I’ve been reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus over the past week or so.
It tells us about God’s cosmic action, to renew the whole world and humanity upon it. And so it tells us about our destiny as humans.
And the resurrection narratives show us how much it takes to begin to understand who Jesus is and what he was up to. No one, it seems, got it before Jesus was raised. Except, maybe, the woman who anointed him in Mark 14.
But then the most ridiculous thing of all happens.
The resurrected Jesus seems darn-near incapable of appearing to someone without commissioning that person, immediately, to go bear witness to what she or he has seen.
In Matthew, the women are sent to proclaim the promise of Jesus’ appearance to Jesus’ brothers. The eleven do go to Galilee. Jesus appears, and despite some doubting, he sends them to all the ethne of the world.
The two people on the Road to Emmaus took it on themselves to make known what they had seen, and then Jesus appears to them and the rest of the disciples and commissions them all as “witnesses of these things.” They will bear witness after they receive the Spirit.
In John, Mary receives the commission to make Jesus’ glorification known to the boys. And when Jesus appears to them, as they are in hiding, he sends: “As the father sent me, so do I send you.”
Finally, there is the case of Saul, perhaps the most dramatic appearance-become-sending story of them all. With the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, Paul is sent to not only proclaim but embody the message of the crucified Christ.
When the church in Acts “witnessed,” it did not simply say some things that were true about God, or recount the story of Jesus. It bore witness to the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead–because they had seen it.
Resurrection is the hinge on which the Christian story turns.
Not only is it the hinge of the ages, as the new creation dawns. Not only is it the hinge in the life of Jesus, as he takes on an eternal, heavenly version of the authority he exercised on earth. Not only is it the hinge in the disciple’s understanding, as they have their minds opened to finally comprehend what kind of Messiah Jesus was to be.
It is all these things. And it is also the turning point in the story of the church, because now the doubters are sent to bear witness to the Messiah whom God has raised from the dead.