To believe in the resurrection of Jesus is to be comforted, comforted at a level so deep that nothing in life is any longer ultimately a threat. In the resurrection, the hand of God soothes us and the voice of God assures us, frightened children that we are, that all is good and that all will remain good forever and ever.
The resurrection is not just something that happened to Jesus two thousand years ago and will happen to each of us some time in the future, after we die, when our own bodies will be raised to new life. It is that, but it is much more. The resurrection is something that buoys up every moment of life and every aspect of reality. God is always making new life and undergirding it with a goodness, graciousness, mercy, and love that, in the end, heals all wounds, forgives all sins, and brings deadness of all kinds to new life.
We feel this resurrecting power in the most ordinary moments of our lives. A sense of the resurrection, understood in its deepest sense, manifests itself unconsciously in our vitality, in what we call health; in the feeling, however dimly it is sensed, that it is good to be alive. Allow me an illustration here:
Sociologist of religion, Peter Berger, outlining what he calls “rumours of angels in everyday life”, gives us the following reflection:
Consider the most ordinary, and probably the most fundamental of all – the ordinary gesture by which a mother reassures her anxious child. A child wakes up in the night, perhaps from a bad dream and finds himself surrounded by darkness, alone, beset by nameless threats. At such a moment the contours of trusted reality are blurred and invisible, in the terror of incipient chaos the child cries out for his mother. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that, at this moment, the mother is being invoked as a high priestess of protective order. It is she (and, in many cases, she alone) who has the power to banish the chaos and to restore the benign shape of the world. And, of course, any good mother will do just that. She will take the child and cradle him in the timeless gesture of the Magna Mater who became our Madonna. She will turn on a lamp, perhaps, which will encircle the scene with a warm glow of reassuring light. She will speak or sing to the child and the content of this communication will invariably be the same – “Don’t be afraid – everything is in order, everything is all right.
The mother’s comforting reassurance, “Don’t be afraid, it is all right”, is, in fact, a profession of faith, in God and the resurrection. When she says these words, she is making an act of faith just as surely, even if not as explicitly, as if she was saying: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty … and I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”
When she assures the child that there is nothing to be frightened about, she means it, and she means it (without her even realizing it) not so much on the basis that there are no immediate dangers to the child or because she is herself able to protect the child as on the basis that, ultimately, everything is all right. What she senses which makes here able to comfort the child is that there is nothing to be afraid of, even if something should kill us or we should kill ourselves, because at the deepest level we are all in the hands of graciousness and love and not in the hands of maliciousness and terror. To say: “Don’t be afraid”, and mean it, is to say that, in the end, the power of goodness is stronger than the power of malice, that dead bodies come out of graves, that all our mistakes will be forgiven, and that all terrors are phantom.
That is the power of the resurrection! That is what we mean when we say: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” The resurrection means more than just the fact that God raised the body of Jesus from the dead. It means that God’s power to raise death to life buoys up every moment of life and every aspect of reality. The very atomic structure of the cosmos feels and knows that resurrecting power. That is why it (like us, when we are healthy) pushes forward blindly, buoyed up by a hope that it cannot understand.
Do you want to understand the power of the resurrection? Meditate Michelangelo’s Pieta: A woman holds a dead body in her arms, but everything about her and about the scene itself says loudly and clearly: “Don’t be afraid. It’s all right. Everything is all right!”