The Meaning of the Resurrection
I was listening to Hugh Hewitt the other day. He played an excerpt from an interview he did with a world-famous British Atheist. The man asked Hewitt if he really believed that Jesus turned water into wine. Hewitt said: “Yes” and the atheist dismissed him with “You are kidding me.” Or words to that effect.
I immediately thought of the atheist’s dismissal as being a small way of thinking. He is viciously anti-Christian so it does not surprise me, but it is really sad to have thinking like this.
One of the greatest problems for us as humans is to have this kind of small thinking. If we really think about what is the clash in our country it is exactly this. A small form of thinking versus a larger understanding of reality.
If you look carefully in the Gospels you will see Jesus is constantly trying to change the thinking of the Apostles. The key is not that he is walking on water, but that he is encouraging the apostles to think differently about creation. The key is not that he calms the storm, but that he questions the apostles why they were afraid in the first place. He is constantly changing their whole understanding of the reality around them.
Once he resurrects from the dead he again gives them a whole understanding of what it means to be human. Jesus is constantly expanding their understanding of the truth. He is helping them know reality in a whole different way.
I always remind people that the oldest eyewitness account of the resurrection of Jesus is 1 Corinthians 15. The Gospels are not eyewitness accounts. They are accounts of accounts. However, 1 Corinthians fifteen is where St. Paul not only names who saw Jesus resurrected from the dead but also that he too was one of them. He is speaking from his own personal experience.
What does he say? If Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, we are wasting our time.
This means that understanding the resurrection is key to what it means to be a Christian but also to be a human.
We are not just called to be Christians, our actual mission is to be witnesses to the truths of the resurrection so that others can know that truth and that will set them free as it sets us free.
What is that truth? That there is more to being human than what we see and there is more to the universe than what we can see. There are deeper truths than what we understand.
If we really go back to the writings of the Apostles and to the Gospels what we see is this powerful excitement. It is something that has to be processed and understood in a new context and it is something that changes their whole understanding of what it means.
Going back to the Atheist and his small thinking, he accepts a world that can be defined in what he can see and nothing else. He cannot even entertain the idea that his concept is incorrect.
Jesus opens the door for us to understand a bigger reality than what we can see and He invites us to not only understand it better but to be part of it. This is what Easter is all about. It is that Jesus has given us a promise based on a new understanding. He calls us to deepen this understanding and so that we can live that promise.
What is the promise: We live in God’s kingdom and God’s kingdom is beyond our imagination. You thought that your whole life is ruled by having to confront your own death, but that is not true. Your whole life can be ruled by understanding you are living in God’s kingdom.
Or it can be ruled by your own understanding of the world around you like the Atheist does. The former leads you to a whole new way of living based on a whole new way of understanding. The latter is based on a limited way of living based on a limited way of understanding.
Let me put it this way, as we speak there is a rover on Mars that is taking pictures of our neighboring planet. Ironically, it looks a lot like the American deserts. What vision led us to understand that we could send something like this rover to Mars. A new understanding of our humanity and the universe in which we live it?
What is the source of that new understanding, a new vision that began with the Copernican revolution which explained that Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around? Things like Galileo’s telescope gave us a whole new understanding of the moon and the planets and this understanding grew. However, what caused this new understanding was a new vision of the universe in which we live. It expanded over the centuries but began with the Copernican revolution. Some of our most powerful mathematical theorems come from a time when people believed gods moved the sun, moon and planets across the sky. The science was there but the deeper understanding of who we are as humans were not.
Jesus’ resurrection does spiritually what Copernicus did for astronomy. The great difference is that he demonstrates that we are more than we appear to be. This is His message to us. We obey him not only as God but also as we would obey a physics teacher who promises us the ability to reach Mars.
Jesus is the way, the truth and life. He is showing us that we are greater than we may imagine ourselves to be. He calls us to humbly embrace his teachings so that we can witness to them everywhere.
This is the most powerful message of the resurrection and it has been entrusted to you. One thing atheists despise about Christianity is the doctrine of Hell. The atheist who so dismissively rejects the possibility of turning water into wine may already be there and just does not know it. That may in fact be what Hell is to live in your own little silly world thinking that is all there is. Whereas Christ speaks to us powerfully to say but waits there’s more and invites us to the fullness of it in the Kingdom of God. This is the good news to share with others.