The Meaning of Easter: Miracles Still Happen

Jesus' resurrection was a true miracle that changed the world then, and continues to transform lives now.

BY: http://www.beliefnet.com/Columnists/a-j/Ben-Witherington-III.aspx

 

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Jesus' resurrection was a true miracle that changed the world and set it on a course that we still see being played out today. In my view, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the fulcrum of human history and the key to its interpretation.

The Easter miracle transformed women and men from doubters to believers 2,000 years ago, and has continued to do so ever since. In great and little ways, Easter miracles have touched me personally. A member of a Baptist church near me suffered heart failure, but was miraculously revived after being prayed over by his pastor. The sister of my college roommate's closest friend, five years old and dying of leukemia, witnessed to the risen Jesus so personally and persuasively that her brother, who had gone down a dark path, converted long after she died. A little boy from a dirt-poor family in the backwoods of North Carolina, invited to an Easter egg hunt, showed me the true face of Christ by offering up his prized goose's egg "for the children who ain't got no Easter eggs." Jesus' resurrection continues to transform me and millions of other Christians.

To me Easter is all about the fact that God's "yes" to life is louder than death's "no," and the ultimate proof of this is that God raised his Son from the dead. Easter is not just about an isolated miracle 2,000 years ago that chiefly affected one person. Easter is all about the fact that miracles do still happen. Christ's story is the Christian's destiny. In 1 Cor. 15, Paul calls Jesus' resurrection the first fruits of the resurrection, and he speaks of a day when, upon Jesus' return, the dead in Christ will be raised.

The physicality of Jesus' resurrection is important not least because we live an empirical age. Most people's spiritual birth certificates seem to be from Missouri--they say "Show Me." I love the way John Updike confronts this tendency in his famous poem "Seven Stanzas at Easter":

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

...

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that--pierced--died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

In an age of materiality and hard empiricism, the resurrection of Jesus challenges modern assumptions that miracles are impossible. There is certainly no miracle that more comforts me, having already had various close encounters with surgery and experienced life after 50. I increasingly look forward to my own physical existence coming up for renewal when Jesus returns. To me, this is also what Easter is about. Because the Son rose, this son (which is what my name, Ben, means in Hebrew) will also one day rise.

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