Tuesday, April 05, 2016
Why the Resurrection of Jesus Matters
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” he said. “He is not here. He is risen.” Out of all of the liturgically correct responses we hold dear in the church, I have to say that “He is risen indeed!” is one of my favorites. The resurrection of Jesus is so very basic and fundamental to our proclamation about God, and yet for many it seems to be an “idle tale.”
It seems that the more we know about scientific processes and discoveries, the greater claim we want to make on our ability to understand the mysteries of the universe. The unknown is simply the “not known yet.” Scientific curiosity is certainly a good thing, but it can at times become a sticking point for those who do not believe what they cannot observe. Likewise, the more we know about the human body and disease and metabolic processes, the more impossible it seems that the resurrection of Jesus could have ever occurred.
Of course, this point has been argued from the very beginning – well before the development of the scientific method. One of the earliest conflicts for followers of Jesus was about his humanity versus his divinity. How could it be otherwise when even Peter tells the centurion, Cornelius, that Jesus only appeared to certain witnesses? Wouldn’t you think that God would have wanted more people to have seen this miracle?
And yet it is precisely because of our desire for proof that the experience of the resurrected Jesus was entrusted to only a few. It is precisely because of our desire to control the narrative that God revealed God’s self in a way that can’t really be added to or taken away from. Either Jesus was raised from the dead or he was not. This is a fairly central belief that we have to reconcile if we are to follow Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus, if we take it seriously, is a game changer. It is the action that completes the promise made by Isaiah that God will create a new heaven and a new earth. This vision that Isaiah cast was certainly a message of hope for Israelites returning from captivity. He made promises of land and prosperity, but all of that is just fall out from the larger promise. For God did not just promise renewal or restoration. God promised to make all things new.
And Peter was certainly thinking of this when he said that all the prophets were testifying to the resurrection of Jesus. Every promise God ever made led to the cross. Every hope and every fear that we have shared– as God’s creation – is answered by the two bedazzled men at the tomb who said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!”
It is important that we understand that the resurrection of Jesus is not simply metaphorical. The reason that a physical resurrection is central to our proclamation of God is because a symbolic death and a symbolic resurrection only lead to the possibility that things might work out OK for you if you believe that they will.
But when we say that he is risen indeed, we are affirming that God is God. We are saying that God has authority over life and death, and that through God’s action of the physical resurrection of Jesus we can have hope. We have hope not only in life, but even in death.
Sadly I am reminded of a post on an acquaintances’ social media page from a few days ago. He said, “Last night my friend’s daughter died. Please pray for my friend and his wife. God did not cause her death. God did not "need another angel.” God did not take her. God is a God of life and joy, not death and sorrow. God did welcome that beautiful girl into our true home. And God has been with that family and will continue to be with them. He is strengthening them, and comforting them (He is the only one who can comfort them). Because of Easter we know that that precious little girl is in fact alive and with God, but I cannot imagine the heartache for those parents who are left on this Earth. Please pray for them to see God and to lean on God to get through this unimaginably painful time.”
That’s what this day is all about. It’s not about bunnies and eggs. It’s about the resurrection, and the hope it brings in all things. When we proclaim that he is risen, we do not intend to rationalize or make sense of it. When we proclaim that he is risen, we do not say it because it is good theology and sound doctrine. When we proclaim that he is risen, we say it because that is what we have experienced, and because it is what our faith teaches us to expect.
Life is full of tragedies, large and small. In our disappointments and losses, we need to know that there is something more to life. And when we hear the story of the resurrection of Jesus, we remember. Like the women at the tomb it quickens something within us. It puts things in perspective and gives us a reason to tell others, “This thing you are facing is not the end!”
And if we, like Peter, find ourselves racing to the tomb expecting to see Jesus, then we will simply be amazed and bewildered. Of course the story does not stop there. Jesus later appears to Peter and the other disciples, but today we are challenged with just those words, “He is risen.”
Affirming the resurrection of Jesus means affirming the death of Christ – the one anointed by God to demonstrate God’s active presence in the world. Affirming the death of Christ means affirming the problem of sin and self-centeredness that has never truly gone away. And affirming the resurrection of Jesus means affirming the power of God to break through even our own self-centeredness.
It means that our hope is not limited to our ability to make it through our current struggles, for our hope is grounded in the expectation that we will experience our own resurrection in this life and in the life to come. Our tombs of addiction, fear, affluence without compassion, racism, sexism, and homophobia cannot hold us when we hear that he is risen and we remember that this is what Jesus came to do.
Jesus came to demonstrate the power of God over sin and death. Jesus came to call our attention to the fact that God’s kingdom is at hand. And in his life he taught and healed gave us an example to follow. In his death he challenged the powers that attempt to control and condemn. And in his resurrection he continues to offer us hope and new life every day, even as we await eternal reunion with him and with those we love.
And so, on this day we proclaim that he is risen! And we claim all of the opportunity and responsibility that comes with it. We claim the hope that builds us up and saves us from our own limitations. We claim the freedom from the sins and attitudes that keep us from recognizing the humanity of others. We claim the responsibility of running to others that may need to hear that Christ is risen. And we even claim the responsibility to demonstrate the Kingdom of God through our compassion, our willingness to become limited, and our trust in God to hold us close in this life and in the life to come!
And in this hope we will approach God’s table today – knowing that the work of Christ to bring us into a common union with God and one another was finished on the cross, knowing that our proclamation has only just begun. For we believe, and we proclaim, “He is risen indeed!”