Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Friday, April 07, 2006

this rising from the dead

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

- Mark 9:9-10

In Jesus' day, many Jews were looking for the coming of the Messiah who would kick the Romans out of Judea and usher in a new Jewish kingdom. For Jesus' followers, Jesus himself must have been a prime candidate. They looked forward to the day he would sit on the throne.

Jesus himself never seemed comfortable with that role. After Peter professed his belief that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus tried to change the subject:

He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

- Mark 8:29-31

And when Peter tried to correct him, Jesus called Peter "Satan". Perhaps the disciples can be forgiven for not wanting to press the matter further. So if they were confused about the meaning of this rising from the dead, I don't blame them for not asking Jesus for clarification.

Fortunately we, with the benefit of hindsight, know exactly what Jesus was talking about. Or do we?

For some, this rising from the dead is simply a matter of historical fact. Jesus died and was buried, but on the third day the stone was rolled away and the tomb was found empty.

Mark's gospel ends the story at that point, and frankly, if that's the only gospel we had, I would not be impressed. There are a lot of reasons a tomb could be empty. Perhaps the body was moved, or perhaps the women were looking in the wrong place. If the empty tomb were all we had as evidence, this rising from the dead wouldn't amount to much.

But it's not all we have. Something happened to Jesus' followers. They said he appeared to them again. Somehow these encounters transformed them, gave them a boldness they had never known before. And it wasn't just the twelve, but others as well.

A man named Cleopas was walking to Emmaus with a friend when a strange man approached them and walked with them. They talked with him on the road, then invited him into their home. It wasn't until he blessed their bread that they recognized him as Jesus.

Years later, a guy named Saul was traveling to Damascus when he fell down and had a vision. His life, too, was transformed.

Throughout the years, countless others have been transformed by encounters with this same Jesus. This rising from the dead is not simply a matter of a disappearing corpse. The empty tomb may have been a stunning surprise for the women as they arrived with burial spices, but what makes the resurrection special is its transformative power, something that can't be easily quantified.

Jesus wasn't the Messiah King his followers were expecting. He inaugurated a different kind of kingdom, defined not by political boundaries but by transformed hearts. He did it not by going to battle against the Romans but by defeating death itself, enabling us to truly live.



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