“God died, Trish. God died.”
I was a little surprised at this statement, coming from my five year old nephew. We had just started the drive from my house to my parents’ house. Perhaps it was the fact that we were passing a Catholic church or maybe the thought just came into his mind, but the statement seemed like it was out of left field.
“Who told you that?” Even though my mind was immediately jumping to Nietzsche’s famous ‘God is dead’ statement, I was pretty certain my nephew had a different source. Did he have a little atheist friend at school? Did his teacher say something? Was an older student filling his mind with such things?
“My mom and dad.” Well, that changed it a bit.
“What did they say?”
“They said that He died. He really died.”
“And that He rose from the dead?”
“Yeah.” That detail didn’t seem quite as important to him.
Yet the Resurrection of Jesus is one of the most important details of all. If He was who He said He was, then the Resurrection verifies His claims. If not, then there could be no greater blasphemy than claiming to be God and, by all rights, the Jewish leaders were correct to condemn Him to death.
The incredible aspect of the Resurrection is sometimes lost on those of us who have spent our whole lives hearing about it. But if we take a step back, we might be able to appreciate more fully the bold claim we are making.
We claim the Incarnation is true, that God took on human flesh–He didn’t just appear to be human or was merely human–and dwelt among us.
Later, He was condemned to death, scourged, crucified, and then died. After wrapping His body in clothes, He was laid in a tomb, which was sealed with a large stone and had a Roman guard stationed in front of it.
Three days later, the tomb is empty, the guards are confused, and His body is nowhere to be found.
We claim that He rose from the dead. He actually died and then He resurrected. Not “came to” or was revived, but entered into a new life, one that could never end again in death.
I appeal to this truth and our belief in it when my students give me the side-eye for professing belief in different miracles. When they seem unable to accept that Jesus could walk on water or multiply loaves of bread or that the Apostles could go out to preach in different tongues, I remind that we believe God rose from the dead. In that light, the seemingly impossible doesn’t seem like such a stretch anymore.
My nephew was right: God died. It is through this that He saved this world from itself. And after He died, He rose. This glorious truth isn’t just a nice notion or an interesting detail. This is cause for tremendous rejoicing and reminds us of the vastness of His love. It is a love so strong it conquered death. A love so strong that He chooses to remain in our midst, loving us and seeking after us.