Dead men don’t rise
The Easter story feels almost impossible to understand because let’s face it, what happened is impossible. A human body being raised to life after three days in a tomb: that had never happened before and has never happened since. There are not many things we hear about or experience that have never ever happened before. It’s overwhelmingly bewildering. There’s no logical explanation. Take a step back in time from that and we see a Messiah being put to death on a cross. That simply makes no sense either.
The firsthand accounts don’t fit together well either, but as I mentioned, get a particular family to sit around a table and each tell you of the time a huge family event took place (particularly something extremely distressing) and you won’t get a uniformity across the accounts. Major events are observed differently from different perspectives and through different eyes. The early believers can’t make sense of what is happening because there has been no precedent for it. They don’t know how to make others believe what they’re saying because they scarcely believe it themselves. Those first few days are filled with confusion and bewilderment – what exactly is going on here and why? It’s the women who are the principal witnesses – and that makes no sense either, because back then, women could not be relied upon to be credible witnesses. It’s as if the whole thing is happening in the weirdest, least credible way for a reason – it’s how I feel about the Christmas story. The choices God makes about how Jesus’ birth unfolds seem to be there to make it hard for us to believe, not easy!
It’s strange that the risen Jesus appears in a human body and yet he is not immediately recognised as the Jesus people knew and followed during his life. He’s the same and yet changed. That seems like such an odd thing to make up – it’s an odd thing to observe, that’s for sure, but why make up something that seems so implausible? If you were going to make it up, you wouldn’t make it up like this!
However, there are many people who struggle to believe that the resurrection actually took place. Of course there are. It doesn’t make sense. Dead men don’t rise. Let’s not be hard on anyone who finds it impossible to believe.
At the point of Jesus’ death, the whole course of human history changed forever. It was THE defining pivotal moment of all time, the start of something new, the dawn of a new era. Nothing would ever be the same again.
As I’m writing this, I’m realising that in many ways, I have found it easy to accept the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. I grew up with it. And in some ways, it’s a distant reality for me, only words. Let me explain. I can look at a chair and say that I believe it will take my weight but I only really show that I believe that by sitting on it! Saying that you believe something is easy until it is tested, until you have to put your trust in it and live by that belief. I don’t know how I would have reacted at the time. I have a feeling I would have been one of those who was extremely sceptical of the reports coming from Jesus’ followers. As time has passed, maybe we have lost sight of the enormity of this event at the time. And maybe, just maybe, we don’t actually live as if we believe in the truth of it.
Belief in Jesus’ resurrection leads us to adopt a whole new worldview, a worldview that is different entirely to any other worldview, a worldview that can accept that things will happen that are outside what can be explained by science, outside what has happened before in history. Who can know for sure what is possible in God’s new world order?
This kind of faith, which like all modes of knowledge is defined by the nature of its object, is faith in the creator God, the God who has promised to put all things to rights at the last, the God who has raised Jesus from the dead within history, leaving evidence which demands an explanation from the scientist as well as anyone else. Tom Wright, Surprised by Hope, page 83
Potentially of course, if the resurrection cannot be explained within the current paradigm of history and science, then maybe the paradigm needs to be expanded to accommodate it, a new way that includes and transcends historical and scientific knowing. Given that we are talking about the work of the creator of the universe, this seems like a viable option to me.
New things are possible. Things will not always be this way. Alongside those first followers of Jesus, we are being called to live in a new and different world with a new kind of faith, a new kind of hope, a new kind of love. The idea that a different worldview is possible will be hope to those who are currently suffering but a threat to the powerful and strong who are benefiting from life as we know it.
I am coming to believe in the resurrection in a new, life-changing, worldview-changing way.
How about you?