I know it’s a few weeks past Easter. But I wrote an email to our community members that I wanted to share. Thanks, Mark, for encouraging me to post it. Also, next time, I’ll begin sharing some thoughts about our time with Todd Hunter.
We’re only days away from celebrating the most important event in human history — the resurrection of Christ. As we’ve been talking about on Thursdays, Jesus’ resurrection climaxes both Israel’s history, being God’s people blessed with God’s Word, Spirit and presence in order to bless the world, and human history, being dependent co-creators with God in nurturing goodness from creation.
On that remarkable day, God raised righteous Israel as had been anticipated in the Old Testament. But rather than resurrecting all of God’s righteous people at the end of history, God resurrected the one person who was truly God’s people smack-dab in the middle of history. In other words, God has begun his future new creation and age in the middle of this current age in one person — Jesus. And that new age is moving ever-forward and outward through Jesus’ apprentices toward its final revealing and transformation when Jesus returns. At Jesus’ resurrection, God’s new creation began! And like anything in God’s kingdom, it began as a tiny mustard seed, anticipating its transformation into something much larger and glorious.
What a statement the resurrection is about the goodness of creation. God isn’t scrapping creation, he’s liberating it by implanting his divine life into it through the resurrected Christ. Rather than letting creation self-destruct with the evil that has invaded it, God has “re-injected” his goodness into it. Through Jesus, he has planted his life — his resurrection life — back into creation.
Remember, Jesus didn’t just come back from the dead. Just like Moses and the Israelites went completely through the Red Sea into God’s new life, Jesus went all the way through the “Red Sea” of death into a new kind of life. In this way, Jesus’ resurrection isn’t just life after death. To borrow a phrase from N.T. Wright, the resurrection is life after “life after death” as Jesus went all the way through death into God’s new life. When Jesus re-emerged from the grave, he was not just simply alive (as if that were simple). Rather, he was alive in a new and radically different way. He now has a transformed physical body that is fully animated by God’s Spirit and capable of living in God’s new creation. And by resurrecting Jesus in the middle of human history, God plants his transforming life in decaying creation so that it will ultimately transform creation into the new heavens and new earth.
This is why Paul states in Colossians 1:18-20 that Jesus “is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
To use a simple metaphor, Jesus is like God’s anti-venom injected into a corrupted and decaying creation. Jesus himself is injected with the evil and death that is destroying creation. That’s what the cross is about. Evil takes its best shot on God and God’s love and life transform it. But evil has its full effect on Jesus. He dies. But he doesn’t just die. Alive after his physical death like all of God’s people who have died before him, God brings him all the way through death into a new life after “life after death.” In this way, he leads the first among God’s people to enter into this new life after “life after death.”
So the venom that kills Jesus is transformed by God’s life and then injected into decaying creation for it to take its effect. And as God’s life enters into other people as they choose to align their lives around Jesus, the kind of people they are becoming and the resulting change it brings to the world around them become the eternal materials from which God will build his final kingdom and new creation from.
To change metaphors, like Adam and Eve, we become the gardeners of God’s new creation right now where we live, nurturing and growing the goodness from it. And the results of that work are, according to Paul, eternal.
As Jesus’ apprentices, we are a colony of God’s new humanity on earth. We are glimmers of God’s new world in the middle of this one. We are gardeners of God’s new creation at work, home, and everywhere we are.
As we celebrate Jesus’ unique death and his glorious resurrection, let’s think about how it should move us to an authentic spirituality, a transforming justice and expressions of beauty in our lives.