Pastoral Perspectives

Resurrection: the irreversible is reversed

Death. Why didn’t God heal my loved one? Why didn’t God send us a more competent doctor? Should I have done more? Answers don’t come easily. Life is complicated. Death is incomprehensible. Grief, tears, even hopelessness, my loved one is now irreversibly dead. The disciples of Jesus could identify with these emotions. Their beloved Master had died. How could that be? He taught with authority. He healed the sick. He drove out the demons. He even raised Lazarus from the dead. He should not have died. But they saw him. It was a gruesome sight. They could not go any nearer. It was too much for them to behold. The flesh was raw. Blood was still trickling down his face, his torso, his limbs. Then there were the nails. They were sharp. They were thick. Just three were enough to fasten His already abused body to the cross. One who did not have a strong stomach would surely puke at the sight. What an inhumane act. What unjust suffering. Why didn’t God do something about it? Was His hand too short to save?

Wait! Their grief, though intense, was short lived. Three days later, the irreversible was reversed. Earth quaked. Angel appeared, bright as lightening. The guards shook. Became like dead men. Stone rolled away. Tomb emptied. Resurrection! If the death of their loved One was mind boggling, the coming to life ought to be mind blowing! The first Easter was of utmost importance. The disciples put all their stakes on the resurrection so much so that the apostle Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Did it really happen? How can we be sure? Take a look at the eleven. They were cowards on the night of the arrest. They fled at the slightest hint of danger. The only one who followed to see what was happening landed up denying Him. They locked themselves up in the upper room. They were scared stiff. They were petrified. What caused them to make a complete about turn? The boldness the confidence, the authority, the exuberance in the face of persecutions, even martyrdom – what had caused the drastic transformation?

If their Master was still buried in the tomb, why would they bother to preach otherwise? Were they mad? Disillusioned? Outright lying and conspiring so as to deceive the whole world? For what! Wouldn’t it be better for them to return to their original trades? Return to their families? Get on with their lives? Resurrection was the pivotal point that changed the destiny of the disciples. The One who came back to life took time to spend intimate moments with them. The skeptics were convinced. The hopeless were given hope. The sad were comforted. The confused were enlightened. The cowards were emboldened. He made His identity so obvious to them that no disciple could ever deny Him again and none did. Anyone who saw the resurrected Jesus lost the freedom of choice to believe or disbelieve. How could they not believe! They were first hand witnesses. They had breakfast with Him. One of them ran his fingers over his scars. Another was restored by Him and given the instructions to take care of His sheep. They saw Him ascend into the sky till he was no more. They were thoroughly converted. Fully persuaded. Committed. Fearless.

What about us? We did not see Him personally. It was of no coincidence that He told doubting Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Except for the five hundred or so people to whom He appeared, every Christian who has ever lived falls into the category of “blessed”. Ours is not a blind faith. There are many pieces of evidence that can be used to support the resurrection. Many who started out with the sole purpose of discounting the resurrection as a myth were eventually won over hands down. Although the evidence is overwhelming, there is still a need to exercise faith because we have not seen Him after all. Skeptics say, “Unless I see I will not believe.” They lack faith. They continue not to see. We walk by faith not by sight. What can be seen is temporal. What cannot be seen is eternal. “I believe therefore I will see.” If we believe even when we cannot see, it is then we will see. More than that, we will be blessed. How so? If we can get passed our doubts and believe Him, we will be saved by Him. Our sins will be forgiven. We will have an intimate relationship with Him. We live abundant lives. Death is no longer irreversible. Blessings upon blessings indeed!

Through His death and resurrection, we know that God does not abolish evil (not yet) but he transforms it. He did not stop the crucifixion. He rose from the dead. Likewise for our loved ones, He did not stop their death. He would transform it. We know He would surely transform it when He returns. Our loved ones will be resurrected too. Death will be crushed to death. But wait a minute, even now, something is happening to those who are grieving. Those left behind are also being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory as we continue to exercise our faith. This is yet another blessing.

We can take hope in Jesus’ scars. Why would He still want to bear those horrible scars instead of opting for a perfect body after His resurrection? The scars permanently reminded him of his earthly confinement and suffering. Yet the most horrible event ever to take place on the face of this earth – crucifixion, Easter had turned it into a memory. Because of Easter, we can hope that the tears we shed, the blows we receive, the confusion, the pain, the grief and the heartache of losing someone we love will become memories too, like Jesus’ scars. Scars never completely go away, but neither do they hurt any longer. The questioning ceases. The anger subsides. Comfort is at hand. Peace prevails. Easter makes that difference. The irreversible is reversed!

Ps Kien Seng

April 24, 2011