Jesus: Rescue and Renewal (part 3)
The First Easter
Resurrection isn’t a fancy way of saying “going to heaven when you die.” It’s a way of talking about being bodily alive again after a period of being bodily dead. Resurrection is a second-stage postmortem life: “life after ‘life after death.” If Jesus’ resurrection “proves” anything about what happens to people after they die, it is that. The NT states it this way: “If Jesus has been raised, that means that God’s new world, God’s kingdom, has indeed arrived; and that means we have a job to do. The world must hear what the God of Israel, the creator God, has achieved through his messiah.
Eastern Orthodox churches have always emphasized, when Jesus rose again God’s whole new creation emerged from the tomb, introduction a world full of new potential and possibility. Indeed, precisely because part of that new possibility is for human beings themselves to be revived and renewed, the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t leave us as passive, helpless spectators. We find ourselves lifted up, set on our feet…and commissioned to go and make new creation happen in the world.
If it was the case that Israel’s vocation was to be the people through whom the one God would rescue his beloved creation; if it is the case that Jesus believed himself, as God’s messiah, to be bearing Israel’s vocation in himself; and if it really is true that in going to his death he took upon himself, and in some sense exhausted, the full weight of the world’s evil – then clearly there is indeed a task waiting to be done…Something has happened in and through Jesus as a result of which the world is a different place, a place where heaven and earth have been joined forever. God’s future has arrived in the present.
Jesus and “Divinity”
From the earliest days of Christianity we find an astonishing shift, for which again nothing in Jewish traditions of the time had prepared Jesus’ followers. They remained firmly within Jewish monotheism; and yet they said, from very early on, that Jesus was indeed divine.
Once we remind ourselves that humans were made in God’s image, that this is not a category mistake, but the ultimate fulfillment of the purpose of creation itself.
Somehow, Jesus both prayed to the Father and took upon himself a role which, in the ancient prophecies was reserved for YHWH – that of rescuing Israel and the world. He was obedient to the Father, simultaneously doing what only God can do.