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Dead No More

Why Jesus’ physical resurrection changes everything.

By Winn Collier


 

With Easter approaching, I recently found myself thinking back over the last several years. A trio of experiences in particular came to mind. Each in a unique way made me ask what difference it makes whether or not Jesus’ resurrection was physical in nature.

One: As we shared conversation over tea, a local skeptic leveled his burning question at me. “Well, if what you say about God is true, how do you deal with evil, war, and violence?”

Two: One Easter season, on a morning ride to his kindergarten, my son Wyatt asked, “Dad, when God raises us from the dead, are we going to be really alive? Or just alive in our head?”

Three: A few years ago, in the dark hours, I sat on a cold couch, facing suffocating fears while my family slept. With tears and anger, I assaulted heaven, “Will this ever end? What is wrong with me?”

The unifying concern through this handful of very different conversations was this: Is God really going to act? Is God really going to do anything about the world we actually live in? Really?

Most of us are aware of an ache, a sorrowful lamenting over whether our world will ever be right. We know deep in our bones that something has gone wildly awry.

We feel the dark weight of injustice and loneliness and social fractures rife in our world. We watch helpless as a famine ravages East Africa and as unrest cycles again and again through the Middle East. We know our own teetering economy, along with the poverty and hardship it creates for the most vulnerable among us. We hear the despair of our urban centers (and rural locales, too) where young girls—often under duress—peddle their bodies on the street. Many of us endure heartache within our own families, and too often there’s little we can say, little we can do, when our neighbors carry grief or pain.

The question haunts us: Will God do anything about all these sorrows? Really?

The Scriptures answer with an unflinching yes, basing this conviction on one simple declaration: Christ has risen from the dead.

Over and over again, the gospel writers want to be resolutely clear with their proclamation that Jesus’ body walked out of that garden tomb. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus reverently placed His corpse in the grave, and then three days later, He again breathed Judean air. This steady insistence that Jesus’ corpse returned from the dead was not a subtle metaphor carrying other spiritualized truth.

It is not as though the gospels, if we could only understand them properly, used resurrection language to refer to how Christ’s eternal memory endured in the hearts of His followers. Rather, the gospels say plainly that Jesus was dead. And then He wasn’t.

John shows us Jesus talking with His disciples in the upper room, then appearing particularly to Thomas and offering His hands and His feet for Thomas to touch. Luke recounts how He walked and conversed with His disciples on the road to Emmaus. The gospel witnesses tell us that He spoke with the women at the tomb and ate fish with His followers on the seashore. These are things people do, not ghosts.

The disciples were bewildered and, to be sure, often slow to recognize their friend and Lord. However, it was this same Jesus they knew and loved who came to them—the One who taught them and laughed with them and, to their horror, died on a cross for them. It was this same Jesus who now, most improbably, stood in their midst.

Scholar N. T. Wright reminds us in his book Surprised by Hope that to the Jewish mind, resurrection did not refer to an ethereal, disembodied second existence (much less to the resuscitation of one’s ideals or memories). Rather, resurrection meant that death had been reversed. A miracle had occurred. One who was dead was now (impossible as it may be) fully alive.

We might ask why this matters. What difference does it make if it was merely His invisible spirit that came among the disciples

instead of an in-the-flesh Savior with hair and bone? It matters because the death and ruin in our world is not merely an idea, but a fissure running through every home and heart. We do not merely need for our minds to be made right (though we certainly need that). We need everything broken—every individual, every neighborhood, every injustice, all of creation—to be made whole.

We are desperate for a God who can take dead things and make them live again.

And this is exactly what the apostle Paul tells us Jesus’ resurrection provides. When He crushed death and walked out from His cold grave, His resurrected body signaled God’s intentions for the rest of the world. Jesus, Paul says, was the “first fruits” of what would follow (1 Cor. 15:20).

Christ had conquered death and risen to new life, and now He would conquer death for all of humanity and offer new resurrection life to us all. And not only to us but to the entirety of creation. God’s intention is to make all things new. All things.

For by Jesus “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth,” Paul says. “And through [Jesus, God intends] to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:16, 20 NIV). Resurrection is for physical people. Physical places. Physical death. God’s victory and healing delve as deep as our need.

Several years ago, I was in South Carolina for a conference when I received the tragic call. Matt King, a PhD student and vital part of our church, had been killed.

After finishing his normal Monday morning rotation working at The Haven, a homeless day shelter, Matt hopped on his bike for the short trek to class. Distracted, Matt crossed in front of a large city road-crew truck. The ambulance arrived promptly, but Matt died en route to the hospital.

I rushed home to a house of people distraught and grief-stricken. Two days later, several from our church helped Matt’s parents pack his belongings and clean his apartment. Each item they touched pushed the disturbing question again: Is this it for Matt? Is this the end?

When we gathered for Matt’s memorial, the room overflowed. The tears ran free. I read Paul’s words promising that though we grieve (and we do grieve), we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Instead, we stare down death with the assurance of God’s bold promise. We know hope because “we believe that Jesus died and rose again” (1 Thess. 4:14).

Jesus’ resurrection vindicates Him as Israel’s Messiah and announces His triumph over Satan, death, and evil. The resurrection also demonstrates that God is the true ruler of this world, and it fuels our anticipation that one day all that is dead will be restored to beautiful, beautiful life. This includes my friend Matt. And it includes you and me, if we’ll have it.

