Jesus, Zombies and John 16
Why I believe in the Resurrection
There are a lot of great Christian apologists who have written profusely about proofs of the resurrection. There is historical evidence, and the rise of the early church, plus the fact that most, if not all, of the apostles were killed because of their dedication to belief in Jesus' resurrection. This article isn't about any of that...it's about how much God loves us.
From a distance, believing in the resurrection seems anti-intellectual
Since my husband was in graduate school, it seems like every year at Easter, one of his intellectual peers picks on us for believing in "zombie Jesus". Occasionally, one of those critics actually knows the following verse.
I will admit, that’s a little freaky! I honestly, kinda wish it wasn’t in the Bible.
Because, the simple, fact of the matter is: there are observable, measurable rules about how things work. It's what science is all about. One of those rules is that people aren’t raised from the dead.
We have all been to enough funerals to understand the finality of death. We see graveyards and all the people in the graves remain in their spot for hundreds and hundreds of years.
If there is one thing we as human beings know it is that death is the end of this life. As certain as we know we need to breathe, we know that the end of breathing is final.
So, yeah, in a room full of intellectuals, it does feel more than a little awkward to say that I believe in people being raised from the dead. People don't believe in resurrection because, it breaks the rules that we've all observed.
These Rules are part of why I believe in Jesus
Even if we don’t like the rules of how this world works, we are all pretty comfortable with and convinced that there are rules. When we look at science: the rules, the order and complexity of the universe, many people recognize that there must be a higher power.
For example, my husband is a mathematician and it is not uncommon for mathematicians to believe in God because they understand the extreme order in the universe. Believe it or not, several of the math nerds* that we know actually say that they find the level of math that they work on to be worshipful. When they see the complex order of things like how electricity works (and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t understand) they know life can’t just be random. The universe reflects a God of order.
I'm not a scientist and I hate trying to defend my understanding of science. I do however love hearing about science. I believe that, like the Bible says, this creation points to God. I believe the "something out there that we have not begun to comprehend" from the quote above is God.
Because of my appreciation for science, I am in awe of how huge and powerful God must be. There is no doubt in my mind that a God who could create and rule over all that we see and beyond could raise people from the dead.
Deep down, I don't think the real struggle for any of is whether God could do the things reported in the Bible, what we really struggle with is why would he?
Even religious People wrestle with Why The Resurrection happened
As I thought of this, I remembered a renowned Christian apologist coming to a church I used to attend, to explain science and the Bible to us. The speaker was an arrogant jerk who laughed about atheists going to hell.
This guy had devoted his whole life to proving that God could and did raise Jesus from the dead but he seemed to be missing the point. His life wasn’t defined by the love and forgiveness Jesus modeled. He was promoting an arrogant religious defense of what he believed.** His obnoxious demeanor may have been because this man didn’t understand the why.
Jesus' followers didn't believe Him when he told them about the resurrection
In John 16, John records more of Jesus’ final teachings for his disciples. He explains AGAIN that they are going to be persecuted, that he is returning to the Father and that he will send the advocate (Holy Spirit). The disciples didn’t understand the why either.
The disciples walked around with Jesus for three years. He taught them. They had front row seats to all of the miracles. They were wowed at the way he accepted the outcasts and confounded the religious elite. They had no trouble believing that he was from God or even that he was God.
They were ready to follow him into battle and defeat Rome. They were ready to set up a worldly kingdom. They were ready to spread his teaching.
But when he told them that he was going to die and return and empower them, they argued. They scratched their heads and they stood around questioning.
Why of the Resurrection is what gives life meaning
Because it’s hard to understand why this works, why God would want to do things this way, why he cares about us, or why he doesn’t just zap us all a lot more. (I mean if I was God, I’d be all about zapping and smiting!)
As much as it scares me to say it, I believe that you can’t fully understand the why without help from the Holy Spirit. I know it sounds freaky, like a bizarre cult thing to say “you can’t really understand my religion until you are immersed in it.”
One difference is that there are tons of archeological evidences, historical evidences, extra-Biblical writings, psychological proofs, and slews of other proofs that verify that Jesus was real and that he came from God.
But the bigger difference is that the truth of the why is love. Love like we have never known. Love that is willing to break the rules for the greater good. Love that serves. Love that forgives. Love that doesn’t care about social boundaries, religion, wealth, or politics: just people. Love that heals and puts us and all our messiness in right standing with a God who is perfect.
Through the resurrection, God broke the rules and freed us from religious rules
It sounds super nice to say it and most anyone on the planet would say that love is a great thing. But taking that love outside of our rules is a whole different ball game. We understand loving people who love us. We understand helping people who are needy. But loving people who hurt us over and over; people who hate us; people who are selfish and mean; that’s a different story. Why would we do that?
Why would God do that? Why would he love us? Why would he not be impressed by our ability to follow rules? Why would he choose to serve us rather than rule over us? Why would he live in poverty when he could have had wealth and privilege? Why would he suffer for us? Why….
And if you look at popular Christian culture in America, you will see a whole culture that is just as far from understanding the why as my friends who make the zombie jokes. Some are caught up in following all of the rules to earn salvation. Others are focused on wealth and ease which they believe are signs that they have earned God’s favor. They have taken Jesus’ teachings and made them into lists of what to believe, what to do, and how to do it without understanding the why.
Even my friends who laugh about zombie Jesus and the zombie saints chasing people around Jerusalem would probably have to admit that if there is a God, that he surely wouldn’t have a problem raising people from the dead.
But you, me, and them all sit around scratching our heads together over the question of “Sure God could, but why would he?”
The why is what we need help understanding. We need the Holy Spirit. We can reason out most of the truths of Christianity on our own, but the deep love that God has for us which compelled him to step into history and break his own ordered rules of creation is beyond our understanding.
That’s why we have so much trouble living it out. We all know people who claim to be Christians but are the most judgmental bitter people on the planet.
It’s because we have to live daily with his love in order to begin to grasp it. The answer to why? is amazing transforming love.
It is this love, that Jesus said people would see and know that we belong to him. (Jn, 13:35)
The answer to why? really does change everything.
Blessings my friends! Thank you for reading. Double thanks for sharing!!
* 3/5 (60%) of my family are mathematicians so I use the term math nerd in the most respectful, loving way possible!
**I’m completely grateful for groups like Reasons to Believe who are actually super brainy scientists and Christians. I read their stuff all the time. I’m most impressed that their founder Hugh Ross is an incredibly humble man. I have seen him being attacked in interviews and he is never hostile or arrogant in return.