What if? What if the resurrection of Christ is actually part of the world’s story?
I wonder if the Bible’s take on the event hasn’t been sanitized in our understanding, wiped clean of its head-spinning, perhaps even offensive (?) implications. I wonder if all the anti-supernaturalism of learned folk, or the cultural demand to put religions on equal footing value-wise, or maybe even weak efforts at actually listening carefully to the Bible hasn’t nudged believers into the shallow view of resurrection-as-divine-magic-trick, a “look what I can do” sort of thing that simply validates Jesus as God. So…what I’m asking is, what if there’s more to it?
For instance, what if Jesus didn’t actually raise Himself? What if He couldn’t? Before you start picking up stones, go read the Apostle Paul again. Whenever he talks resurrection, He describes Jesus in the passive voice. For Paul, Jesus didn’t rise, He was raised (see Eph. 1:19-21, Col 2:12, Rom 8:34, etc). The human Christ wasn’t exactly winning His battle against sin’s curse. Death had a pretty good grip, such that the Father needed to come to His rescue. If that’s true, it has some pretty wild implications. It means the resurrection of Jesus might have more to do with his humanity than His divinity. It makes Easter a celebration not just of God proving His God-ness, but of God powerfully removing a deadly cancer from human flesh and blood, giving a man in the middle of history a thorough renewing (1 Cor. 15:42-43).
Or what if Jesus’ resurrection was just the beginning of a much larger resurrection operation? What if, as Paul again puts it, Jesus was a firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:20,23), the first rose to break the chill of winter in what is shaping to be a colorful spring? (Or… because spring training is on the mind, the opening day victory in what promises to be a championship season for the Phillies!). And even more, what if that future harvest is already breaking lose the frozen dirt, allowing the buds of new life to sprout? What if Jesus’ Spirit is already raising followers to share (in part) in His resurrection life (Col. 2:12-13, 3:1; Eph. 2:4-6)?
One more. My oldest daughter recently asked me why Jesus went back up to heaven after He was raised? It was one of those, gotta love when your daughter makes you look dumb moments. In my defense, I was driving at the time and wasn’t totally sure where I was going. So I’ll spare you my answer for now and say that I think a more interesting question for this discussion is why didn’t Jesus just go straight to heaven? Why did the Father bother raising Him to life here for those 40 days? I mean…the plan is just to go to heaven after you die…right? Well, what if heaven isn’t the ultimate goal? Or relatedly, what if resurrection isn’t just a Jesus thing, or even just a Jesus and us thing? What if resurrection is a Jesus and us and all the cosmos thing (Rom. 8:18-23)?
Well, now we’re close to pushing the buttons of those anti-supernaturalists, the all-religions-equal folk, maybe even those of us who’d rather our religion be a bit more tame and not so intrusive (demanding?) on our safe and routine lives. Maybe it’d be best to retreat back into resurrection as just an inspiring display of God’s power. Ah, but ’tis the season for thinking resurrection, new creation in the back yard, Phillies championships, etc. So I’ll be poking around a bit, exploring some more those what if categories touched on here. You’re welcome to stick around and chime in!