Resurrection and Holiday Guests


Every Christmas and Easter we have guests.  Why?  The simple answer:  it’s more fun with lots of people!  We have international guests mostly referred to us by International Friendships.  We’ve had students from Nepal, Kenya, Taiwan, Malaysia, and China.  We also have friends who are working professionals from India who join us from time to time and other friends who are from Hungary. 

Many of the international students know nothing about Easter and Christmas.  Growing up always knowing, makes it more difficult to explain to others.  A couple of years ago, I stumbled on the The Jesus Storybook Bible.  This beautifully written and illustrated book tells stories from the Bible with carefully chosen words and simple artwork.  A couple of years ago I gave a digital edition to a woman from Taiwan and her children.  This Easter I gave a selection from the book, the part about Jesus’ death and resurrection, to a man from China and his daughter.  (Note: for adults I recommend The Case for the Resurrection: A First Century Reporter Probes History’s Pivotal Event.)

For me to explain Jesus’ resurrection, means that I have to travel back to his death, and then further back to his life, and birth and the evidence for him from the beginning of creation.  That’s a long path to travel anytime and especially over lunch when I’m already exhausted from all the cooking and prep work.  And then there’s the believability factor.  How do you tell someone who has never considered it that to trust your life to Jesus means that you will be raised from the dead just as he was?  How do you even explain resurrection when Jesus own friends couldn’t believe their eyes?  And how do you explain that when you trust him, he sends his Spirit to live in you and keep you connected to him?  Who would believe that?

I think back to those days when Jesus was walking around Israel.  There had been one other temporary resurrection.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead for some time, but who else was present?  Only a few people in that small town.  And there’s no further mention of Lazarus except in one of Jesus’s stories—but in that story Lazarus is just a bit player.  There are no tales of Lazarus’ exploits after his resurrection; No evidence that he showed superior wisdom or knowledge of the secrets of the after-life.  For that matter, there were no stories of him before his death.  He appears to be a non-entity.  And, of course, that was a temporary resurrection.  Lazarus would have died a normal death later in his life just as most all of us do.

So here we stand, more than two thousand years later.  People live, die, are buried or cremated, and that’s the end.  Or is it?  Do we hold in our minds and culture the same impossibility of resurrection that they held in the first century?  Are we the same people they were?  It’s true we have modern scientific methods for sustaining life and nanotechnology and cryogenics and other stuff of science fiction.  And we can accomplish more faster with all our technology.  But all the science and technology won’t make anyone live forever.  So, what about resurrection?  Yes, resurrection is difficult to believe, but it’s equally as difficult to believe that the end is the end.  Relationships, dreams and hopes to which we have given our lives, our wealth, and our time and which should never be broken, are irrevocably severed at death, if there is no resurrection. 

If resurrection was a thing of science, I would have my friend Kevin resurrected.  He and I were close friends during high school and spent hours talking long-distance during college.  He took a wrong turn and ended up dead at 35.  The hopelessness at his memorial service is branded on my memory.  Never have I wanted so badly to see his face, to hear him laugh, to once again discuss life with him.   I would have him resurrected not only for me, but to give him the the opportunity to correct his mistakes and be a productive member of society.  Kevin’s life choices were of the sort that may have hurt only a few people.  Friends of dictators and despots and murderers of body and soul, such as Hitler and Mengele and Idi Amin, might also want their friends resurrected.  Should science give them that opportunity? 

If resurrection was a thing of hope, I would have my cousin’s son resurrected.  He died of an accident in college, never to fulfill his potential.  He might have been a great chef owning restaurants in several cities.  But we’ll never know.  He left a pain in my cousin's heart that will never leave.  There are many people for whom hope might desire their resurrection.

So how does this work?  If left up to us, the people who would be resurrected would be the same evil or good or partly evil or good people that we have now.  I have a friend who spoke to Kevin on his deathbed and even then he was not willing to change his life.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, he promised that all who became his, gave their lives to him, and let him put his Spirit in them, would be resurrected one day.  Everyone God resurrects will be good.

Imagine, if you can, a world. . . no let’s bring it closer. . . a city or a family where everyone was as righteous as Jesus.  I can’t do it.  There is no way to imagine something like that.  Let’s try something else.  Imagine the best moments of your life:  a beautiful sunset with your spouse, a day at the park with your children.  Imagine the best sight: a smile and combine it with the best sound: a laugh, a shout of joy.  Imagine that you loved your work.  All of it.  Imagine that everyone else loved their work, too.  Imagine that you were devoted to your husband or wife or son or daughter with a devotion that never wavered, never failed them. Imagine that you lived your life continually under God’s love and you loved him in return, constantly without wavering.  This, my friend, must be the stuff of resurrection.

So choose.  Will you live a life without the possibility of resurrection in the belief that the end is the end?  Finito.  Kaput.  Or will you listen to your inner urgings and acknowledge that resurrection is desirable and possible and look to Jesus for the way to accomplish it.  Yes, it’s a total commitment, but one with long-term benefits.  And look at the result.  Community with God now.  Life with Jesus’ Spirit now.  And friendship with other followers of Jesus.  Not to mention unexpected tastes of the resurrected life from time to time.  And then, one day in the future, bodily resurrection and an endless life no one can truly imagine, with death-shattered hopes, dreams, and relationships irrevocably restored.    

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