“The discovery that dead people stayed dead was not first made by the philosophers of the Enlightenment.” ~ N.T Wright
In this piece (NYT gift article), Tish Harrison Warren interviews New Testament scholar N.T. Wright about Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus. The scholar makes the point, as others have, that the Resurrection was just as unbelievable in Jesus’s time as it is in ours. Therefore, for those that knew him closely to carry on his ministry in the way that they did, and in the face of almost certain death, the only explanation is that they saw and they believed.
It’s hugely instructive because even Jesus’ most loyal disciples clearly had not expected him to be raised from the dead. They were flattened by his death. But then his Resurrection, plus what happened afterward, which was Jesus doing this very strange thing of somehow bequeathing them his own personal presence, which they came to call the Spirit, or the Holy Spirit. This absolutely revolutionized them. And it’s not just that they were fearful before and completely emboldened and ready to go to the ends of the earth afterward. It’s that the agenda changed.
The agenda that Wright refers to is one of radical peace. Of praying for those who were persecuting the disciples. It represented a total change from the instinct to survive and the values of the Roman world. The former disciples, who then became the apostles, were reborn with a different outlook. This can be attributed to having seen the risen Christ. Fearful before, following the death of their lord. Emboldened after, having seen Him risen.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
The difficulty, even if you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, is in how to keep centered with that focus. How do you live that miracle out, day to day? It reminds me of a time of disruption in my own life where my everyday reality was shattered. When I found out that I had cancer, the cares that seemed so important before that day diminished massively in size. From one day to the next, my mental priorities shifted completely. No longer was I concerned about my grades, or my issues with my girlfriend. I just wanted to live and continue to taste the abundance of life. The struggle became so all-encompassing that I didn’t have room in my life for other cares. This is what I imagine it is like to truly live out a belief in the resurrection. Exclusive focus.
What I found, through my cancer experience, is that — your focus can shift radically very quickly, but the challenge is in keeping that focus when the cares of life threaten to steal it. Gradually, those cares come in and take over mindshare. I am reminded of the Parable of the Sower in the 4th chapter of the book of Mark. Jesus explains the meaning of the parable to His followers:
The farmer sows the word. Some are like the seeds along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Some are like the seeds sown on rocky ground. They hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But they themselves have no root, and they remain for only a season. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Others are like the seeds sown among the thorns. They hear the word, but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Still others are like the seeds sown on good soil. They hear the word, receive it, and produce a crop—thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or a hundredfold.”
I feel like the seed, in modern America, is sown among thorns. The worries of this life choke the word. My prayer is not only to have faith but to be able to hang on to that faith amid the thorns.
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