Stop and contemplate the meaning of “resurrection”. It’s easy to glide over the word, take it for granted as part of the Christian story, and not think of its implications as we make our journey in faith today. As we are still in the aftermath of Easter, this is perhaps an appropriate time to give it some thought.
In an age where every second television program seems to involve a zombie apocalypse (GOT fans will know what I mean…and will know what ‘GOT’ refers to) the possibility of existence after death is topical. So, first thing to note: that is not what Christians mean when they reference ‘resurrection’.
We are not talking about some sort of mythical reanimation of the corpse. Rather, we have in mind the enduring existence of the life essence (often referred to as your ‘soul’) that makes you uniquely who you are. That is to say: who you are does not go out of existence with your death.
Using that as the starting point, we see in the experience of Jesus a development: that death was unable to contain him, not only spiritually but physically. As God, death could not defeat the life that is the essence of who he is, and as human, his body was not left out of the experience of this victory.
The truth is, no one really knows what all this means. Even the disciples, who experienced Jesus in physical form after his death, were confused. They both didn’t recognise him…and yet they did (see John 21:4). That is to say, Jesus was discernibly himself in his physicality, and yet was different enough not to be immediately apparent at first glance. There is both a continuity and a discontinuity with Jesus as he’d always been. That may be the most we can say.
Except to offer a thought: resurrection is not just about a past event (the experience of Jesus) or a future hope (our own resurrection after death). Of most immediate relevance, it is reflected in the life that Jesus offers to breathe into your day today.
I wonder what this might mean for you. It is your unique life, here today, into which God is seeking to pour his life. The fact that you exist is the first indication of this. Without God’s life in you, you would not be here. The question is, what happens next? Do you choose to respond to the invitation God has for you to enter more and more fully into his life, or do you resist? Do you even know where to start?
Here’s a hint: responding to that question is the starting point – just keep sitting with it and asking God to lead you forward into the resurrected life he has for you, which will culminate in your own spiritual and physical resurrection in the fullness of God’s time.
Without the Resurrection, Jesus Was Just Another Wise Teacher
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cells dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
Each soft Spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That – pierced - died, withered, paused, and then
Regathered out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
Faded credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-maché,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.
And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
Opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
Embarrassed by the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.
‘Seven Stanzas for Easter’
By John Updike
(from Telephone Poles and Other Poems, 1963)
This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.