Artist Michael Heath, from Shannon Associates
Images of the resurrection usually show a white bearded Jesus in a white robe standing serenely next to an empty cave.
But the resurrection is active. It is violent. Forceful. Powerful.
In the resurrection, Jesus breaks the chains of death.
I want to hold on to an active and powerful, chain-breaking resurrection, but most of the time the resurrection images in my head are more like the former than the latter.
The passive images in my imagination seep over into my faith.
I don't envision what it took to break those chains, and I want to. I need to because I need that same power in my life everyday.
If we're Christians, we believe in the resurrection. It's a centerpiece of our faith.
When Paul recaps the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, he says, "Here's what's most important: Christ was crucified. He was buried. He rose from the dead on the third day and appeared to all kinds of people."
He stresses the importance of this resurrection and its application in our lives by saying, "If there is no resurrection for us, then even if Christ was not raised from the dead. And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is pretty much pointless. Our faith is pointless. We're doomed."
Incidentally, this is my paraphrase.
I believe in the resurrection. Cognitively. It's in my head, but I don't always live in the chain-breaking reality of the resurrection. And that's a problem.
In What Matters Most: How We Got the Point, but Missed the Person, Leonard Sweet differentiates between these two ways of looking at the resurrection (9).
Do we really believe in a "living Christ who is active and at work in our world today"?
Are we connected "not only to a memorialized Christ or a coming Christ, but also to a living Christ"?
Have we joined Jesus in the things he is "doing in the world right now"?
He says, "An Easter faith is not a Resurrection belief, it is a Resurrection reality: 'Christ is alive and among us.'"
A resurrection belief is in my head. I acknowledge it, but I get focused and distracted on issues and problems in my own little world.
A resurrection faith, a resurrection reality, is a relationship with Christ himself, not just what we know about him, not just his words, not just the memory of him.
Sweet says, "Easter is about recognizing the risen Christ among us and walking the same way with him."
God is alive and powerful.
He changes things.
He brings dead things to life.
He restores hope.
He does the impossible.
In him we live and move and have our being.
Resurrection realities are not easily grasped, but without them, Jesus is a historic character in an ancient book and not a glorious Lord at work in the world today.
In Philippians, Paul stresses the importance of resurrection realities. He writes, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, becoming like him in his death."
In Galatians, he again points to death and life in resurrection realities, saying, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."
In Ephesians, he prays that our eyes will be opened so that we can know the hope to which we have been called and know and live in the power of the resurrection.
Living in a resurrection reality is more than acknowledging a set of beliefs. It is a quest for discovery, a pursuit of God. It is filled with following Jesus, forgiving, seeking, rejoicing and sharing. It is moving forward; it is a "life of relating to God, to others, and to God's creation" (Sweet 10).
It is a process. We cannot do it on our own. But we have a resurrected Jesus.
He is risen.
He is risen indeed.