“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
Matthew 28:6-7 NIV
We who celebrate today (and next week in the Eastern Church) celebrate not that Jesus is alive but that he is risen. That the tomb is empty – not that Jesus lives eternally. That Jesus appeared several times and in several ways including, of all the odd facts, eating fish with his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
In the years I have followed Christ I have had many doubts. I have wondered about many things. Curiously the physical, real resurrection of Jesus from the dead has remained one of the things that I haven’t doubted or questioned much if at all.
Jesus has gone where we must all go. Jesus has experienced what every human I know has and will know – the end of life. His death is as real as that of every person I have loved who has gone. His resurrection is just as real – he has been raised from the grave. Not some spirit who ascended to heaven leaving earth behind. Not a ghost who appears to comfort his grieving friends. He rose – his tomb was empty. Some days later this same Jesus ascends in his new body.
To say Jesus is risen is to place the locus of our faith in the present and not the future only. I am not just waiting for the sweet by-and-by. I live in the world, the reality where Jesus rose from his grave. A world where something changed. There is no going back to the shadows. There is no undoing of the undoing of his death.
A bit of the future has leaked into the present if you will. The resurrection of the dead that we proclaim in the creeds has started. Only one so far. But not the end or only one ever. Not a solitary resurrection but a prologue of what is to come. A promise of what will break forth. A new heaven and a new earth John saw (Revelation 21:1). Not just heaven.
This all matters because the reality of the resurrection is not only for the graveside. It is for the breakfast table and the office chair and the checkout line at the grocery. To live in a world where Jesus rose is to live a risen life in that world. Jesus is risen. Now he invites us to go and do likewise. I am not always sure what that means. But I am sure it is so.