Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Three years ago, an article in the New York Times described Easter this way: “Easter is the celebration of the resurrection into heaven of Jesus.”

Now if you didn’t catch what was wrong with that, I’m not entirely surprised. It’s how most people think today, even many who go to church: the body dies, the spirit floats off to heaven.

That is not Easter. That is not resurrection. That’s just the old Platonic philosophy masquerading as Christianity.

Did you know that the Hebrew Bible makes very little distinction between what we would call the “soul” and the body? Why do you think that is? Because the Hebrews were directly connected to the beginning of God’s Word, which tells us that God made us not as separable components, but as a whole, a fusion together of breath and body, of mind and matter. Separate them, and you have death. This is why you have very little talk in the Old Testament about heaven, or life after death. Heaven in the Old Testament refers to the sky, or to God’s domain. We are made not as heavenly beings, but earthly. God made us from the dust.

That was the sobering reminder given us when this long journey began, at Ash Wednesday. Spoken over you, smeared unto your forehead, was the curse of Adam: “Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and to dust you shall return.” That is who you are in Adam: dust. Disconnected from God, all we are is dust in the wind.

God did not abandon Adam to his dust. God can do new things with dust.

But the God who spoke the curse over Adam did not abandon him to his dust. He did not leave the sons and daughters of Adam, and our first mother, Eve, without this hope: that “God can do new things with dust” (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p158).

When the prophets talked about a future existence for the human person, they talked like what we heard Job say today: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

The future renewal of the human person is treated in detail by the holy prophet Ezekiel, through whom the Lord tells of the rejoining of breath to body, of spirit to flesh: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Eze 36:26). Ezekiel sees a vast graveyard, long-decayed, full of nothing but bones. “Can these bones live?” the Lord asks? Ezekiel is not sure.

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Eze 37:5–6)

With the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, this begins. A dead man lives. In His body.

resurrection of Jesus

When the women heard this news, they were afraid. They fled, they trembled, they were amazed, and they were afraid. That’s how Mark’s Gospel ends, in the earliest manuscripts (Mark 16:1-8). It seems like a terrible ending, which is why alternate endings, longer endings started popping up. But there is a certain logic to it ending there, with the women in fear.

With the resurrection of Jesus, the entire cosmos has now begun to be reordered.

It’s a fearful thing to have the whole world turned upside down. I don’t mean just your personal situation, to suddenly have a drastic change in job, family, house, or reputation. But with the resurrection of Jesus, something more has happened. It’s not just their world turned upside down; the entire cosmos has now begun to be reordered. The holy Apostle Paul put it this way: “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Co 15:20). What happens to Jesus—His bodily resurrection—is the beginning of what will happen to all who die in Him. Which means you.

The Christian faith is not that when you die, good things will happen to you in some ghostly heaven. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright puts it this way: “Resurrection isn’t life after death; it is life after life after death” (Surprised by Hope, p169).

So what do we have so far? First, God made the earth, and us to dwell in it. Earth and bodies are good. Second, sin and death go together. Third, God promised a real, bodily resurrection. Fourth, the death of Jesus was the taking away of the world’s sin. Fifth, the resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of the new creation. His resurrection is your future.

But because it’s your future, it’s also your now, your present. The New Testament hope is not that one day we go to be with Jesus, but that one day Jesus comes to be with us, fully and completely, in a renewed earth. The Biblical language for this is the New Jerusalem, or the new heavens and the new earth—not creation destroyed, but creation restored. And that should transform our outlook on this world.

You can’t go too far poking around the internet without seeing something like this: #lolnothingmatters. As the Western world teeters on the edge of disaster, as the political theater becomes increasingly clownish, and law becomes increasingly disconnected with biological reality, people laugh because what else can you do except cry when you’ve fallen with Alice down the rabbit hole?

With the resurrection of Jesus, everything now matters. Everything that is good, everything that is beautiful, everything that is noble, lasts into God’s future.

Here’s what you can do: Although you know that the world is not only very evil but also very foolish; and although you know that you are going to die, and that your money and possessions all go to someone else: it is not true that nothing matters.

With the resurrection of Jesus, everything matters. Matter matters, the earth matters, your body matters, what you do matters. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians spends an entire long chapter—58 complicated verses—discussing the resurrection of Jesus, our coming resurrection, and he ends the whole thing by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Isn’t that beautiful? Everything that is good, everything that is beautiful, everything that is noble, lasts into God’s future, which is our future. Earlier in the letter, he says that the foolish things we’ve done, and the sinful things, are like hay and grass—the fires of judgment will consume them. But the noble things are like silver and gold—the fires of judgment will cleanse them of their impurities, and they will last.

How that works out remains a mystery, but the amazing music from organ and flute and oboe and choir, a beautiful building, a majestic tree, a radiant flower, an apple that has just the right amount of tanginess, the cleaning of a child’s diaper, rescuing people fleeing from ISIS persecution, smiling at your neighbor struggling with a small child, offering a hand in help and friendship—it all matters.

On the opposite side of the ledger, we’ve come to think of sin as rule-breaking – with the rules being arbitrary, or perhaps even designed to keep us from having our fun. The commandments of God are nothing of the sort. They describe for us dehumanizing behavior. The most obvious is killing. But God made us for community, which means man and woman find their fulfillment in marital self-giving and procreation, not in raging selfish lust; words are for encouragement, not derision; and the heart that covets has lost sight of God who gives us what we need at the right time. All of which circles back to the most important commandments, the first three, which remind us that God is the maker, and apart from Him we have no good thing; apart from Him, we lose what it means to be human.

Easter is not just a day in the calendar. Easter is our life. We are resurrection people.

So Easter is not just a day in the church calendar. It isn’t even fifty days, which is the length of the Easter season. Easter is our life. We are resurrection people.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and death is undone.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and we see what God can do with dead things.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and in Him we shall rise.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and in Him we now live.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and no king, president, governor, or tyrant can unseat Him.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and your cancer doesn’t have the last word.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and your sins are left behind in the tomb.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and your depression doesn’t define your ultimate reality.

Jesus is risen from the dead, and now Jew and Greek, slave and free, man and woman are called to live together without violence, marked by charity and selflessness.

So rejoice, you beloved children of God, and confess with me not the words of this day, but the words of your life:

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!