Archives for posts with tag: Resurrection

risen

It never occurred to me to consider the Easter story from the perspective of the soldiers who were commanded to find Jesus’ body and kill the notion that “the Nazarene” was resurrected. I never considered that God could use the commands of a Roman governor to change the heart of a Roman soldier. While it is a new perspective for me, it is so like God to allow those who seek the truth to find it in His story.

 I wonder how many stories we don’t know. I wonder what post resurrection appearances or miracles are unknown to us because God chose to make those personal, rather than eternal. I wonder what would happen today if we pursued the truth, rather than trying to prove ourselves right. I wonder what the Church would look like if we were as interested in being in God’s presence as we are in achieving our self-prescribed goals.

 Perhaps my favorite scene in the movie is when the soldier goes to sit on a rock with Jesus at dawn. The soldier says, “I was there when you died.” It’s not profound or deeply philosophical. It’s not a great statement of faith. It has far more to do with his doubt than his belief. But his honesty led him to God. May it be so for us.

 Go see the movie. Allow yourself to celebrate the miracle of Easter and the privilege of knowing God.

 

Resurrection

Most people believe in life after death. Religions throughout the world and history have taught that death is not the end. Witches and mediums claim to use séances to speak to the dead. Many entertain themselves with stories, movies, and video games built around characters like ghosts, vampires, and zombies who “come back from the dead”. Millions believe in reincarnation, the idea that how you behave in this life will determine what kind of life form you become next. There is almost something innate in humans that leads us to believe that death is not the end.

When God sent his son as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of his people, his purpose was not just to die to atone for the sins of his people; his purpose was resurrection – to give them eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection is the defining concept for Christianity. If it didn’t happen, he is nothing more than a great prophet and teacher…but if it did, it is evidence that we worship the God who is more powerful than death, who is defined by love and mercy for his children, and who provided the means for them to spend eternity in his presence. His resurrection makes all the difference.

Jewish authorities wanted to destroy the Christ because he threatened their power. Roman authorities wanted to keep the peace during Passover. Both groups needed Jesus to be dead and stay dead. Rome posted additional guards at his tomb to make sure that he didn’t leave the tomb. (Mat 27:62-66) Lots of “experts” (including the History Channel!) have gone to great lengths to offer some explanation of what happened on Easter morning that doesn’t include resurrection. Some say he didn’t really die on the cross, that he just swooned and they thought he was dead. Seems to me that Roman guards who regularly handled crucifixion detail would have known a dead body when they saw it. It also strikes me as incredibly unrealistic that a man who was beaten so severely that he couldn’t carry his cross, who then was nailed to it for hours, who had his side pierced with a spear, would have, from that weakened state, suddenly stirred to unwrap all his grave clothes, paused to fold the cloth around his face, and then summoned enough strength to move a 2 ton stone. Other “pseudo” experts have conjectured that the disciples actually stole his body just to perpetrate the myth of his resurrection. Why would they have taken the grave clothes off and left them in the tomb so they could carry a naked, dead body through the streets? And there is still the problem of the guards outside the tomb! I believe that the strongest validation of the resurrection is the total change in the behavior of the disciples. They ran from the guards at Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied even knowing Jesus in the courtyard of the trial, and they hid behind locked doors in fear of the authorities that might come for them next. And yet, after Easter and Pentecost, they became bold and outspoken about Jesus, especially with the leaders they so feared before his death. There are very few people who are willing to be persecuted and martyred for what they truly believe in; I know of none that have been willing to die to perpetrate a complete hoax. Their experience with the risen Christ changed their fear, their expectations, and their future.

Jesus’ body was physically resurrected. His soul didn’t just abandon a body he no longer needed; his tomb was empty. Many of the post resurrection accounts give evidence of a very real physical body. Mary mistook him for a gardener, not a ghost. Jesus’ hands and feet and side showed scars of the crucifixion. He offered to let Thomas touch his scars (John 20:24-29), he ate fish (Luke 24:49), and he eventually took that body with him when he ascended to heaven (Acts 1:8-9).

Anyone can throw away what is old and broken. Anyone can walk away from what is painful or hard and replace it with something that is shiny and new and easy. But God’s character consistently shows that he is all about redemption, not replacement. He doesn’t give us a list and say, “When you’re qualified, I will bless you.” He never says that anyone is too sinful, too far gone, too much of a mess for him to resurrect into a new creation. He consistently takes broken people who have a broken past, whatever that looks like, and make them into something new and better. He specializes in taking broken things – dreams, hearts, hopes, promises, and relationships – and remaking them into something with new purpose and power.

God’s power is most apparent when he brings new life to what we thought was dead. I suspect that he does this to remind us that resurrection is real. God put reminders of resurrection into his creation so that we wouldn’t forget that death is not the end; it is the beginning of new and different and better. Seasons consistently change showing the cycle that brings “life” after “death”. The barren bleakness of branches in winter become budding color palettes that signal spring. There is life within a seemingly dead seed. Landscapes ravaged by fire bloom and bud with new life within weeks. Decaying plant matter fertilizes soil for new growth. The caterpillar seems lifeless in the cocoon, but emerges as a symbol of spring and hope when it transforms into a butterfly. Baptism symbolizes dying to a life of sin and rising to a life of obedience.

God wants me to recognize this resurrection power in his world and in my life. Hopelessness and death are not the end. There may be times when God wants me to let go of what should be in my past and move forward to what will come. But sometimes he wants to bring new life to what seems dead. Situations or relationships that I’ve given up on as a lost cause, can suddenly become something new and better if I trust God to transform them, rather than manipulating to impose my will. My God is powerful enough take the broken pieces of this life and rebuild them into what will last for eternity. Let us worship the God who defeated death, and trust him to rebuild all that sin has destroyed.