Does it matter if the Resurrection actually happened?
This was the question we considered in my adult Sunday School class at a church I used to belong to. I was a regular at Sunday school, where we considered issues of faith and its practice as a matter of course. Sunday school was organized and led by the laity and always promised a lively discussion and discourse. But one Easter Sunday, a bunch of us who came for the sunrise service and stayed to participate in the other morning services had gathered for Sunday school only to realize nothing had been planned. So a class member took charge asking the question of the day: Does it matter if the Resurrection actually happened?
Our class leader didn’t think so. It’s so unreasonable, unrealistic, so hard to believe, she argued. My faith is in Jesus. If I follow him, that’s enough. Whether or not he was actually raised from the dead doesn’t matter.
I found my heart oddly soured when nods of assent went around the circle. Wait a minute, that’s Easter, this is Easter! I wanted to say. But I didn’t because I couldn’t. I couldn’t justify my response or defend it against this rising tide of head nodders satisfied with the Son of Man who showed us the way. This man healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed storms, silenced his detractors and regularly attracted crowds. Isn’t that enough?
Well, no. Because if that was enough, he’d still be here, healing and casting and calming and teaching. But, and I think all authorities agree on this, he is not. There are no longer sightings of Jesus, the good man. He did die. And scripture tells us that when they went looking for Him, He wasn’t where they put Him. Word was, they were looking in the wrong place. He had gone to Galilee and would be receiving people there. Go and see.
Easter, to me, is about the go and see. Could it be possible that a man has died and yet lives again? Not according to any text book I’ve ever read. And not, apparently, according to my Sunday school leader. She was taking the safe approach: let’s be satisfied with the Jesus we know. If we go looking for him as if he’d come back to life we might not find him, and then where would we be?
The thing is, we need more than the tame Jesus we find believable. Now more than ever, we need Christ who is beyond belief. One who works miracles, walks on water, and who accepts death on its own terms so we can know there is life for us beyond the death of all that is un-good, un-kind, un-fair and un-godly in us. Christ died so we can know that those things in us are mortal; we can live without them. We are better without them. He came to show us that life. Not just in eternity, but now during this one.
Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19)
Last week I visited an historic site on the western coast of Florida called Historic Spanish Point. It was filled with the stories of ancient peoples and settlers enduring hardship and trials. The most recent inhabitants considered it sanctuary and rest. The grounds were alive with story and layer upon layer of meaning.
The guide took us to see “Mary’s Chapel,”a tiny sanctuary that, in it’s day, was open to all who might come.
Next to the chapel was a centuries old graveyard filled with headstones proclaiming the inhabitants, pioneers and patrons who had found a home here. Oddly intertwined among the headstones was a trunk sprouting a few brown and dying ferns. “That’s the resurrection fern,” our guide told us. “It looks dead, doesn’t it? But in a few days, when the rains come, it will spring to life. No better place to have a resurrection tree than in a graveyard, eh?”
Oh my, yes. I’m so grateful there is such a tree in the graveyard of my life.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15: 12-14)