So here’s my proposition. How about this Easter, those of us who call ourselves Christians allow ourselves to admit that in a modern and scientific world, believing that a man died and was raised again three days later is extremely difficult? That way we wouldn’t need to anxiously defend ourselves every time a friend or family member expresses the same doubt.
But if we do that, then I humbly ask those of you who do not yet believe in the resurrection to suspend your disbelief (even if just for the length of this article) to consider how many other ‘unbelievable’ things happen in this world every day. Entire families starve while we throw out food, and thousands of children are armed with guns to kill while ours are handed pens to write.
Hear me out as I try to make sense of why the ‘unbelievable’ story of Easter might just be the most rational answer of all in pursuing together the kind of world we all want to see. A world without hunger, war and unfulfilled potentials.
Despite increasingly rapid advancements in science and technology, Western society is becoming more spiritual, not less.
But this is no assurance that the number of those who believe in the resurrection will also rise. In fact, it could yield the opposite result. Why?
Leading sociologist Robert Wuthnow points out that the increasingly common expression that has come to define this new pattern of thinking, is to say, “I’m spiritual but I’m not religious.” Perhaps that rings true for you.
Pastor Timothy Keller gets to the heart of this by identifying that whilst individuals living in Western societies,
“… have rejected the secular ideal that secular science and reason alone can give us meaning in life or a life worth living… they are getting very interested in the supernatural, or the eternal, but they will not go back to ‘traditional religion’ … to oppressive, creativity-stifling, smug moralism, which is how they understand it.”
Thankfully Jesus wasn’t interested in that kind of religion either. The way He lived His life proves it.
This is the one who stopped the stoning of a woman through writing in the sand, who taught his followers to carry the load of the one who oppresses you (not just for the mile but the one after that), and who was labeled a drunk and part of society’s riff-raff due to the parties he attended. This man, this Jesus, can hardly be accused of being oppressive, lacking in creativity or smug in his moralism. Far from it.
Still, that doesn’t answer why the resurrection had to happen. Isn’t it enough to just settle with what is believable (or at least more easily plausible)? Isn’t it enough that Jesus lived and that he was a great man and a great teacher – without stretching into that which seems unbelievable (or for some, totally irrational), that He rose again after death? Well you could do so…but you’d be missing out.
Earlier, I proposed the resurrection as the answer for mankind’s greatest collective desires – peace, love and justice. And yet for many, there is one main obstacle that stands in the way of believing that God provides this through the resurrection of His son, or that even fuels a bitter resentment towards God Himself. It is the very real and apparent contradiction seemingly created by a God who claims to be ‘love’ in a world where in many places there appears to be none, a world still marred by dark corners of suffering and grief.
But I’ve been to those places. And it is there that I have encountered in people a faith that defies the very darkness of the situations it finds itself in. In the joyful dancing of a refugee camp Church filled with the victims of violent men wreaking havoc in nearby nations, in the hopeful song of a woman whose old body is wracked with leprosy but who knows a new body awaits her in heaven, and in the constant perseverance of a family committed to love in a community of addiction, abuse and despair that sometimes literally spits in their face.
And this is the point. For those on the margins who know what it is to be ‘powerless’, and for those who seemingly ‘have it all’ according to the world’s standards and yet sense with a desperation that there must be more, the “Glorious Impossible”, that a man who was dead was raised to life three days later, is the only thing believable.
For in the ‘impossible’ is the promise that whilst all we see around us now is either pain and death or greed and consumerism, love has broken through. Our resurrection is at hand. Or as Tony Campolo, founder of this community, puts it so beautifully, “It’s Friday but Sunday is coming!”
In this attempt to prove the resurrection I haven’t mentioned a single scrap of historical or scientific evidence (though it does exist). That was deliberate. Why? Because the resurrection is ‘unbelievable’. It was unprecedented, unexpected and has never since been repeated. And no matter how close to the edge of believing that a clever articulation of the available proofs can get you, it’s still a leap of faith.
But between ‘here’ and ‘there’ are the answers that you seek: hope for the poor, justice for the oppressed, restoration for the earth and the gentle whisper that, “You are loved and made for this, now join with me as we set the world free.” So this Easter Sunday, believe.