When the miners in the collapsed Copiapó mine in Chile were finally rescued and shuttled to safety through three miles of stone on Oct. 13, 2010, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera was there to greet them. To the flashing of media cameras, Piñera embraced one of the men and said, “Welcome back to life. Very few people have the privilege of being born again.”
Presidente Piñera’s words are tragically true when it comes to mine rescues. But followers of Jesus know that in fact God calls people back to life all the time. The kingdom of God has resurrection at its heart.
The prophet Isaiah understands the secret resurrection logic of the kingdom. This is why he can speak with such precise confidence of the Servant’s modus operandi in his four Servant Songs — this though Isaiah writes 500 years before Jesus of Nazareth (42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12).
The Servant is an individual who will embody Israel, who will minister and speak and suffer on behalf of Israel, and what’s more: will in fact suffer on behalf of the whole world.
The servant is upheld by God and delights God (42:1). The Servant shares in God’s creative power, God’s justice, God’s compassion, God’s law (42:3-5).
The Servant will carry out God’s mission not by the bullhorn or the double-edged might of the world. “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street” (42:2).
He will not break the bruised reed or snub the burned out wick (42:3). He’s indefatigable, unbreakable and undaunted (42:4).
God’s people can’t know how it’s possible for the Servant to establish justice without recourse to the usual levers of power until Jesus comes on the scene and fulfills each expectation of the Servant (John 1:1; Luke 4:18; Matt. 11:28-29; Matthew 5-7).
By what power does Jesus accomplish his mission? By the cross: God’s love, with its impossible and perfect capacity to conquer evil.
But also by the resurrection: God’s unstoppable life fracturing death and opening heaven.
Only the God of Israel has power over life and death. Whatever other little gods might be out there, they can’t hold a candle to the Lord of lords.
“I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols” (42:8). There is no other who can resurrect.
It’s resurrection that sets the God of Israel apart, and it’s Jesus’ resurrection that establishes him as the one name under heaven whereby we must be saved (Rom. 1:4; Acts 4:12).
Resurrection is at the heart of our faith. “If Christ has not been raised,” writes the apostle Paul, “then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).
But if Christ has been raised, if he really did appear to Cephas and the Twelve and more than 500 brothers and sisters and to James and to Paul himself — as Paul has it in his short creed —then that changes everything (1 Cor. 15:3-7).
Then “all will be made alive in Christ.” Christ will destroy evil rulers, powers and authorities. He will destroy even death and will hand the kingdom over to God (15:22, 24, 28).
Jesus is the resurrection and the life, which means that we who believe will be raised to everlasting life (John 11:25-26).
What will our resurrection body be like? Because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” it will be a “spiritual body” (15:50, 44).
The closest analogue is probably Jesus’ own resurrected body, with its tangible presence (“Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side” John 20:27), but with physicality-defying abilities like passing through locked doors and appearing and disappearing at will (John 20:19; Luke 24:36). It will be a body that depends on and is completely transparent to Christ, the “life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).
This transparency and dependency isn’t reserved for the Last Day. Jesus enacts resurrection in our lives in the present — smooth, little reflections of his future.
Jesus’ resurrection power will be breaking into the moment, against all expectations, just like with Jairus’ daughter and the widow’s son and Lazarus (Mark 5; Luke 7; John 11). He’ll say “Come out!” — of fear, of brokenness, of decay, of addiction, of cancer. Welcome back to life.
Brad Roth is pastor of West Zion Mennonite Church in Moundridge, Kan., and author of God’s Country: Faith, Hope and the Future of the Rural Church (Herald Press). He blogs at DoxologyProject.com.