I keep coming back to some thoughts prompted by a conversation I had at lunch the other day with my friend Richard about the centrality of Resurrection to our Christian faith. And by that I mean not the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but what His resurrection means about our own death and resurrection.
At a very basic level, God had no reason to incarnate, die and rise for God’s own sake. God was already eternal, already not subject to death, already alive forever. It proves nothing new about God’s nature for God to die and rise. So if Christ’s Resurrection is not about our Resurrection, there was no reason for Christ to die and rise (or indeed to be incarnated in the first place). In one sense, the whole point of God becoming human was to make resurrection a reality for us…to carry us along so to speak, such that the resurrection of Christ inherentlly implies our resurrection. Thus Paul says “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised…if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised.
The other thing that occured to me in this context is that the first time Christ talks in a really direct way about the resurrection (i.e., I’m not including His mystifying statements to His disciples like “the temple will be destroyed and rebuilt in 3 days), it is not about His own resurrection. Rather it is the conversation He has with Mary about the resurrection of Lazarus. When Jesus asks Martha, Do you believe I am the resurrection and the life, He is not asking her whether she believes He will rise. He is asking her whether she believes her brother can be raised through Him. The question is do you believe you will rise.
And that is the fundamental question of our faith. Not do you believe the historical figure of Jesus rose from the dead, but do you believe that, through Jesus death and resurrection, even if you die, you will live….that you will never really die.