What a day to look forward to… the hope, because of the faithfulness of God, that the righteous will rise to participate in the age to come, to be with God when he comes to put all things right. Then right in the midst of the place that was to keep that hope alive, Jerusalem / Israel, probably as the day dawned, Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead. That he died was not disputed, that his body could not be found in the grave was not disputed, but the implications for Israel and for the world? Those implications were just too much for many. Deny he had risen – the disciples had stolen the body – otherwise they had a major issue to face.
There would have been no controversy worth arguing about if the disciples claimed that Jesus was alive beyond death. Life after death was not a focus nor that controversial, but resurrection was both the hope and the controversial element that raised enormous questions. Crucified by the Romans, the death penalty for sedition and rebellion against the state, seen through Jewish eyes as confirmation that he was a blasphemer, cursed of God being all those who ‘hang on a tree’. For the early Christians to state that this Jesus had been raised by God as an affirmation of his faithful life was an affront. Within a short while Saul of Tarsus was pursuing all deviant Jews who had come to believe this about Jesus. At one level it would not have concerned him what the pagans thought, but for Jews to believe such a thing would only bring yet more judgement on Israel, therefore in line with his passion for holiness he set about imprisoning and even sentencing to death such believers.
The resurrection, human life in bodily form, was God’s huge affirmation of Jesus: he declared him to be the son of God in power through the resurrection, but it is more than an affirmation of Jesus, the resurrection is the hugest affirmation of humanity. For humanity to be in the image of God and set in creation was a strong affirmation, but to raise Jesus bodily is an affirmation of the fitness of humanity to participate in the age to come, and goes beyond even that creational identity. The ‘yes’ echoes around the walls of the empty tomb. God is for humanity… God wants to spend time, for ever, with humanity.
Because of the resurrection:
- We must have a high theology of and for humanity.
- We have a firm assurance that what we see around us is not all going to burn up. Through the fire, yes, but through the fire.
- We recognise a new world has appeared for those who can see it. That new world is calling now for those to inhabit it with the values of the age to come. That original great Easter morning opens the door to the great new world that is coming, and is here.
- We see all of life that affirms dignity, well-being and relational health as resonating with values that heaven responded to that morning. We cannot elevate the ‘spiritual’ above the ‘mundane’. The strength of heaven is so invasive that God is found wherever we travel.
What a day… what a hope… what a provocation to LIVE now, to sown now for then.