiveness capture our attentions, letting it take us beyond thinking about our sin being sorted out or that it confirms Jesus having mad skillz or that it shows we get to go elsewhere. If we get this wrong or misplace significance it has the potential to be disastrous.
I think the resurrection means something massive. I think the resurrection says something significant about our sin situation and about who Jesus is but I also think it says more. I think the resurrection says new creation is happening now – in you and me and in the world and that new creation is coming fully in future, when God comes to restore all things, including our bodies.
This is the first of three posts exploring what it means to live in the wake of the resurrection of God.
Resurrection via crucifixion
The crucifixion marked the death of God.
This marked God’s absolute identification with all that it means to be human. God in Jesus becomes a ‘pure victim’, suffering at the hands of manipulative political and religious leaders who keep their world ordered through violence and oppression. On the cross God in Christ undergoes the true face of the human experience becoming anathema, dying abandoned to all structures capable of giving life, doomed to death, any semblance of meaning. Here is God, the king of the kingdom Jesus’ entire life was committed to realising, takes up ultimate solidarity with man – entering the void, undergoing death.
It is good to note this because here we see that God is not interested in hierarchical judgement and condemnation, God comes to undergo life as we know it, he brings his rule and dominion to it – for the sake of claiming it.
This is where the resurrection on some level begins to find its place.
“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” Mark 9:31
The gospels report, with whatever level of hindsight you may want to afford, that Jesus was confident that his death would not be his end, that in whatever way the triune God was active in this man, a resurrection was coming after his death.
Two qualifications on resurrection
- Throughout the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus is identified as the messiah of God’s kingdom, that is to say Jesus is the king of God’s way of taking up residence and rule in the Israel (and the world) again. The resurrection is not Jesus respawn time, it is not an arbitrary look at the special skills Jesus has. The resurrection is fundamentally vital for Jesus to be the king that he was understood to be (‘You are the Messiah (read: true king of Israel)’ Mark 8:29) – the resurrection is Jesus’ (and therefore God’s) vindication over and against the religious and political leaders, Jewish and Gentile, that executed him. (Chiefly because of his rival understanding of what it meant for God to rule and take up charge in Israel again.) The resurrection shows Jesus to be who he said he was (the king), doing things the way God said he should do them. In short, without the resurrection, Jesus was a waste of time. Additionally, the resurrection is inappropriately approached with hindsight that is absent of surprise because…
- No one expected this to happen! The disciples were clueless. I mean, I don’t know if you know this but, people don’t come back from being very thoroughly dead after an extended period of time. The Jewish worldview expected a resurrection on the day God returned to restore all things, the Day of the Lord, no one expected an in-the-middle-of-time resurrection experienced only by single individual. Least of all to an impoverished wannabe prophet come messiah-king from the sticks in Galilee.
With that in mind it is appropriate to try and connect these two points with the Good Friday reflections… and this shall occur tomorrow.