Resurrection: What We Believe and Why It Matters

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Dear friends,

Melkam Fasika – Happy Easter! Yesterday we celebrated Christ’s resurrection in Ethiopia following the Orthodox tradition. This week I take a look at what Christians actually believe about the resurrection and why it matters for us today. I pray your week is full of fresh hope, peace, and joy.

Yours,
Andrew

Easter is the special holiday when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus after he was executed outside Jerusalem. What do Christians believe about the resurrection and why does it matter for us today?

What We Believe

Peter explained the meaning of Jesus’s resurrection to a crowd in Jerusalem soon after this extraordinary event: “You, with the help of wicked men, put Jesus to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:23-24).

The Christian belief in resurrection is threefold.

First, God miraculously raised Jesus from the dead – never to die again. Jesus killed death and broke through its “hold” with “the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16).

Second, Jesus has opened the way of everlasting life for the rest of us. Paul, a religious terrorist converted after he met the resurrected Jesus, said it like this: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep [died]… in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

So, third, we have ultimate hope, now and in the future. John spelled out the implications of the resurrection like this: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Why It Matters

Resurrection isn’t a spiritual fantasy for silly believers. Resurrection is necessary to sustain three beliefs that many people, including many nonreligious people, hold dear and consider extremely important for human flourishing

First, life is stronger than death, and hope is real.

Without the resurrection, the fate of our universe is annihilation. Scientists project that the sun will burn out, life will perish, and the world as we know it will be consumed in a black hole. We can console ourselves by saying that this will only happen far in the future. But two people die every second, and death is the fate of every human being.

But the resurrection says that even if the universe explodes or individuals die, life is precious and stronger than death. The limits of human power and natural reality do not define God’s power to resurrect and give new life to creation and people. With the resurrection, hope is defiant and unflinching in the face of death and destruction.

Second, justice has the final word over injustice, and victims will be restored to new life.

Without the resurrection, injustice is final. The killer is omnipotent. The rapist is the end of the story. The torturer is absolute.

I’ve found that many people aren’t willing to face this fact. They start talking about how people will be remembered or how their experience will change the lives of others. But imagine being tortured to death and someone telling you, “It’s okay. We’ll remember you for a while. And maybe a few people will have a different experience because your life ended in such a terrible way.” That’s badly unsatisfying, if not sick and cruel.

When an unknown woman is raped and killed by her government for opposing its injustice, is that the end of her life or not? Is the government’s violence omnipotent over her existence or not?

The resurrection says No! Injustice is not omnipotent. It will ultimately be condemned and overcome by God’s goodness and will for life.

And thus we have good reason to struggle for justice now. Justice is our destiny. Human dignity and community is our future – not a temporary fantasy. Those who struggle and sacrifice for justice and human flourishing are not fools or tragic heroes. They’re prophets of what is to come, who rightly call us to speak and act for God’s eternal will.

Third, we can love and celebrate our life together in the world without denial.

Without the resurrection, life is impermanent, unjust, and a sick contradiction that shouldn’t be loved. Some feast, while others are famished. Some swim in material abundance, while others have literally nothing. Some flourish in the privileges of freedom, while others suffer as slaves or in hellish prisons. Some enjoy sex, while others are raped.

Nietzsche understood this better than most. He wrote, “Every belief in the value and worth of life is based on impure thinking and is only possible because the individual’s sympathy for life in general, and for the suffering of mankind, is very weakly developed… If he were able to grasp and feel mankind’s overall consciousness in himself, he would collapse with a curse against existence.”

But with resurrection, we can love life, even as we mourn and resist the evil that destroys it. When we eat a good meal, we don’t need to do so selfishly and forgetful of others who hunger. We can celebrate the goodness of the meal, receive its energy to live a life of service, pray for those who hunger, and embrace God’s promise that evil will finally be defeated for all.

This isn’t a spiritual drug that numbs us to others’ suffering. It’s the rich moral protein we need to celebrate goodness, while caring about evil and doing something about it. Rather than denial, the resurrection leads us to a more honest, expanded, and active awareness.

I believe that humans can only flourish if we live with hope, justice, and love. But doing so is only possible if the resurrection is real. Otherwise, death is the end, injustice is final, and love is a temporary privilege for those who live in denial.

Easter is not an outdated myth for the religious. It’s the pillar of a 2000-year tradition and the foundation of our deepest beliefs and highest hopes as people. Life is stronger than death, justice will triumph over injustice, and our world is rightly loved as God’s gift.

May God give you joy and a passion for justice in this new year as we live between Jesus’s resurrection and the resurrection of our world.

“Christ has indeed been raised from the dead… in Christ all will be made alive.”

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