Whatever happened to the resurrection?
A few months ago, my wife and I were watching t.v. and ran across a show about old Los Angeles. The show described things that had been here, but are no longer around. Restaurants, animal parks, and amusement parks had been here, but some of them closed. Old footage of these places made them alive again, and if you remembered those places, it was a moment where you were transported to those memories.
It’s this way in the Christian life, too. We live our lives without considering the supernatural aspect of our faith. You and I get caught up in the “have to’s” and “musts” of everyday living.
But, every once in a while, we are reminded of Old (read, Ancient) spiritual things. Maybe a loved one passes away, or we witness some tragedy on t.v. We wonder to ourselves, “I wonder if these people are going to heaven?” If we are reflective at all, we may even consider what this means.
What we are really considering is the Resurrection from the dead. This is a unique belief the Christian faith. But, it is also a complex one. Over the past couple of years, some have undertaken the task of writing on the resurrection (one example here – just an example, not advocating the author’s positions). Different Christian denominations have taken up different positions on its importance and what it means. Of course, the center of resurrection is Jesus Christ who said, “I am the resurrection and the life”.
And, who did Jesus say this to? What was the circumstance? Lazarus had just passed away (Do you remember “Jesus wept”? This was over Lazarus’ death), and His sister Martha (the busy one) came out to meet Jesus:
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (NIV)
After this, Jesus goes to the tomb, has the stone removed and, “called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
It is beneficial to read the entire passage in context because Jesus is seen to be so Divine and so human. What could put the doubts of Martha away more powerfully than “I am the resurrection and the life”.
This resurrected life is complex, though. It is not based on being chosen. It is not based on the good works of personal morality. It is not based on efforts of social justice, intelligence, charisma, or prayer. It is not based on political point of view, personal success, or social stature. In fact, if our faith is in any of these things, you and I have abandoned our resurrection. And, we have.
But thanks be to God in Christ Jesus! He is reminding us this day that we have received the resurrected life in His resurrection. It is strange to consider, but we are already resurrected beings in this temporal world. Jesus has done it. We were born both alive (physically) and yet dead (spiritually). And Jesus is the one who came to you in the tomb of your (and my) stillbirth, calling you to come out in the waters of your baptism. There, Jesus proclaimed to you and I, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”.
We still have to pass through the suffering of physical death. It is a sobering thought. But, as we approach that time, let us be reminded of what Jesus said to the Sadducees (they didn’t believe in a resurrection), “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”, who, “… is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt. 22:32). It is the guarantee that, on the last day, our bodies wil be raised up from the grave and glorified because of Him. This Jesus is our resurrection, both in this life, and in the life to come.