Six weeks before our little Benjamin went to heaven I did a PrayerLife Seminar at West Shore Efree church. During lunch I sat with a couple, professional photographers, who told me how they would donate their time to take pictures of children who had just died or were about to die. This consortium of photographers’ website is www.NowILayMeDownToSleep.org. I did not know that in six weeks I would be calling them to ask them to take pictures of our little Benjamin.
They did a beautiful photo album of Benjamin that we got a copy of last week. The picture of John and Pam holding him is like a photo taken at the heart of the valley of the shadow of death.
Easter will be very special this year. Here are some of my thoughts on the resurreciton. Why do I believe it?
1. Jesus’s Resurrection. Without question, this is the biggest reason for believing it. The interlocking pieces of evidence for it are best summarized at a popular level by Lee Stobel’s The Case for Christ and at a scholarly level by N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. Wright’s book is brilliant. His interlocking arguments are so inrresistible that Anne Rice of vampire novel fame said it was one of the keys to her becoming a believer. Wright traces how the Greek world did not believe or want a bodily resurrection. Neoplatonism’s dominate culture shaping mold wanted, like Eastern religion, to be freed of the body. Jewish thought affirmed the goodness of the original creation and thus was looking forward to a future resurrection that would happen to everyone, not one isolated person. So no one was expecting a resurrection. The Greeks didn’t want one and the Jews couldn’t imagine it. Wright and Strobel both discuss the multiple interlocking pieces of the Gospels accounts. My favorite one is that the women are the primary witnesses to the resurrection. The 21st century equivalent of that is me telling you that my grandson Benjamin is really alive and I have Martians who will testify that they’ve seen him!
2. The Spirit. In Ephesians 1 Paul tells us that the Spirit is God’s downpayment on the resurrection. That spark of unexpected joy that you see in your heart, the way your heart leaps at times into love, the way your spirit soars in worship are the Spirit of Jesus in you. The Spirit makes real the presence of the resurrected Jesus in your heart. Practically, this is why most of us believe the resurrection. We taste that resurrection Spirit every day.
3. The Creation. As I look out my window I see the lingering effects of an earlier resurrection in creation. Resurrection is just new creation. As I type I seen grass, trees, blue sky, and birds flying. Its a little dull and rusty, but it is still glorious. Resurrection simply means that God is going to do it again. So in Paul’s speech at Athens he begins with God’s first creation and ends with God’s re-creation. I am most indebted to N.T. Wright for this reason. Wright traces how the Jewish belief in a good creation is at the heart of the Jewish belief in a coming resurrection. In other words, the creation is not bad, it is just corrupted. Like our hearts, it too needs to be reborn.
4. Dead Bodies. If you’ve know a person and then see their dead body, C.S. Lewis tells us that we are never confused between that dead body and the person’s existence. Yet our cultural elites would tell us that tell us that brain/body=person. Yet every culture that has ever existed has affirmed that body does not equal person. It was clear in seeing Benjamin’s dead body that this was not Benjamin. Like the ancient Chinese, like the Bantu, like the American Indians, I affirm that Benjamin was an embodied spirit. It is obvious to any observer.
5. Jesus Himself. This is the most subtle and I don’t know if I can quite capture this but let me give it a try. When Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrecion and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”, I am just riveted. At one level what is amazing is Jesus’ authority, his boldness, but those words don’t come close to capturing what Jesus is saying. Even saying that Jesus is claiming to be God doesn’t quite capture it. That is true, but that almost dumbs it down a bit. He isn’t claiming to be God, he’s talking like he’s God. I think you get closer when look at Jesus through the eyes of the temple guards who the chief priests had sent to seize him. They returned a little later empty handed and the incredulous priests said, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers of the guard said, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7) I think Napoleon, who evidently became a believer while reading the gospels near the end of his life captured Jesus best, “I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. Everything in him astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself.” (see. p. 274 of Person of Jesus manual). That gets closer. You can’t get your mind around him. As you listen to him, as you look at him, he fills you up, but your spirit can’t even begin to contain him. He overflows your spirit. It is like looking at a 1,000 Grand Canyons. You are touching, looking at, the center of the cosmos, the source. He is life itself. Life itself will never die. It will rise again.
And of course, this man Jesus, said that he was coming back. I heard a sermon a couple of years ago from one of my favorite teachers who preached a whole message on the 2nd Coming without mentioning that Jesus was the person coming again. The “2nd Coming” was its own entity. My friend David Powlison said that if you keep it simple, you just have to remember that the 2nd Coming is just the man Jesus coming back again, this time, though, without disguise. Like he did with his beloved disciple John in Revelation 1, he will need to reach down and touch each one of us so that we can see the glory.
Can’t wait to see Benjamin.