A member of our congregation recently said these or similar words to me: “I can accept all the stories of Jesus up to the crucifixion, but I’m really not sure about the resurrection.”
I suspect that there are quite a few people who think the same, from within our Church and from the wider community. The reasoning for this is simple. People don’t rise from the dead, so the resurrection couldn’t have happened.
What is strange is that I’m fairly sure this person believes in God. Not some little god, but God the creator of heaven and earth. A supreme being, shrouded in mystery certainly, but nonetheless ruling over all things.
If there is such a God, then nothing is impossible for him / her. Raising up someone from death to new and eternal life is only strange to us because God doesn’t usually do it. Presumably the one who is responsible for creating our massive universe, possibly many universes, is capable of far more than we can ask or imagine.
So, why did God intervene to do this extraordinary thing? Why would he break all the laws of nature which he had set up? Obviously it was for something very important.
The resurrection of Jesus to a new and eternal life is the foundation of our Christian faith. It is the guarantee that we are not trapped in a closed world, a world inevitably ending in death and destruction. It is the triumph of love over evil and death.
The resurrection of Jesus is the vindication of all he said and did, declaring with power that he is the Son of God. It is the assurance that we are destined for life forever in a healed universe. Jesus is the firstborn into that new creation, and there is a place for us all there.
When I was visiting a Masai village in Kenya, I heard how the President of Kenya had visited the village a few weeks before. All the children were very excited that day, as well as the adults. But the adults kept the children away from the President, until it was time for them to sing their song.
Having sung their song, the children were supposed to wave farewell and retreat to the outskirts of the gathering. But one brave boy ran to where the President was seated and put his head down to be greeted. (Masai children approach you and bow their head expecting you to bless them by putting your hand on the top of their head. If you don’t they gently head-butt you!)
When the President put his hand on the child’s head in a friendly and welcoming manner, all the children rushed forward and queued up to be similarly blessed by the President.
This is an illustration of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus the Son of God, risen from death, goes into the presence of God the Father, pioneering the way for all of us. So we follow him boldly, assured of our welcome.