Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reflections on Passion Week: The Resurrection

What did it mean for Jesus to rise again?

Of course the disciples would be overjoyed to see their friend and mentor again. But beyond that; what did it mean to them? What should it mean to us?

First of all, Jesus' resurrection was a spectacular vindication of the idea of resurrection in the first place. Resurrection wasn't explicitly taught in the Old Testament, and Jewish rabbis had differing ideas about it. The Pharisees believed in resurrection, and Jesus' resurrection vindicated that point of view (Acts 4:1-2; 23:6). So Jesus' resurrection gave evidence that resurrection could happen, and therefore it gave hope that death was not the end for us.

Second, Jesus' resurrection was a vindication of Jesus' claims about himself, especially, claims with regard to the resurrection: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25-26), he told Mary when she was grieving over her brother Lazarus. Peter connects Jesus' resurrection with God's exaltation of him (Acts 2:31-36), as does Paul (Rom. 1:3-4). Jesus' resurrection demonstrated who he was. To have authority over death itself was to have ultimate authority. Caesar could kill; only Jesus could give life from the dead.

These two elements were combined: Jesus himself is the key to our hope of resurrection. We are to be in union with Jesus in both his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:5; Phil. 3:10-11). Our hope for resurrection is based on Jesus' resurrection (1 Cor. 15); if he has no life, then we have no hope for life either. Perhaps Peter puts it most evocatively when he writes of a "new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3).

A living hope. That's what resurrection means. Jesus coming back to life in the here and now brings us a living hope. How do you express that living hope? What does it mean to you?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Keith,

    Great posts, as usual. Your essays on Passion week succeeded both in celebrating Jesus and in encouraging readers to think more deeply about the implications of bible stories that we've known for years.

    Grace and Peace, Dave