07 April, 2007

The Depths of the Resurrection

I am reading NT Wright's, The Resurrection of the Son of God, and what a joy it is. I'm only a third of the way through it, but it is like a warm bath of pure hope. Don't get me wrong, it's technical, not devotional. It's hearing so many things I've always believed but never encounter, things that deepen and enrich the popular understanding of the resurrection, that are firing me up.

There are two depths Wright fathoms (so far) that paint the resurrection as shatteringly huge as it deserves to be.
1) The utter ambush that it was. Nobody saw it coming.
2) The immensity of it. More rose with Christ than just one body.

Jesus' disciples did not understand the messiah's mission, while they were with Him. They saw Him, and they heard Him, but they were confused because they knew all too well what messiah would be.

(BTW, Israel would never have thought to capitalize Messiah. The prophesied messiah was King David on 'roids, and he was chosen by God, but he was human. That messiah was a mortal man was no more questioned than that the Sanhedrin would all go to their fathers one day.)

The disciples had heard the prophecies since they were children, and they knew that
+ Israel was the suffering servant
+ The messiah was the conquering king.
+ There was to be a high priest as well, a kind of a co-messiah, but nobody was quite sure what that would look like.

Israel had suffered for years, over and above the call of duty, so when Jesus began to fulfill the prophecies of the messiah, all Israel was primed. They were very ready to be delivered. Gloriously, ecstatically, delightedly ready. On "Palm Sunday" they showed how very ready they were, as they gave the royal reception to their new-found king.

Had Jesus stepped out Sunday night or Monday morning in purple, and called Israel to arms, the nation would have risen to conquer the world. He would have found Himself the king of a willing army of loyal fanatics, and with God on His side, He would have pulled it off. When the mother of Zebedee's children came asking that their sons sit on His right and left hands in His kingdom, she was talking about a couple years from then - when Jesus stood on the neck of the Roman emperor and fed him his own bile, when Israel was finally redeemed from her so many and oh so long exiles.

Just like the prophecies said.

Then some offscoured weasel of a Roman governor outwitted this Jesus, captured him, and shamed him publicly. This alleged rod of Jesse was put under Pilate's rod, and clothed in purple as a mockery. This was not the prophecy. This Jesus was just another imposter. Israel wished she would be released from her role of suffering servant, but this Jesus was just one more poser to the throne. "Crucify him," was the only appropriate answer.

And another false messiah died at the hands of the false emperor.

And He died very, very dead.

All of Israel went away broken hearted, but not that Jesus had died. She had fallen for yet another false hope, and she was crestfallen. Her God was not yet ready to deliver her. She had given her heart to another imposter, and she woke up Saturday morning with the hangover of a thrice jilted lover, and told herself, "Next time, I'm going to wait and make sure it's the real thing before I give my heart away."

The disciples were no different. Without their Shepherd there to comfort them, they were plunged to the depths by the same flood as Israel. Peter held out the longest, hoping against hope that this was all some kind of trick and that Jesus would prove Himself yet, but before the cock crowed, even he had surrendered.

You may not realize what was the most amazing thing about Jesus speaking to Mary on Sunday morning.

The most amazing thing was that Mary was there.

- All of Israel was gone.
- Everyone who had ever been healed by Jesus was gone.
- Everyone who had believed his preaching was gone.
- The seventy who had cast out demons in His Name were gone.
- The twelve to whom He had committed all Truth were gone.
+ But Mary could not leave Him.

She was there because she did not care that He was not the messiah. She loved Him, and she could not leave Him. THAT is a testimony for the ages.

She was the first to know that the world as we know it had ended, and that a new world had begun.

Rising proved that death is mortal.
No one had ever once thought that death might be broken before the last day. The Saducees did not believe in any resurrection, but even the Pharisees did not believe it would happen before the end of the age. Jesus breaking death was the most unexpected event of history. But He didn't just wiggle and squirm out of the grave, He rose with a new and glorious body - healed and vastly superior to anything He had ever been before.

Death wasn't broken, it was destroyed.

Ro 6:9
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

Rising proves that Messiah is God.
Can you imagine?

The failed messiah rises! He had declared Himself equal with God, and been crushed by the Sanhedrin through Pilate. Now He lives and eats with His disciples. His every claim is vindicated, instantly we see the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, and the High Priest are all one God and one Man. For shame that we might merely think that His resurrection proves "Christianity is true."

Ro 1:4
And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

Rising gives us hope of life.
One of my favorite movie scenes is from Moonstruck, when the mother looks at her adulterous husband and says, "You're going to die." He's out with a bimbo night after night trying to prove he's still young, still vital, not going to die. When she calls him out for the root problem, instead of the sinful symptom, she wins my heart.

The fear of death wrenches at our guts. It hits us below the belt, below consciousness really. We make so many decisions to sin or to avoid sin because we fear death. We need to remind ourselves that we are going to die, and we need to remind ourselves that we are going to rise to joy.

Rom 8:11
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Rising raises us.
Resurrection with Christ does not wait for the day of His revealing, though. We are raised with Him now. Even as you read this, you are alive in a way that your unsaved neighbor is not. You are alive in a way that will last forever. You are alive exactly as you will be ten thousand years from now. Your eternity has already begun because Christ lives.

Col 2:12&13 + 3:1
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; ... If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

Rising brings the kingdom.
Christ's death atoned for our sins, but His rising makes the way for the kingdom of God. The kingdom is life and Spirit, and it is that new life that the kingdom requires. The blood covered one time, but life is ours forever.

And that life is not ours, but God's. The life we now live fulfills the request of the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come." Progressively, unstoppably, the kingdom of God grows in spite of the cancer of sin in the world. Even now His kingdom is invisible, but it is no less real than that the messiah was divinely Messiah even though nobody could see His divinity.

1 Cor 15:22-24
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

Rising restores the rightful order of the world.
The expanding ripples of the resurrection continue, until all the world is revived in His resurrection. The redemption of Christ's body gives rise to faith in the redemption of our bodies, and the redemption of all creatures.

Rom 8:21-23
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Rising brings God love.
The Spirit brooded over the waters for a reason. The Father spoke and the Word created for a reason.

Col 1:15-20
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, and we follow soon after. Eventually, our bodies will follow our spirits, and the very earth and cosmos follow as well. All will be reconciled and restored to the original plan, purpose and passion of God.

Jesus' resurrection was not just an event, but a beginning for all of creation.

Friday was an unimaginable day from the perspective of the angels. From the Sun to Pluto, everything was dead, everything was dust and dry bones, except one Man, and He was a beaten, bloody mess nailed to a tree. The only shred of life earth had known for millenia flickered out.

Sunday, though... On Sunday, one Body rose up alive, and with what a life it rose!

Heb 12:27&28
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

The Life that rose Easter morning could never, ever be shaken again by anything. And that life began to spread, and it still could not be shaken. The gates of hell crumbled before it, and death watched helplessly as the martyrs praised while it took them. Soon - very soon - sin, sorrow and death will be swept aside, and all creation will be live to join in everlasting praise of the Eternal God Who overcame everything.

And His church will embrace Him in love forever.