by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
The resurrection was such a central part of the first church’s gospel that some Gentiles asked Paul, “So just who is this Jesus and Anastasia?” Anastasis is Greek for resurrection. The two words were always paired: Jesus and Resurrection.
We should flee then to Jesus and his resurrection. Why? Many Evangelical Christians misunderstand the point of the resurrection at the time of the first church. They might think resurrection just shows proof of Jesus’ divinity. They might think resurrection was a power-proof of g-d’s supernatural abilities. Evangelicals focus so much on Good Friday and the cross that they have little to really celebrate on Easter. I mean, after one’s sins are atoned for, what else is there? We already know we are going heaven, right? So what’s the big deal about the resurrection? You see how we fail to grasp the resurrection? I remember going to a good Evangelical church years ago that basically did a Good Friday service on Easter Sunday. Yeah boy. It’s always a bit disconcerting to kill off Jesus on Easter morning.
Good theology requires we understand the core definition of the word resurrection. Resurrection was not disembodied spirits. Nor was resurrection resuscitation. Resurrection by definition is a new way of existing. Jesus is the first born of the new existence. It is called resurrection. Since Ezekiel 37 Jews had spoken of resurrection, but it was just a spiritual existence. The Maccabees thought they would be resurrected as well – but again it was only a spiritual state of existence.
It is telling that after Jesus’ resurrection those disciple who had just a few days earlier ran away from Jesus were now bravely talking him up. And not like they thought the week before — that is, Jesus as a military political victor. No, now they talked about a new Kingdom here on earth. A new epoch had begun. The world had changed. Time was remarked. The old way of death and decay, slavery and oppression was obsolete. Jesus without Anastasia made no sense to the Apostles and the early church.
How do we live with the resurrection of Jesus? In this life within life we suffer and still die. Not everyone or everything in creation has been resurrected. That was the Jewish expectation (and it was very nationalistic by Jesus’ time). One man Jesus has been raised in the middle of time – a first fruit of our future brought to bear in the present. Our present status is one of an assured confident Hope. I do not like the Emergent notion that we are just some bedraggled little band of exiles in this world. That’s just Gen X power-angst speaking (read “sour grapes” here). No. We are victorious and powerful. Death is dead. Its stinger removed. Competitive materialism no longer drives us. We enjoy every moment, every tear, every morsel, every smile, every song, every lament – a joy that only comes from belonging to Christ, in Christ. To smile and weep is to be alive.
Now the Sun shines down upon our sunflower faces and we lift up our heads to meet his morning dawn, his light and warmth. All the day long we follow the Sun with our faces lifted. And we sing…
Awake O Sleeper,
Rise from the dead
And Christ will shine on you!
He has risen!
He has risen indeed!