Today David Johnson speaks of the reality of resurrection in the midst of his experience of “stepping into the unknown”. Thank you, David, for this window into the recent transitions of your life.
There are two things I have always found rather mysterious in the resurrection accounts in the gospels: First, I marvel that no one seems to recognize the resurrected Jesus, at least not at first glance. Mary Magdalene at the tomb thinks he’s the gardener. The two friends on the road to Emmaus think he’s a wanderer who doesn’t bother to read the papers. Does Jesus look really different? Hmm.
The second mystery is Jesus’ apparent superpower of suddenly appearing and disappearing, passing through walls and locked doors. (I’m thinking, couldn’t he just knock? That could make for an even grander entrance, methinks. “Ta-da!”) I mean, the gospel writers go to great pains to show that Jesus wasn’t a ghost or a group hallucination—he eats food, invites his stunned followers to touch him, etc.—so why the special effects?
And then there’s another thing (Okay, I guess that’s three mysteries): Jesus’ resurrected body still has the wounds of his crucifixion. What’s up with that? If his body was made new, gloriously restored in the miracle of resurrection, why do the wounds remain? Couldn’t God take away the scars?
Well, I’m sure theologians have plausible theories to offer the resurrection apologists. But, as I have pondered it, I’ve concluded that this third mystery is really the key to grasping fully the meaning of resurrection—i.e., the key to experiencing resurrection, not just accepting the doctrine. Jesus’ lingering wounds tell us that the new life God offers us is not about restoring perfection. It’s not taking us back to the Garden of Eden. Resurrection isn’t a “do-over.” No, I believe that the resurrected Jesus continues to bear the wounds as a sign that he is continuing to be with us, daily taking the slings and arrows of this outrageous life right along with us. And he’s now inviting us to do the same for others. That means that resurrection isn’t just a one-time event, something in the past to profess faith in, something in the future to wish for. No, resurrection is here. It’s now. It’s not so much something to be believed as it is something to be lived.
So how does one live the resurrection? Well, Paul wrote, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2Cor 4:10). Could it be that Paul wasn’t talking about (as I was taught) preaching a particular atonement doctrine or espousing some purgative asceticism to get to heaven one day? What if, instead, he’s saying, “We hold on to our wounds so that we can love others like Jesus loved us: identifying with and ministering to their suffering, letting them know they are not alone”? You see, it’s in this love—an unconditional, incarnational, sacrificial, affirming, and healing love—that transformation happens…every day. As Henri Nouwen has expressed it, that transformation has made us all into “wounded healers” for others. That’s resurrection to me.
A few months ago, I left my church ministry, a decision that was influenced in no small measure by pressures to be less inclusive than I understand the gospel to require. As I was without other employment at the time, it meant stepping into a place of the unknown, without financial security for my family. Then last month I was offered a position serving as chaplain for a local retirement community. Not a fulltime position, no benefits, but something for the time being. After less than two weeks on the job, the coronavirus blew up in the Seattle area, and I suddenly found myself caring for people who are at an enhanced level of risk and fear. As an “essential employee” I don’t have the option to work remotely. So now it has been an opportunity for me to live what I believe, to proclaim resurrection—every day—with my life as I minister into the lives of others. My calling puts myself and my family at risk, but that has been the invitation to me from Jesus, living his resurrection in me, and through me to others.