The death and resurrection of Jesus are everything.
They are not simply a pairing of events that I need to believe ‘really happened’ in order to go to heaven after I die. They are also more than things that happened a long time ago, and that will have a transformative effect on me when I die.
The death and resurrection are about the transformation of old realities into new realities. At the cosmic level, the present ‘heaven and earth’ begin their transformation into the New Heavens and New Earth. At the level of humanity, all ‘in Adam’ die, and all ‘in Christ’ rise to new life.
What about the personal level?
The new life does not arrive entirely immediately, and neither does it wait entirely until until ‘the end’. It arrives progressively. Also, the new life is not automatically imposed upon us by God against our will, and neither is it entirely up to us to raise our own lives out of the tomb. It is a partnership.
What does this progressive Death-and-Resurrection partnership actually look like – in practice?
First. Bit by bit, I have to die.
What ‘bits’ need to die? Just the ‘bad’ bits? No. Even the parts of me that I may identify as ‘good’ are tainted by arrogance, insecurity, fear and pride.
What does it mean for a bit of me to ‘die’? Is it self-hatred, self-mutilation and self loathing? No. Letting a part of yourself ‘die’ is a way of dethroning, decentering, or deflating it. It is to say “This bit of me is not perfect and indeed may be worse than I currently think it is, and so it needs God to transform it; and I offer it to God do shape and remake it as he wants.” It’s a way of saying, one part of myself at a time, “I am not God.”
Second. Bit by bit, I have to rise.
There are at least two aspects of this that are difficult. One is that I have to work. God moves mountains, but I have to bring a shovel. God will breathe life into my insecurity, but I have to practice reminding myself that I am loved and enough in God’s eyes. The wind will blow as God allows it to, but I have to hoist the sail.
The other is that I may not be able to measure my growth. Just as opening the oven door while baking slows down the process, so also too much wondering ‘how am I going?’ can distract us from trusting what God is doing. I just need to trust and obey. Plant and water, and God will give the increase. Trust.
May we participate in the death of Christ as we mark this Good Friday, and may we trust God for new life from within us as we pass another Resurrection Day.