I’ve spent every Easter I can remember in church celebrating the resurrection of Jesus but I’m only just beginning to understand what that means to live into the truth of Easter. I alway thought I knew the Gospel well and was even trained to share it with others, but there was a hole in my understanding—the resurrection. I had heard countless sermons about the cross, which stood for Jesus’ great sacrifice for the forgiveness of my sins, but l couldn’t tell you why the empty tomb mattered. I loved a dying Jesus but a living one was simply confusing.
Deepening my understanding of the resurrection sparked a renewal in my spiritual life. Embracing the resurrected Jesus saved my faith at a time when I found my own experience inadequate to respond to the pain and difficulty in my life. Without the resurrection, I’m not sure that I would be following Jesus today.
This is why the resurrection means everything to me.
1) This world matters to Jesus. Somehow I had gotten the impression that the Christian life was a matter of getting saved, avoiding worldly temptations in order to stay holy, and hanging on until Jesus takes you to heaven. 80 years of white-knuckling my way through a holy life in order to make it to heaven seemed like a waste of a life to me. But if Jesus was raised bodily, lived here after the resurrection, and will come again to remake the earth and establish is kingdom here then this world matters to him. It isn’t something to be avoided. It is a beautiful gift to be redeemed.
2) Jesus is restoring all things. I once thought that we had to wait until heaven for healing, or justice, or peace, or for the good things Jesus says accompany his kingdom. So I also drew the uncomfortable conclusion that Jesus must not care about injustice and suffering here and now if our only offer of comfort came in heaven. But if you look at what Jesus did during his earthly ministry and continues through his disciples after him, it is clear that Jesus has begun a mission to restore all things that he invites us to join. In a very real way the Kingdom of God is already present for those who follow Jesus, even while we wait for his return.
3) Jesus is alive forever. Jesus is a historically verifiable person whose life is documented in scripture and other ancient records. There is no doubt that he lived. But our faith hinges on the fact the he is still a living person right now which is unique claim. Jesus is with the Father in heaven right now and actively involved in the life of the Church as he intercedes on our behalf, even today. He is called the “first fruits of the dead” meaning that if we trust that he was raised from the dead we can know that we will be raised as well.
4) We will be resurrected with Jesus. I’m not a Christian just for the afterlife perks but I love the promise of the life to come. In baptism we are included in a Jesus-patterned life. We are invited into communion with God, like Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, like Jesus, called to join his mission of restoring all things, like Jesus, and promised that though we die we will be raised to life, like Jesus. Our life, death, and resurrection are all hopeful events and we are given the Holy Spirit as the “down payment” on our resurrection life when Jesus returns.
5) The hope of the life to come. Following Jesus in this life is a rich and wonderful calling and yet deep down we know that we will never be complete until we are at home with him in his kingdom. When Jesus returns the longing of our hearts for God to be with his people, for the perfect restoration of the earth, and for the fullness of resurrected life will be complete. And, in a way I can’t fully comprehend, there will be a continuation and redemption of our work from this life to the next. We will finally see how God was at work and we where we joined him in his purposes. And the work of resurrection, Jesus’ and ours, will be complete.