In the Son of God’s physical resurrection, we encounter jaw-dropping good news. Death might be everywhere, but death does not have the final word. Jesus has come, and death (of every sort) will one day be emphatically undone. And life will dance free in the streets. As author Frederick Buechner said, “What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”

Because of this good news, I was able to tell my kindergarten son, “Yes, Wyatt, we’ll be really alive. Really.

 

Illustration by Jeff Gregory

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.


24 comments
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  • March 09, 2013 11:07 PM

    by

    You know that song "But you love me anyway it lying when it says nail scar in his
    wrist because when Jesus died there nail scar only on his hands and feet it
    not logic but its true the deceiver is always trying to fool us! Just read your Bible ok:-)
  • March 09, 2013 09:25 AM

    by

    there is great comfort in knowing others have the same questions and concerns. I never feel alone in my fleeting fears.
  • March 09, 2013 08:00 AM

    by

    AMEN! IBELIEVE IN GOD AND HI'S WORDS I BELIEVE WITHIN MY HEART MY SOUL AND MY MINE
  • March 08, 2013 09:27 PM

    by

    How wonderful our GOD loves us enough to make all things new and to provide a home for us. We have so much to look forward to!! Seeing JESUS and our loved ones---- What a day that will be!!!!!!
  • March 08, 2013 08:16 PM

    by

    Knowing through His Death & Resurrection I will see Jesus face to face, Oh My, <3
    This was so beautifully written and heartfelt read..May God continue to bless and keep you til we meet on that Great Day!
  • March 08, 2013 06:51 PM

    by

    Extremely well-written & beautifully explained. So thankful for The Risen Saviour, Jesus Christ! Looking forward to HOME one day!
  • March 08, 2013 06:01 PM

    by

    Beautiful and a so real message. I am a believer that after death there is life. We grieve and morn when we lose a love one,but we are assured that because "death us also swallow up in victory" the victory we look for is seen them again where we will continue rejoicing with each other, the victory is, we will never be separated again. This article solidifys and give us a profound awareness and assurance .!! Thanks for sharing.!!
  • March 08, 2013 01:00 AM

    by

    Beautifully written. After experiencing the death of our two sons who also believed & loved the Lord, I am totally at peace knowing that Jesus' death & resurrection paved the way for all who trust & believe His faithful word. 1 Corinthians 15:53-55 assures us of His unfailing promise & victory over death. Trust & obey their is no other way.
  • March 06, 2013 05:42 PM

    by

    this was so heartwarming to read and know tat one day we will see Jesus face to face...praise be to God
  • March 06, 2013 09:05 AM

    by

    Love the message. Very inspiring to be reminded of our future. Thank you Charles Stanley and Intouch Ministries.
  • March 06, 2013 07:43 AM

    by

    Love this! Praise the LORD! REJOICE!
  • March 06, 2013 05:51 AM

    by

    Although most that read this will have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, I am reminded by the belief of many who are lost that they think they will be included in the resurrection and enjoy Heaven without ever receiving Christ. Please use every opportunity to tell them the rest of the story. Thank you for reminding me of our great expectation in the promises of God.
    God bless you with profound wisdom and opportunity to reach many that are lost as well as feed and nuture those of us that have surrendered our life to Jesus.

    A servant of Christ.
  • March 06, 2013 02:19 AM

    by

    So very reassuring for those times when life is painful.
  • March 06, 2013 12:50 AM

    by

    We only have to believe and have faith in God for the resurrection in Life!
    Our precious Savior can do all things for those who Believe in His faithful love - Never doubt! Pray at all times - God is love - LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU!!
  • March 05, 2013 09:06 PM

    by

    As is the usual from In Touch, just what we need to hear when we need to hear it!
  • March 05, 2013 06:35 PM

    by

    I have that hope the one day we will see jesus face to face paul say i know that the one day wen jesus come bak we will be like him becose we going to see him like he is thank.s to God for gives his only son we canot pay our prace for our lives
  • March 05, 2013 05:05 PM

    by

    eXCELLENT EXPLANATION OF THE WAY LIFE IS HERE ON EARTH.
  • March 05, 2013 03:54 PM

    by

    Very clear and precise.
  • March 05, 2013 02:31 PM

    by

    That truly was a wonderful read!!!
    Thanks so much
  • March 05, 2013 12:19 PM

    by

    Praise God. Hallelujah!! What more needs to be voiced.
  • March 05, 2013 11:40 AM

    by

    As God created the universe and man, surely He will also bring believers back to life as He has done for His son, Jesus. There is no question in my mind that this will be so.
  • March 05, 2013 11:36 AM

    by

    This morning as I read this it meant so much. Last evening my husband and I were at the bedside of his sister who was dying and did die while we were there. I do believe there will be life after death. It is so re-assuring to read Mr Collier's message and be reminded that how true this is.
    Thanks to IN Touch Ministries for providing us this resource to God's word
  • March 05, 2013 11:22 AM

    by

    Amen and amen! Great truths!
  • March 05, 2013 10:03 AM

    by

    Awesome message.I,too,bieve inGod and hopefully I will see His precious face. I have complete trust in His word. Sometimes my journey is rough, but I find that quiet space in my mind and talk with my God. E verthing turns out alright.Gloryto God!!!!!

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