As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. . .” (Ephesians 2:1, NIV).
In the Bible resurrection means being completely, altogether dead -- soul, spirit, and body -- and being raised to life again. It is a miracle. Even though Jesus predicted his crucifixion and resurrection, his followers had no real sense of what his resurrection would mean. It simply rocked their world, their assumptions, and the trajectory of their lives.
Actually in the Bible itself there is no real description of what happened on Easter morning. There is no account of Jesus’ body laying in the tomb and then he sits up and stands up and walks out. Between his burial and Easter morning there is nothing said about the condition of the body. His body is committed to the cave-like sepulcre and then on Easter morning he is in the garden talking to the women who have come to anoint his corpse with spices.
There is no Jesus just standing up. There is no epic story of how his body looked, no legendary narrative of what it was like to see a dead man being made alive again, and no moment-by-moment account of what physically transpired so that he emerged into the garden precincts.
But clearly something happened. He was seen alive and well after he had been buried. The apostle Paul recounts how over 500 people saw him post-Easter (1 Corinthians 15:6). Now following Jesus proved to make a huge difference -- so great a difference that it has literally changed the focus of millions of human lives. The physical reality of Jesus’ body being made alive again (not merely resuscitated) gives weight to the words, “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace that we have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
Indeed if the resurrection of Jesus actually happened then we are dealing with a huge shift in how we see our lives. If Jesus was actually resurrected, our bodies matter. Our hope that we will be reunited with those we have lost in death proves true. And age-old yearning that all of the creation will be made right is affirmed.
Author Frederick Buechner wrote that we often dismiss the astounding physical reality of Jesus’ resurrection by making it more of a picture-language “miracle” rather than reality. We say it is the “miracle” of truth that never dies. We explain it as the “miracle” of a life so beautiful that two thousand years have left the memory of it undimmed. We see it as the “miracle” of doubt turning into faith, fear into hope. But it is much more than those explanations.
Resurrection -- if it happened like the Bible said it happened -- means that those who follow Jesus will at death pass not into an impersonal spiritual existence, but that we will actually have restored, resurrected bodies. We will not be ghostly spiritual beings, but embodied people who maintain their personal identity. We will be reunited with those who trust in Jesus’ resurrection power. As Tim Keller writes, “We get it all back -- the love, the loved ones, the goods, the beauty of life -- but in new, inimaginable degrees of glory and joy and strength.”
It was truth of the resurrected (propelled by God’s Spirit) that sent the gospel around the world and continues to do so at Easter 2018. This issue of The Spire is dedicated to the transforming power of Christ that is changing our world, our church, our families, our belief about the afterlife, and our hope. The transformative power of Jesus’ actual physical resurrection is changing up all of creation, including our church. Blessings on all of you as you celebrate Easter!