Easter ‘proclamation demands much more than an intellectual consideration. It is a summons to participate in a particular form of life, to become a “new creation” in Christ.’ — Brian D. Robinette,. Grammars of Resurrection: A Christian Theology of Presence and Absence (Herder & Herder Books) (p. 7). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
Years ago now, I was in a conversation with a man who was a follower of Sai Baba, an Indian religious leader who died in 2011.
He told me that he believed without a doubt that Jesus had risen from the dead; but it wasn’t of any importance to him personally.
It didn’t matter to him, it didn’t change his life at all. It proved that Jesus was a holy man, but my friend had his own holy man, Sai Baba.
The conversation went on for some time, but I have to say I was a bit dumbfounded. Lost for words. I couldn’t get how someone could say they believe in the resurrection yet brush it aside, as though it were unimportant.
Thinking about it, my friend didn’t believe in the Resurrection as the New Testament describes it. Let me explain.
It seems to me that my friend believed that Jesus had returned from the dead. He had come back to life. He had re-entered life and was subject to all its conditions, including fatigue, hunger, thirst, and death. That’s not a New Testament resurrection.
It seems to me that my friend believed that Jesus had risen from the death because of his immense spiritual power, a power available to anyone who has the knowledge to tap into it. That’s not a New Testament resurrection.
What do I mean by ‘New Testament Resurrection’?
Most people of Jesus’ time looked for a resurrection in the future. A general resurrection of the dead, when everyone would be reunited with their physical bodies and face the judgement of God. Some would be judged as righteous, others would be condemned.
What they didn’t expect was that anyone would face that judgement before the very end of time.
When Jesus was raised from the grave, he had already faced that final judgement. God had declared him righteous, even though he had been rejected by the religious and political lawmakers of the day. Even though he had undergone the death of the lowest of the low. God vindicated Jesus, so much so that he received the final and absolute verdict of innocence.
So whoever joins themselves to this vindicated Jesus is also judged righteous. His righteousness covers us completely. In Christ, we have passed from death to life.
That’s New Testament Resurrection. We are risen with Jesus. His resurrection is also ours. By faith, we place ourselves in him for eternal life.
The important thing is not to ‘believe’ that Jesus is risen as a fact, as an event in our thoughts. The important thing is to trust the Resurrection. Diana Butler Bass once wrote:
The point isn’t that you believe in the resurrection. Any fool can believe in a resurrection from the dead. The point is that you trust in the resurrection. And that’s much, much harder to do.
My friend the Sai Baba follower had a kind of belief in a kind of resurrection. But all that did was keep the risen crucified One at bay. It insulated my friend from the real challenge of the Resurrection: that Jesus is the focus of God’s dealings with humanity.
He is Saviour of all and Lord of life.
The stories of the risen Jesus may still puzzle us. A risen Christ who can enter locked rooms and eat fish? A risen Saviour whose wounds are still visible?
There’s a lot to puzzle over, and people will always put their minds to it in order to help us understand. But the risen Jesus is not really a puzzle to be solved; Christ is a mystery to be entered, a mystery that we move deeper and deeper into and a mystery that never ends because it is also the mystery of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So trust the Resurrection. Trust that Christ died for you and rose again for you. Trust that his righteousness is yours. ‘Any fool can believe in a resurrection from the dead.’
But let us trust the risen Christ to mould our hearts, to re-make us from within, that we may grow in grace through the Spirit.
Ultimately, the life of faith is a response of love that leads us deeper into the mystery of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Choose faith, choose life, choose love.
A sermon at Wellington Point Uniting Church, Easter 3B, 15 April 2018