Originally published April 13, 2006
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10)
A part of me is embarrassed by the resurrection. The cross is a clean and simple, though gracious, transaction. We love talking about how Jesus died for us. The resurrection is tougher. Now that I am forgiven, what does the resurrection have to do with anything? I feel pretty good about telling people that Jesus died to save sinners. Even if the details are a little foggy to them, they get the idea of sacrificial love. In our naturalistic society, the idea of the resurrection can only seem a pre-scientific myth, just another version of Osiris. "What is this babbler trying to say?"
Human religions—from Hinduism to Atheism, from Buddhism to Disney—agree that death is not an evil; it is a natural part of life. In our society, we can only celebrate the life of those who die; mourning is hardly acceptable since death and life are all one. The world beats this idea into our heads to displace the idea that is born there: we are all heading toward death and that is a profound evil.
In a world that has been anesthetized to the pain of death by religious and scientific reassurances, preaching relief from that pain is a non sequitur. The Athenians didn't get it; my co-workers don't get it; often, my own heart doesn't get it. Besides, in a world divorced from its God, our life is so dim and partial, it is not always all that different from death. The daily grind and ceaseless march of prosaic tragedy can even give death a seeming edge over life: "I have been half in love with easeful death."
The resurrection life that Jesus offers drives back all the brain numbing philosophies that twist life and death together. Resurrection life is a child's Christmas morning, a bride's wedding day, a father holding his newborn, a son returning from war—all rolled into one and magnified by the Hubble telescope. This is a life so valuable, to miss out on it is a cause to cry to the end of time. This is a life so sweet, to not taste it is to burn in a fire of regret forever. Life and death are no circle; they are separated by a vast immovable gulf. Resurrection life is so un-death, a three day old corpse locked in a stone vault cannot resist it. Neither can my stony heart.
Jesus says, "I am the resurrection." Resurrection life is no more or less than our relationship with Jesus. It is living in intimate peace with your maker. The resurrection sometimes means little to me because of my weak relationship with Jesus. But this is why Jesus rose from the dead, so that he could make a way for me to come to him. I read his word a little and get a reminder of who he is. I see his Spirit working in me and others, and I think of him. That isn't much, but it starts something stirring, a searing spark of pure life without any of the rotten admixtures of this tainted world.
The resurrection life in me reminds me that the Lord of all creation is standing by me, after having given all for me, waiting for me to show him some gesture of gratitude or friendship. He looks at me not with condescension, smoldering impatience, or resentment, but unchanging longing and love. Now every little thought that takes me from him becomes repugnant and horrible to me, stinking of death. I am made for you. I am made to share a life with you that could not be reasonable or right to have an ending. All of a sudden, the gray world which cannot imagine such a life is what seems mythological. His love endures forever. How could the Lord of creation, the God of love and life, change his mind and let the objects of his eternal love cease? Because I am, you are. Because I always will be, so will you. Lord come.