Jesus’ resurrection and ours

Is a renewed creation too much to hope for? Not if Jesus rose from the dead.

Easter sunrise service, Miami Beach, Fla., April 9, 2023. Worshipers listen as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean during an Easter sunrise service with the Calvary Chapel Miami Beach, Sunday, April 9, 2023, in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

It’s difficult for me to write about Jesus’ resurrection. Not because it’s hard to believe in it, but because it’s too easy.

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

— Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”

Two-thirds of Americans say they believe the biblical accounts of Jesus resurrection are “completely accurate.” That would be a remarkable number, except that 41% believe aliens from other planets have visited Earth, and the same percentage believes in ghosts. A majority believes ancient, highly advanced civilizations like ­Atlantis existed.

A tree stands on a field as the sky reddens before sunrise near Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 21, 2024.
A tree stands on a field as the sky reddens before sunrise in the Taunus region near Frankfurt, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 

— 1 Corinthians 15:20 

We humans are robust believers.

Believing in Jesus’ bodily resurrection in real history is to affirm a stunning claim. Annie Dillard writes about Christians’ insensibility to our own truths:

Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? . . . It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.

Another difficulty is that Jesus’ resurrection is so consequential. If a human being rose immortal from the dead, then everything has changed.

I suspect atheists sense this implication better than many Christians. How do you talk about something so astounding? Maybe some hymns capture its wonder. Maybe the simple Easter confession is best: “Christ is risen!”

Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. 

— Romans 8:21


The bell’s done rung!

There’s a wonderful African-American spiritual about Jesus’ death and resurrection that includes the refrain, “Live a-humble, humble, humble yourself, the bell’s done rung!”

If Jesus rose from the dead, the appropriate response is to leave behind our ego-centered desires and goals — what the Apostle Paul calls our “old human nature” — and to commit ourselves by God’s grace to live for God and others. To no longer be led by personal ambition or social expectations or fear, but to set our lives on following Jesus.

This is not so much an obligation as a liberation. Jesus’ resurrection frees us to live for the things that truly matter. Something of the divine energy that raised Jesus from the dead empowers us to live anew, allowing Christ to live in us, and for us to grow — albeit in fits and starts — in the expression of Christlike, self-giving love.

Orthodox Easter procession, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 16, 2023.
A woman holds a candle during the Orthodox Easter religious procession, in Addis Ababa, Sunday, April 16, 2023. (AP Photo) .


Many people today are pessimistic about the future. When I was growing up, there was a widespread feeling that a nuclear holocaust was inevitable. Young adults today add climate change, global pandemic and Artificial Intelligence gone amok to potential causes of the end of civilization and perhaps the world. Devastation is a blink of an eye away.

What, then, is there to live for?

Jesus’ resurrection means this world is a place of hope, both for individual lives being changed and for new social possibilities. Though the world is full of violence and injustice, Jesus’ resurrection shows us there is at work a tenacious Power for good.

Our everyday, stumbling acts of love and justice can touch others and our communities with something of the Good, True and Beautiful.

That the changes we can bring are limited and modest need not discourage us. We have callings to pursue, tasks to carry out. Lives can be saved, dignity upheld, justice enacted, in small and sometimes remarkably large ways. Because “the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

Easter sunrise service, Miami Beach, Fla., April 9, 2023.
Worshipers listen as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean during an Easter sunrise service with the Calvary Chapel Miami Beach, Sunday, April 9, 2023, in Miami Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

A new world

Jesus’ resurrection means all creation will one day be made new. We miss its importance if we say Jesus rose from the dead because, after all, he was God, so of course he could rise immortal. Yes, Jesus was God incarnate, but he was also truly human. And what’s significant is that Jesus rose as a human.

Jesus was the first human being to receive an immortal, resurrected body. He was the first instance of humanity’s resurrection and of the transformation of all creation. The biblical hope is a transformed creation: the world made new, with all that is evil and harmful removed and all that is good and life-giving perfected.

As we know too well, life in this world, blessed as it is, is damaged and incomplete. Illness robs us of body and mind. Poverty, racism and violence crush us. Our selfishness keeps us from reaching our full potential in the likeness of Christ. And so, as Paul writes, we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).

Speaking about Alzheimer’s disease, Tish Harrison Warren expresses the hope we have in Christ: “At the heart of God’s intimate knowing of human beings lies God’s remembering of us. For God to remember someone means that they are present to God, and therefore their existence and worth are safe, fixed and undiminished.”

Whatever happens to us in this life, God remembers who we truly are. God remembers those whose self has been taken from them by illness, ill treatment or catastrophe. God holds them, as scripture says, in the palm of his hand. Their mind, character, identity and personhood — all that they were, all that they are and all that they could have been and would be — God preserves and will ultimately restore and perfect.

Nothing good is lost. That’s God’s promise of resurrection.

We Long for God’s Kingdom to come in fullness. Where every loving act we have done in this life, and every blessed gift and experience, will be filled to overflowing — gloriously perfected. And every loss will be restored a hundredfold. 

We yearn for a renewed creation where the hungry are filled with good things (Luke 1:53), nation will not lift up arms against nation (Isaiah 2:4), no one will be made afraid (Ezekiel 34:28) and creation itself will be freed from decay and corruption (Romans 8:21). God’s presence and glory will fill a renewed heaven and Earth, where justice is at home.

Orthodox Easter worship service at the Church of Saint Michael in Budapest, Hungary, April 16, 2023.
Ukrainian refugees pray during a celebration of the Orthodox Easter at the Church of Saint Michael in Hungary’s capital of Budapest, Sunday, April 16, 2023. The escalation of the war In Ukraine has been forcing millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes and seeking safety in other countries. According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, more than 8 million of Ukrainians have been uprooted since the beginning of the war.(AP Photo/Denes Erdos)

Is this too fantastic to hope for? Not if Jesus rose from the dead. If God raised one person — Jesus — bodily from the dead in a transformed, immortal body, then God can transform us and all creation.

Jesus’ resurrection is the down payment and assurance that the renewal of all creation will follow.

Our life now isn’t a preface to a purely spiritual life in another realm. It’s preparation for — at its best, already a participation in — life in the renewed world to come, as we act to bring the love and justice of that new world into the present. 

Christ is risen!

We might picture ourselves inside Jesus’ rock-hewn tomb as he sits up and then stands up. As we face him, Jesus’ eyes spring wide open, and he looks out on the world in love. God’s new creation begins. The world, and you and I, are changed forever.

He is risen indeed!

Martin Shupack

Martin Shupack is a retired pastor, attorney and public policy advocate. He served with Mennonite Central Committee for 13 years, in Read More

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