This is Part One of Four in the Series “Wondering about the Resurrection”
Charlie was in the final stages of a terminal illness. His friend and pastor John Claypool asked him how he felt about dying. John reports that Charlie said something like this:
“As a toddler, I loved being at home with my mother. My world was my backyard with its swing set and its sandbox. I cried when I learned that I had to leave my secure, familiar home for a strange and distant school.
“But you know, it didn’t take long before I made new friends. Discovered a gigantic swing set and an enormous slide on the playground. My world got so much bigger. And I got to where I loved going off to school every day.
“After a while it dawned on me that my time at Elementary School was coming to an end. I dreaded leaving behind those safe, familiar places and rhythms for a place I had never even seen. And yet, after I arrived at Middle School, I met even more friends, got to participate in team sports, and started learning some challenging new stuff. My world got bigger and richer.
“This same sort of thing happened again and again in my life. When I went to High School, off to college, started a new career, got married, had children. I would leave my familiar and really quite lovely world behind only to enter a broader, richer, deeper world that I had not even been able to imagine.
“So, you asked how I feel about dying,” said Charlie. “Well, I’ve come to believe that every exit is an entrance.”
Now you might think that Claypool was using Charlie’s story to say that the resurrection is just a metaphor for the deep and abiding patterns of this life. Maybe. John has now joined Charlie on the other side of eternity, so maybe I’ll ask him once I get there too.
But here’s what I think John is getting at with this story. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus changes our whole perspective on this life. It gives us a framework for seeing and for responding to the changes and chances of this life.
All of us will experience sorrow, suffering, and eventually death. If our last breath is, well, just our last breath, then eventually all our loves and losses, our passions and tender devotions will all come to nothing anyway. One exit will be nothing more than our final exit.
To put it simply, the resurrection of Jesus gives meaning and purpose to this life. We Christians aren’t just looking for an escape from this world into a cushier, less exhausting location called Heaven.
Actually, our whole lives are centered on and propelled by the desire to have deep union with God. The resurrection is that connection. The connection that starts now and that even death itself cannot sever.
This is the point that Jesus makes with his friends in what Commentators often call “The Farewell Discourse.” (John 13-17)
On the night before he died, Jesus washes his disciples feet and shares the Last Supper with them. He then gives them an extended teaching about the Holy Spirit.
Think of the Holy Spirit as the risen Christ actively involved in your life. Teaching you, guiding you, motivating you, and transforming you. Believing in the resurrection is far more than accepting as a historical datum something that happened long ago. Instead, it’s saying “yes” to God’s loving presence at the center of your being.
To put it briefly, when Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit, he’s actually telling us how the resurrection that will guide, motivate, and definitively shape our lives. As Jesus put it, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
What I’ve said so far may have left you wondering about a number of things:
How do I know what the loving thing to do is in all of life’s complex situations?
How can the resurrection make sense of all the suffering and sorrow of this world? Of my own personal pain?
How do I experience the risen Christ in my hurried, cramped, exhausting life?
Why should I even believe in the truth of the resurrection in the first place?
Here’s my invitation to you. Join me over the next three weeks to wrestle with these questions and more. We’ll be spending time with the section of John’s Gospel called The Farewell Discourse (chapter 13-17). Our aim will be to explore the the meaning and the truth of the resurrection.
In the meantime, please share your questions, concerns, and doubts. You can add a comment under this post or in social media. I’ll do my best to respond either directly to you or in how I craft the coming posts. Hope to see you next week.