I don’t like how April Fool’s Day comes the day after Easter, as if theological liberals are now controlling the calendar. “Jesus is alive! Just kidding. But cheer up, for his spirit goes on, beating in every heart that reaches out and loves the other, just as he showed us when he died on the cross.”
But it’s not just liberals who miss the point. Consider what you may have heard in church yesterday. How many of us talked about resurrection as if it was a concept, an inspiring promise that overcomes our fears, failures, and broken dreams? The resurrection of Jesus does promise all this, but only because this is not the point.
We must never talk about resurrection without the definite article “the.” We don’t believe in resurrection as a concept but only as the historical resurrection of Jesus. The empty tomb is a hard fact, not a soft platitude that things will get better if only we hang on until spring.
The specific resurrection of Jesus does inspire us with hope that a better day is coming, but only because his leaving the tomb defeated the indomitable powers of sin and death. These forces are so overwhelming that, to borrow a phrase from the NCAA tournament, Jesus could only defeat them by “going small.” Jesus became vulnerable to their destructive power. He did not withstand their onslaught but buckled before it. He allowed them to take him down so that he could take them out.
This is the triumph of Easter. If sin and death are not defeated in the victory of the resurrection, then it matters little that you feel inspired today. What good is it to have a spring in your step if your journey ends in death? But if the resurrection has defeated death, now we’ve got something to talk about.
Dropping the “the” may make it easier to reach non-Christians, but it will also guarantee that we have nothing to reach them with. The world loves to encourage itself with thoughts of resurrection, but it stumbles over the hard fact of the empty tomb. But this is all we’ve got. You may gain a large audience if you drop the “the,” but you’ll send them all to hell. Don’t be a fool.
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