So Jesus was dead.
Nobody at that time doubted that he really was dead. But just a few days later people were saying they’d seen him alive. Yet another paradox.
The resurrection never meant much to me until death became real to me. But now I realise that it’s at the very heart of the Gospel. Christianity is about new beginnings, new life. About the permanence of God in a world of constant change. About God’s ability to create life.
In practical terms, I have no real idea about how it happened. Did Jesus “come back to life”, like a coma patient suddenly waking up? Was his dead body suddenly transformed into something less physical, more spiritual? I haven’t got a clue – and I don’t really care. Once again, the thing that matters is that those who knew Jesus, those who were eye-witnesses, said that he was risen from the dead. Whatever it was that happened, that was the only explanation that fitted in with what they had experienced. Jesus was dead: But now he’s alive!
If Jesus’ death was the triumph of God’s love over human sin – then the resurrection was the triumph of God’s power over death. God doesn’t only love us in some abstract way. He also has the power to give us life. Physical life – and spiritual life. The Bible tells us that even while we are alive, we can be spiritually dead. If we cut ourselves off from God, the giver of life, then our “life” becomes mere existence. It may be very pleasant – you may even find it meaningful. But in the final analysis, you’re dead. And one day, when your physical life ends, you will realise just how dead you are.
But that isn’t what God wants! He wants to give us “life abundant”. He wants us to live to the very limits of our potential, to exploit all of the gifts that he has given us, to explore his universe, his love, himself. And by making us spiritually alive, he promises us a new kind of life that will continue into eternity. I’ve no idea what that means. Streets of gold and pearly gates leave me cold. But if God is the source of all life, the source of all that is truly good – then I want to be with him. And Jesus’ death and resurrection is my guarantee that that is not only possible – but it’s what God wants.