Monday 7 December 2009

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible (36/50) – His Powerful Resurrection: Alleluia! He is Risen!

‘Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible’, from London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, is a series of fifty emails designed to look at the main milestones of the biblical story, seeking to show how whole-life discipleship is woven through Scripture as a whole, from beginning to end. Here is the thirty-sixth of the fifty emails, this one written by Margaret Killingray.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance… On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.
John 20:1, 19

A new day, a new dawn – a new creation. Just as the first infinitesimal part of a second at the beginning of the universe was a unique and unrepeated moment, so the resurrection of Jesus, Saviour, Lord and God, was the first, unique, unprecedented, without parallel moment when God’s promised new creation began. For without the resurrection, the cross is a defeat; there is no forgiveness, no salvation, no new life and no hope beyond death. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now we know that ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body’ is a truth that will be fulfilled for us who are his, when he comes again in glory and the new heaven and the new earth will be fully realised. As Tom Wright puts it in his book, Surprised by Hope, ‘With Jesus of Nazareth there is not simply a new religious possibility, not simply a new ethic or a new way of salvation, but a new creation’ (78).

It took some time for the amazing truth of the resurrection with all its stunning implications to dawn on the disciples, from their disbelief when the women came back from the tomb and told them it was so, to Peter’s Spirit-filled sermon at Pentecost and Paul’s dramatic words to the Colossians – ‘He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him’ (1:18-19).

Meanwhile, what are the implications for everyday life?

Tom Wright again: ‘Because the early Christians believed that “resurrection” had begun with Jesus, and would be completed in the great final resurrection on the last day, they believed that God had called them to work with him, in the power of the Spirit, to anticipate the final resurrection, in personal and political life, in mission and holiness’ (57).

Those who belong to Jesus are called to whole-life discipleship, to the resurrection life of the kingdom, whereby in every corner of our lives we are charged with transforming the present, as far as we were able, in the light of that future.

Margaret Killingray

For further reflection and action:

1. If you are part of a home group or prayer group, it might be interesting and possibly helpful to ask each other these questions. How do we think Jesus’ resurrection relates to our own survival after death? Will we have resurrection bodies or will we survive as ‘souls’ freed from physical form? Tom Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope (London: SPCK, 2007), has some biblical – but surprising – answers.

2. Isaiah 38:9-20 records Hezekiah’s poem about being close to death. Compare his sentiments with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15.

3. Looking back, are you able to identify those times when you were bringing resurrection life into daily activities? Some may point to running an allotment, or teaching a child to read, or sitting with a friend in hospital, or encouraging a colleague at work, or giving money to good causes, etc. How would it change our days if we began each one reminding ourselves of that we are agents of resurrection transformation?

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