Reflections on Easter — The Walking Dead

Reflections on Resurrection Faith

The Walking Dead
He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over.  Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi's angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over. Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi’s angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

The Walking Dead is a very popular television series. The premise is that a virus spreads through the human race converting us into zombies. Given the recent Ebola scare, the idea of a pandemic that wreaks global havoc is not so far fetched. In the Walking Dead, zombies walk the streets of cities mindlessly and without purpose. That sounds remarkably like our real lives.

The band of survivors have one purpose: to survive. Our lives so often seem so empty of meaning that the idea of having such a focused purpose excites us. But we were created for far more than survival.

With 30 days to go until Easter 2015, I wanted to use this popular series to point out one thing the resurrection does NOT mean.

Resurrection does not mean the resuscitation of corpses. There were some in the ancient Greek city of Corinth that may have thought so. They wondered if the resurrection would be like The Walking Dead. Some of them may have used a Walking Dead scenario to scoff at the idea of resurrection.walking dead

Their doubts about the resurrection came in the form, according to the apostle Paul, of a couple of questions: “How are the “nekros” (the corpses) raised?” and “With what kind of body will they come?” (I Corinthians 15.35)

Paul answers that the resurrection is not the resuscitation of corpses, but a metamorphosis of the body. In the first reflection in this series, What Happened to the Other Guy?, I touched on the idea that resurrection is not about life after death.

Lots of people believe in a “disembodied” or “spiritual” life after death today and the same was true during the time of Christ. This is not the scandalous idea that resurrection brings to the table.

Resurrection means the transformation of our physical bodies into physical bodies (not spirits) that have remarkable properties suited for the new creation.

Interestingly enough, our physical bodies are changing at the cellular level right now. Every 5-7 years we are entirely new creatures physically. Every cell that made up our bodies 7 years ago has died and every cell that makes up our current physicality is new. But we are the same person. In the resurrection Christ’s body erupted with transformative power and was made new, but it was still him. The resurrected Christ was the same Jesus the disciples and his friends and family knew.

Christ was not undead.
He carried within his new body new features suited for the new creation.
We will not be the undead in the resurrection.
We will be as the butterfly to the worm.
Alive with new bodies for a new creation.

What do you think?

Alex McManus
Author, Makers of Fire

Others posts in the Reflections on Easter series…
31 Days until easter 2015 — What Happened to the Other Guy?

Series Blurb…
I write a lot about the future. As we approach Easter 2015, I wanted to write about the past, specifically the resurrection of Jesus and a few other directly related topics. As always these reflections may be slanted towards the future. After all, that’s where the resurrected Christ comes from.

Reflections on Easter — Where is the other guy?

REFLECTIONS ON RESURRECTION FAITH

What Happened to the Other Guy?
He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over.  Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi's angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

He Qi is one of the most popular modern painters of religious themes. Here a triumphant angel announces that Christ has risen, conquering the demons of darkness who now flee from him. The women have not yet woken properly, and seem unaware of what has happened. They still mourn, but the angel is telling them that the time for grief is over. Instead of the unfurled military-style banner often held by Christ in earlier paintings, He Qi’s angel carries a luminous lily, sign of purity and peace.

Jesus was crucified, according to Luke, along with two others.
One of these men mocked Jesus. “If you’re the messiah, save yourself and us!”

The other defended him: “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Jesus turned to him and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

The modern imagination conjures up all kinds of scenarios about what this means. One of these scenarios is that they both went to heaven when they died. The two crucified men ended up together in Paradise, then, now, and forever, amen.

But then we turn the chapter in Luke’s gospel and find that on the third day after Jesus’ death, Jesus appears to two men who are walking towards a small town called Emmaus.

Of course, we’re so startled by the appearance of Jesus that we forget the other guy. You know, the guy Jesus took to paradise with him. Shouldn’t he be happily tagging along behind Jesus?

No.

Something happened to Jesus that did not happen to the other victim of crucifixion. Jesus experienced resurrection.

Sure, the other guy may have been experiencing life after death, something we know little to nothing about. But Jesus had gone another step further. Jesus was experiencing, in the words of NT Wright, life after life after death. To be more specific, Jesus was experiencing resurrection life (a fully embodied and physical life) after the life (about which we know little to nothing) that comes after death.

This is so important as we approach Easter Sunday– the one Sunday a year in which we remember the reason we gather all those other Sundays.

We don’t gather because Jesus’ spirit goes on. (Insert Titanic musical theme here).
We don’t gather because Jesus went to heaven (or paradise) when he died.
We gather because we ride the wake of the most surprising event in the history of our species: a resurrection, a physical, fully-embodied, historical defeat of death that anticipates the resurrection of all.

It isn’t that Jesus is alive after death.
That’s not resurrection.
That’s not the gospel.
It’s that he defeated death and was bodily raised.
He’s not “alive” where he’s supposed to be… that is, in heaven or paradise or anywhere where the dead are suppose to go.
He’s back. Not his spirt. Not his ghost. Him.
That’s the news.

That means the powers that rule this world are in danger because their
ultimate weapon, death, is defeated. Resurrection faith does not claim the next world but concedes this one. Resurrection faith believes that the powers of evil in this world can be opposed. Why? Because the resurrection of Jesus means that they don’t get to keep this world.

This “religion” is not an opiate for believers. It is a mortal blow to the powers.

The resurrection means that this world has been taken from the hands of the powers of darkness – demonic, governmental, economic, religious, societal or otherwise. We are now traveling towards a future in which the meek inherit everything.

Yes, the future. That’s where the resurrected Jesus comes from. He comes to us from the future, God’s future. God’s future is not made up of disembodied spirits or souls living in heaven, but of an integrated new creation, a new heavens and new Earth become one.

So back to Luke’s story.
The other guy from Luke’s story, the one who was promised paradise?
He was not tagging along with Jesus on the road to Emmaus because he was not yet raised.

At best, he only had life after death. Meh.
He awaits his resurrection, as do we all.
He’s in the parenthesis, in the midst of transition, as are we all who are in Christ.
He is, as are we who believe, in heaven.

But, Jesus is raised to Life from life after death by the power of God.

What do you think?

Alex McManus
Author, Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

Series Blurb…
I write a lot about the future. As we approach Easter 2015, I wanted to write about the past, specifically the resurrection of Jesus and a few other directly related topics. As always these reflections may be slanted towards the future. After all, that’s where the resurrected Christ comes from.

If it Exists, Would’t Heaven be Boring?

A blog post from humanity+ makes the assertion that a future in which Artificially Intelligent entities take care of every human need and want will be boring. I couldn’t agree more. Image Imagine a future in which AI does more than perform all menial tasks for humans. They also do all the challenging tasks. They innovate, create, invent, discover. In that future there is no risk, no failure, no adventure. Let’s call it the boring future.

It’s also a reaction I’ve had when listening to theists talk about heaven. What would an eternity with no adventure, risk, and reward be like? Traditional images of heaven are scary boring. More recently, Christians are gravitating to the idea that heaven is not created by God for humans. God created the Earth for humans… and perhaps by extension the Universes too. Perhaps there’s an implication that we have lots more adventure ahead of us.

I find it interesting that both techno-utopians and Christians have some of the same misgivings about the future.

Both, I think, are pondering the question about our nature, human nature. Can there be happiness for us in an existence that is perfectly free of success and failure, predator and prey, evil and good, search and discovery? Or are we designed to be happiest when pursuing the ideals?

What do you think?

 

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