I am often asked about resurrection – “do you really believe?” I am quite happy to say that I do, but exactly what I believe is a little more difficult to put into words. I find the story of the early disciples compelling. They turn from a group of people who fail to recognise the physical body of the risen Jesus to a group of people in many cases martyred for refusing to recant their belief – that Jesus had done the impossible – gone from life to death and back.
We know for example that Jesus’ brother James went from someone who frankly did not believe that his older brother was anything special to someone who became the leader of the church in just a few short years. Like many of his contemporaries, he also was martyred. I think that says something.
If you sense a “but”, it’s more of a qualification than a doubt and is simply that I think we have misunderstood what “resurrection” really means. The Bible tells us honestly that people Jesus had known and loved for years failed to recognise him – why is that? He walked for miles talking to his friends without them recognising him. Mary thought He was the gardener, Thomas refused to believe until he could put his hand in Jesus’ side, even Peter couldn’t quite accept the impossible. What are the gospel writers actually saying to us?
I think it’s horribly simple. It is that death changes things.
An undertaker of my acquaintance working in the South African townships during the Zulu/ANC war tells of a time he got the bodies of two elderly women mixed up – each lay in an open casket before weeping relatives. No-one noticed that it wasn’t – grandma, mum, auntie. Incredible but true and I can recall the sense of wonderment in his voice as he told me the story.
Death changes us, physically and spiritually in ways we baulk away from.
I often hear people say things like – “it wasn’t Mum in the coffin, her spirit had already gone”.
God loves to repeat the theme of resurrection in our lives. We keenly look forward to a new start, a fresh beginning, We want to rush over the “dying” part straight to the resurrection, but we can’t and I have to say from experience that it is only in dwelling in the dark space that bereavement leaves that we begin to understand the true worth of resurrection. Take time this Easter to sit in your own darkness, but not too long because this is the time when miracles happen.