Oh, for a video camera trained on the tomb on that original Easter Sunday! How perfect it would be to witness the grinding of the grave stone, the genuflection of the soldiers, the gleaming of the angel(s).
And then: Jesus emerging in lightning white, like at the Transfiguration, girded with life from beyond, leaning into a new reality.
That would prove the resurrection to all comers.
Or would it?
Because what are data points to a true debater? In an age of hoaxes and jaunty on-screen lying, maybe a video wouldn’t get us anywhere.
Maybe what we need is something else, something tangible and experiential.
This is part of what makes the Gospels’ resurrection accounts so striking. They move immediately from the fact of Jesus’ resurrection to its meaning for human life.
“He has been raised from the dead,” declares the angel. Those word cracked the seal on a whole new culture — a way of being and seeing, thinking, acting and believing that the world had not witnessed before — because “Jesus who was crucified” is not only the One who died but the One who was raised. And the One who will come again (Acts 1:11).
There’s a community and a mission there, a punchy new world germinating in the death of the old.
Jesus’ resurrection inaugurated a culture of resurrection. It’s no longer Jew or Greek but something entirely different. Call it Christian or the Way or ecclesia (Gal. 3:28; Acts 11:26; Acts 9:2; Matt. 16:18).
It’s a community that is called by Jesus, that finds its meaning and life in Jesus’ resurrection and that is sent out to the world (Matt. 4:19; Matt. 28:19-20).
To be a culture is to share a certain way of being and behaving. It’s no different with the resurrection. This is why Jesus instructed the apostles to pass on the values and commitments he had taught them (28:20).
The sign of the resurrection is Jesus’ continuing presence among his people. Jesus made that clear when he said, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).
In flinging wide the gates of death, Jesus made possible a new, shared way of life (Rom. 6:4).
In the fifth century, the theologian Augustine of Hippo called this shared way of life the “city of God.” He spoke of the “heavenly city” that was created “by the love of God” and that “glories in the Lord.”
It’s the city “whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). All who find their life in Christ dwell in this city now, while still awaiting its coming fullness.
The resurrection birthed a mission. Jesus’ first words in Matt. 28:19 could be translated as “going therefore.” In other words, the disciples will be going. It’s not so much a command as a statement of fact.
Jesus says his people across the ages will be going. We will be going.
With those words, Jesus is winding the spring on a mission that will have no earthly end — a going out that results in many being brought in.
God’s people are a people on the move — making disciples, baptizing, teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).
Calling is brought to completion in sending because, like all things that are true, the story must be told and the message spread.
Community and mission radiate from the resurrection of Jesus. Wherever we see the church in its community and mission tacking against the ferocious riptide of history, we catch the tracings of the resurrection.
If you want to see proof of the resurrection, go to church.
Show up on any Sunday morning and worship with God’s penny-loafered people.
Or motorcycle down a cow trail in Tanzania behind an evangelist.
Or get on your knees to pray with believers in a North Korean gulag.
Try that. Then you’ll witness the resurrection unspooling in human life across history.
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.