Forsberg begins his book entitled, Language Lost and Found by pointing to the way in which we lose control of the words we use:
“Words are worn and torn, and so turned (differently). At times they are torn and worn out. But since words are turned- changed but not necessarily exchanged since words may look the same while their concepts change – it is oftentimes hard to come to see that one may fail to be in command of one’s own language.”
Resurrection may well be a word over which we have failed to remain in command. It is not so much that we don’t understand the basic meaning of resurrection, but that we do not always grasp its richness and depth, particularly with regard to the resurrection of Christ. While full books have been written to describe the resurrection and its implications (I’d recommend O’Donovan’s Resurrection and Moral Order), I hope to do some semblance of justice to the resurrection in this short post.
Resurrection as Newly Embodied Life– The Greek word translated “resurrection” denotes the reanimation of a body previously dead after some duration of time. It is intended to denote that someone who had previously been dead is now alive again and has begun life anew. Resurrections, in this sense, are embodied, animated events. The term does not refer to some disembodied afterlife where semi-transparent spirits float about in togas playing harps.
The bodily resurrection of Christ was just that: bodily. Jesus was dead and now lives. That is the basic event of the resurrection, yet, within the context of the biblical story, the term “resurrection” has a greater depth of meaning. It is not just a moment in which Jesus’ flesh and bones are given life again. It isn’t a simple reanimation or resuscitation. The word “resurrection” hasn’t changed, but it has been infused with additional meaning drawn from the narrative trajectories of Israel’s testimony.
Resurrection and Reality– The resurrection is the unveiling of theological reality. In using the adjective “theological” before reality, I do not mean to suggest that there is some other form of reality. Rather, I intend the opposite. Non-theological reality is reality constructed by those with a finite, limited viewpoint. Theological reality is reality defined by God. The resurrection of Christ is the event that further verifies Christ’s identity and, along with it, all that He taught members of God’s kingdom to be. In short, the resurrection is a pivotal moment in which God proclaims that all Jesus’s claims and teachings are true and, thus, that Jesus “belongs inherently to who God is” (Bauckham, God Crucified, 45).
Whatever hope we should draw from the resurrection of Christ, we must not miss the way in which the resurrection should clarify our vision of the world, the way we describe it, and the way we live within it. The life of Christ, including his brutal crucifixion and death, is vindicated in the resurrection. It is in His resurrection that He is “declared to be the Son of God in power” (Rom 1:4). As such, we must embrace the resurrection life even as we resist ways of imagining the world around us that do not align with the sort of life that resulted in the resurrection. The resurrection is the theological reality that breaks through to justify our commitment to resist anything that keeps us from being and making disciples.
The resurrection reminds us that God does not live in our world. We live in His. It is for this reason that we need not conform to the logics and wisdoms of the world. We can be meek (Ps 37:11; Matt 5:5), seek peace (Matt 5:9), love those who hate us (Lk 6:27), and be calm in the face of trouble (Matt 6:25). We can pray that God’s will be done (Matt 6:10), rejoice in the face of persecution (Matt 5:11-12), and defer our rights in order to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10; Rom 14-15). Having died with Christ, we are no longer subject to sin (Rom 6:1-11). The resurrection represents the new possibilities that come from following the wisdom of God as a member of God’s kingdom.
We testify to the resurrection of Christ by living according to the sort of wisdom that resulted in Christ’s resurrection. As I note in Thinking Christian,
“God breaks into our settled world alerting those with eyes to see and ears to hear of his presence. Our unique view of the world results in ‘foolish’ practices like prayer, fasting, Sabbath, and hospitality. Displaying the wisdom of God by engaging in wise practices…practices that appear foolish to the world…makes Christians strange. Yet, as strange as Christians may be, we are seldom strange enough, or, perhaps, not strange in the right ways.”
Testifying to the resurrection requires that we understand the full significance of the resurrection. In confirming Christ’s identity, demonstrating God’s victory over sin and death, and unveiling theological reality, the resurrection points beyond itself. It not only points forward as Paul notes in Romans 6:5, but backward to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, which was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, conveyed in the gospels, and carried forward in Acts, the epistles and Revelation. When we think of the resurrection, we should have hope that, having shared with Christ in his death, we will also share in his resurrection. Yet, we should also see the moment which, having been declared the Son of God, confirms that the sort of people Christ taught us to be is now who we are free to become as we wait for God to make all things new.
So, what does it look like to testify to the resurrection beyond Easter. I’ll offer two thoughts:
- Don’t demonize the members of the body, but outdo one another in showing honor– This topic has become something of a focus for me of late. It seems to me that when we demonize those who are part of the body of Christ we create fractures within the body. Rather than setting out to highlight the bad acts or mistakes others have made, we would do well to understand the unique contributions they make to the body of Christ. Even in those moments when confrontation and accountability are appropriate, we should seek to honor rather than dishonor our brothers and sisters in Christ who, like us, are in need of God’s grace and forgiveness.
- Seek to accomplish only what God has set before you- Speed, results, and productivity are not inherently “wrong.” We are not to be a lazy people that seeks to avoid work. At the same time, speed, results, and productivity can create the illusion that the Spirit of God is with us when it less His power and more inertia and momentum carrying us forward. Time is fleeting. There is no doubt that we have a limited number of days. Yet, we are not called to endless productivity. We are called from darkness to light. As such, we recognize that God’s time never runs short. Our job is to participate with God in what he is doing. We are to do our part as members of the body empowered by God allowing Him, in His wisdom, to use the combined world of the faithful to accomplish His ends.