The stories that fired my imagination as a young Christian were resurrection stories…
Nicky Cruz – a Puerto Rican teenager who found himself in a New York gang or the verge of great violence to himself and others, but who came to life when a country preacher told him again and again ‘Jesus Loves You, Nicky’. The story is told in the Cross and the Switchblade
Or Chasing the Dragon, the story of the Walled City in British ruled Hong Kong, – a 2 mile square enclave of lawlessness and vice, full of opium dens, and triad gangs, with discarded addicts and child prostitutes littering the sides of the pavements. Into that area, Jackie Pullinger enters and, having been drilled to pray in tongues for 15 minutes a day but some USA missionaries, she begins a miraculous ministry of seeing drug addicts come back from the dead, and begin to live clean, after miraculous rehab sessions.
God raises the dead.
Near the end of his life St Paul asks his captor and judge, ‘Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead.’ In other words, what would stop God – who created all things – suspending or changing the rules of that creation, so that his purposes could be fulfilled.
Paul then tells his own story. I was convinced that I ought to snuff out the fledgling Christian church. I was opposed to those who though Jesus was God. I went from city to city persecuting them, even travelling abroad to do so.
And then BOOM. A flash. A voice. A light. Blazing. A calling.
From Damascus road he was led away blinded.
Three days he stayed ‘dead’. Trapped in his sins, trapped in the consequence to his rebellion. Trapped by the fruit of what he had do wrong. Blind.
He couldn’t eat or drink anything for three days. In his tomb of his own making he waited. And then… Day three. Resurrection day.
Ananias – the one favoured by God – comes and prays for him.
Immediately scales come off his eyes
Immediately he gets up
Immediately he can eat and drink again…
The stories from New York, Hong Kong, Damascus remind us that there is a power at work in the world that can raise the dead.
But these are nothing compared to the biggest story of all. The Easter story.
Jesus, side pierced, medically dead, spiritually dead, emotionally dead, dead, lies in a tomb for three days.
Then BOOM. An earthquake. The Holy Spirit raises Jesus from the dead at the Father’s righteous command. All the sins of the world paid for and right anger at sin satisfied in his death. Vindicated. Risen. Restored. The stone is rolled away and Jesus rises from the dead.
But not to his old body. To a new resurrection body. One that will not fade. One that walks through walls. One that can still eat a meal and be touched and feel, but one not limited to the usual human decay. New Life. Eternity.
Why should anyone be surprised that God raises the dead?
Why would God not have power over death?
Why would God want death to reign?
Why wouldn’t God want to restore all things…?
And so here the fight back begins… Jesus is the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, who die to sin and are raised to life everlasting… Jesus is the gateway to new life… Jesus is the way… Jesus is the truth… Jesus is the life… and when anyone believes in him the fightback begins in them…
Christian believers are in a space between being dead to sin, and alive to God… resurrection space… we are in the process of being resurrected (even while this earthly body is wasting away)… Why should we be surprised that God wants to bring fullness of life to us? We are his creation. His poem. His masterpiece. Yes we were dead. Yes we decayed. Yes we got depraved. Yes we were disobedient. Yes we were doomed, BUT God raises the dead. That’s his default… and the power that raised Jesus from the dead wasn’t a one of operation… That power is still at work today…
It blew Paul off a horse in Syria.
It got addicts chasing the dragon, to chase Jesus instead
It turned a punk criminal into a preacher boy…
And it’s after you as well…
Why should you be surprised that God wants to raise you from the dead…?