Martin Luther famously said, “Not only is resurrection written in the Bible, but in every leaf of springtime.” The beauty all around us testifies to the truth that the whole earth participates in the dying and rising that is its way of renewal. The Risen Christ gives us hope that seed sown will bear an enduring harvest.
After the quieter weeks of Lenten worship, church services blared their hallelujahs yesterday in trumpets, lilies, songs, and sermons. Muted tones of the Triduum gave way to joyous proclamation as the Christ candle dispelled the darkness. Many began their worship at dawn as they imagined accompanying the faithful women to the tomb, only to discover its emptiness. One of my teachers liked to say that the stone was rolled away to show that Jesus was not there, not to let him out.
The resurrection changed everything. While there were intimations of resurrection in the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha, no concrete case could be attested. The care to document appearance after appearance in the New Testament was essential to proclaim this new reality. Resurrection, if it would occur at all, was to happen at the “last day,” according to the prophetic intuition. The resurrection of Jesus re-set the timetable; the last day has happened ahead of time, literally breaking into history to indicate God’s ultimate intention.
This became the fulcrum of the Pauline argument. Not only did he claim to be the final resurrection witness, he also declared Jesus to be “the first fruit of those that slept.” The Risen Christ provides the pattern for Christian hope—in death and life to be with the Lord. Without his testimony to the resurrection, the Jesus movement would not have included the Gentiles and surely would not have reconfigured the Mediterranean religious world.
While we must admit that resurrection is a mystery in the sense that we do not know exactly the nature of Jesus’ appearance once he had death behind him, we can know that his earliest followers recognized him as the one they knew before the crucifixion. They knew his voice, remembered his words, and began to understand his story more fully. Surely as he broke break with him, they knew him to be with them.
I believe it is the same for us. The longer we abide in his company, the better we will understand his mission and the horizon he sets before this beloved world. God, through Christ and the Spirit, purposes nothing less than to bring the whole groaning creation to its fullness. God’s promise is seen through the resurrection of Jesus, and to this we cling in hope. Hallelujah, Christ is risen!
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping Church, and serving humanity and all creation.