In a Bible study yesterday we pondered a question Paul asked when making his defense before religious and political leaders. The Apostle asked, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8)
Paul implies that if you know the God of Israel, who is the Creator of the cosmos, you will view the resurrection as completely reasonable because it is completely in character with God. Radical theologian that I am, I find myself agreeing with the Apostle.
A week from today would have been my mother’s 86th birthday, if she had not died on Good Friday in 2017. Does reducing her to her Parkinson’s weakened body make sense? Does reason dictate that such a sparkling person has perished into annihilation? I think Jesus spoke with authority when he said, “He [God] is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (Mark 12:27) My mother and father have departed to be with Christ, and “that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23)
As I write, a beloved aunt, members of my congregation, and countless others bear the burdens of advancing age. Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” In his next breath, our Lord doubles down: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29) To which I say: Amen!
Thinking biblically and reasonably about the next life does not distract us from this life; it empowers us for the life that is truly life. In a marvelous book (now also a movie) called All Saints, Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Kindle tell the story of a wounded liberation fighter named Ye Win. As he lay in a crude shelter suffering from bullet wounds, infection, and malaria, Ye Win wondered, “If he died, what would be his eternal destiny?” (p. 12) Such thoughts turned him to Christ, and Christ transformed him into a shepherd for scores of refugees. After leading a flock out of a refugee camp in Thailand, he also revitalized a dwindling congregation in Tennessee. That’s the kind of thing that happens when thoughtful people get to “know the scriptures [and] the power of God.” (Mark 12:24)
When the hour of his death arrived, Jesus trusted his Father to make it an hour of glory. Therefore, Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) May God give us the rationality to follow his Son. (Romans 12:1-2)