The Power of the Ressurection
In the late 100s AD, some Christians began to wonder about the nature of Jesus. They found it hard to imagine how God could truly become a human being, how an incarnate God could die, and how a dead God could come back to life. These Christians, called docetists, came to believe that God just “seemed” to be human in Jesus; since God did not “really” become human, God did not actually die and certainly did not come back to life. They believed that this was much more logical. Wasn’t it easier to understand God in heaven rather than in the grave? Didn’t it make so much more sense for God to be eternal, rather than die and rise again?
Against this line of thinking, around 205 AD a Christian author named Tertullian wrote, “The Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible.” Of course it is hard to believe that God died and came back to life, said Tertullian—but that is exactly why the church held onto this teaching. If Christians had made this up, wouldn’t they have invented something that was more logical and made more sense? But the resurrection of Jesus has always been central to the faith, and that is why Tertullian said we hold onto it—even if it doesn’t make much sense in human terms.
Tertullian’s words capture the power of resurrection for me. That Jesus as both God and human was dead—really and truly dead—and yet returned to life is such an outlandish, impossible idea. Yet if such an impossible thing happened, then anything is fair game. Anything is possible, and there are no limits to what God can do. There is no darkness so black, no despair so deep, no pain so great that God’s miraculous love and power cannot unwork it.
That’s the power of the resurrection for me—it’s a possible impossibility. The resurrection is the culmination of what an angel tells Jesus’ mother, at the very beginning of Jesus’ life: from the moment that Jesus steps into our world, “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).