Ryan Burgett, April 12, 2020
It's very common for people to approach religion as a way to escape this physical world. They focus on the metaphysical--in particular--to escape from the real world. But, when you bring this approach to Christianity, you can lose the very real, very physical, central conflict in the Bible. This central conflict is life vs. death.
God is the author of life. All things were made through him and without him nothing was made that was made. And when God, created the world, it was perfect. God created life, and it was good.
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve introduced something new. God had given them one rule in the garden and warned them that if they broke it, they would surely die. This wasn't a threat; it was a warning.
Adam and Eve broke that one rule and immediately felt that something was wrong. They felt guilt, they felt shame, and they didn't like it. They could have run to God, confessed what they had done, and begged for forgiveness. But, instead, they did what we all often try and do. They tried to fix it. They tried to cover up their guilt and shame with fig leaves. You might chuckle at that, but we often do the same. We try and cover up what we know is wrong using self-help books, or drowning ourselves in drugs, alcohol, and other self-destructive behaviors.
But, just had God had warned, with the introduction of guilt and shame came death. Adam and Eve lived, then died. That is the same cycle that we see throughout the rest of the Old Testament. Seth lived and died. Abraham lived and died. Isaac lived and died. Jacob lived and died. Moses lived and died. David lived and died. Elijah lived and died. Isaiah lived and died. Jeremiah lived and died. Daniel lived and died.
When the prophet from Nazareth showed up, people knew this cycle. They had seen it repeated countless times. A prophet lives, does amazing things, then eventually dies. But, regardless, they had high hopes for Jesus. They saw him as their long-awaited messiah. They imagined that he would be a warrior-prophet-king like David and lead Israel to defeat Rome and more-or-less take over the world and rule it from Israel.
Jesus' abrupt death was not what they were expecting. They didn't expect him to be betrayed by a friend. They didn't expect him to be arrested by the religious leadership of Israel. And they didn't expect Rome to carry out his execution. As they thought, he was supposed to defeat Rome! It was worse than anything they could have imagined.
They were distraught. They were broken. They thought this was the end. As I mentioned earlier, this was an old story. Jeremiah wasn't around forever. Elisha didn't live forever. They all died, and now Jesus was dead. They wept for him and hid from the authorities, imagining that they would be next. The last thing on their minds was resurrection, whether metaphysical or otherwise.
What happened three nights and three days later took them completely by surprise. First Mary, then Peter and John found Jesus' tomb empty. All but John immediately assumed that his body had been stolen. What other explanation could there be? Dead people don't leave their tombs. David never left his tomb. Isaiah never left his tomb. Yet, in the greatest subversion of audience expectations in all of history, Jesus actually did leave the tomb, alive, and of his own power!
Even as word began spreading that Jesus was alive, people wouldn't believe it until they saw it for themselves. So, Jesus toured, showing himself to his followers and proving to them that yes, he was alive!
As they looked on him, his message began to finally make sense. As Jesus said, "For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him" (John 3.16-17). "For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6.33). "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly" (John 10.10).
Jesus came to break the cycle of sin and death that had plagued humanity since its beginning. Jesus made this explicitly clear when he said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies" (John 11.25). Until then, everyone lived with the expectation of death. You lived, and then you died. But, Jesus brought a brand new paradigm. He brought the expectation of life!
Adam and Eve introduced guilt and shame and death. But, Jesus brought life, and with it forgiveness. "For the wages [or curse] of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6.23).
We who give our lives to Jesus know that though we die, we will live. As Jesus walked out of his tomb, so will we. For us, death is not the end. We don't look forward to death. We look forward to life. But, the best part of this news is that our eternal life actually begins now. John 3.16 in the original Greek literally says, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but IS HAVING everlasting life."
The life Jesus offers us begins now and will extend past our death and into eternity. 2 Corinthians 1.22 tells us that God has sealed us and given us his own Holy Spirit as a "down payment." We are not alone and we have nothing to fear. Jesus defeated death, he obliterated the consequences of sin and shame. We have nothing to fear in life because though we will die, it will not be the end. Jesus is alive and we will be, too. And in the meantime Jesus is with us through his Holy Spirit so that we can begin practicing our eternal life right here and right now.
The resurrection was a miracle nobody expected. They thought that death was the end. Most people today still believe that death is the end, but for those of us who follow Jesus, we know better. Death is done for and we are free. We don't need fig leaves to try and cover ourselves up. We have Jesus and we are now clothed in his righteousness and sealed with his Holy Spirit.
This is definitely good news. In fact, it's the best news! Let's remember that today as we celebrate Jesus' resurrection. But even more so, let's remember that every day for the rest of this life and the next.