Turning point

The celebration of Easter Sunday has now come and gone for 2015.  We throw away the plastic eggs, or put them aside for another year, and life returns to normal.

But what’s “normal” about life?

As Christians, it’s common, when we celebrate resurrection, to think mostly about the past and the future.  What happened to Jesus will one day happen to us; his resurrection is the promissory note on our eternal destiny.  And all of that is true.

Consider, however, the words of Paul:

I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures.  He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died.  (1 Cor 15:3-6, CEB)

Photo by Ben Earwicker
Photo by Ben Earwicker

When Paul puts forward the bodily resurrection of Jesus as being a matter of first importance (literally, among the “first things”), he’s not just saying, “Yippee!  One day we’ll come back from the dead too!”  After all, most (though not all) Jews already believed in resurrection; at the end of time, God would raise his people, all at once, together (cf. John 11:24).  What they did not believe was that one man would be raised first — and certainly not the Messiah, who would never be crucified in the first place.

But this is Paul’s point: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was all part of God’s plan (cf. 1 Cor 15:20-28), and because of the resurrection in particular, everything has changedTo be sure, the story isn’t over yet; but make no mistake, history reached a turning point in the empty tomb.

The book of Acts chronicles the beginning of that change: Jesus ascends to the Father; the Holy Spirit comes upon his followers; then all heaven breaks loose.  That story is still continuing, and we are part of it.

Resurrection, in other words, is not merely about a promised future based on a past event.  The Bible teaches that the resurrection of Jesus marks a pivot point in God’s dealings with humanity and creation, and poses the ultimate question: if we believe that, how shall we then live?

Because after God raised Jesus from the dead, life would never be “normal” again.