Resuscitation and Resurrection are not the same thing. As disciples of Jesus, our true Hope lies in the Resurrection, but we often cling to a much lesser hope of mere resuscitation.
Resuscitation means temporarily going back to how our life was. Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb and gave him back his earthly life. Astounding though it was, a glimpse of things to come, Lazarus’ new lease on life was still only for a fleeting time. He was not yet ready for the glory of the Resurrection.
The Resurrection is something entirely new. Death is definitively conquered. Jesus, once raised, will never die again. He invades hell and conquers. Beginning on Easter Sunday, he starts appearing to his deeply discouraged and disheartened disciples – astounding and surprising them with unimaginable joy.
Resuscitation does not last. It is not definitive. It does not change the underlying problem. Nonetheless, it has great appeal. Not only does it temporarily extend one’s earthly life, it also allows us to return to what is familiar. We know what to expect, and so we feel in control.
Resurrection is unpredictable and catches us by surprise. It is “New” because it ushers in the New Creation. In the Resurrection, God reigns. We experience his Kingdom in all its power and glory. That means surrendering to the unknown of his infinite goodness and dying to our urge to be in control.
It’s totally understandable that we want to cling to this present existence – it is still so amazing, even though it is only a limited experience of God’s glory. But it won’t last. God truly made us stewards, and we have used our freedom to disobey, allowing corruption and death to have dominion. God will not undermine or erase our freedom. The world as we know it will pass away. But he is creating something new by means of the Paschal victory of his own Son. Through Faith, Hope, and Love we are being initiated into the New Creation.
But there is one catch – we have to die first if we are to rise. And let’s not forget about the agonizing period of watching and waiting in between. What incredible joy it must have been to encounter the risen Jesus on that first Easter Sunday! Peter and the others had left him alone to die on the Cross. Their final moments with their beloved Savior and Messiah were shameful moments of betrayal and weakness. Now that same Jesus suddenly appears to them, clearly victorious and beyond all harm, and speaks astounding words: “Peace be with you.” What a deep and amazed flood of joy they must have felt!
True Resurrection brings joy, even as its newness surprises us. But it is only possible if we first experience the death and the waiting, if we are willing to go into the depths of grief and loss. We often resist!
“I just want things to back to normal!”
How many of us have said or heard these words the past few months! Pining for the way things used to be is itself a normal human tendency. Change is hard. Loss is hard. Grieving our losses is incredibly hard – even though Jesus promises that those who mourn will be comforted and blessed.
We tend to resist true Hope. We prefer to settle for mere resuscitation rather than endure the pain of watching and waiting, not knowing when or how God will fulfill his promise of new life.
In this resistance, we are in good company. Peter and his friends, even after Easter Sunday, still struggled with wanting things to “go back to normal.” In John 21 Peter declares that he is going fishing – going back to his old way of life before he got to know Jesus. No one stops him. Indeed, the others join him!
Jesus surprises them yet again, leading them to a miraculous catch of 153 fish and inviting Peter three times on the seashore to renew his love. As in the Upper Room, he does not shame them for their weak human tendency to turn away. He meets them in their place of heartache and grief.
It’s so hard to grieve, so hard to lament our losses, so hard to open ourselves to the new and better heavenly realities that Jesus is opening us to. It’s much easier to deny or minimize. It may be absolutely obvious that things will never go back to the way they were, but we will keep pretending, keep holding out false hopes. Or we will identify a scapegoat that we can blame, someone to lash out at because things are not the way we want them to be. One need only spend a minute or two on social media these days to find many examples of these behaviors!!
It is much harder to lament – to allow ourselves to feel the depth of grief and agony and to express it to God and to others. Lament and hope are intimately connected. Refusing to settle for any false messiah, authentic Christian Hope stays open to the promises of God – even when God seems to be painfully slow and silent in answering.
The most hopeful people I know are those who are willing to cry out to God like little children – to weep, to groan, to sob, or to scream – but always seeking the face of the living God.
Hope is defiant. It resists the cheap substitute of resuscitation. It does not settle for going back to the way things were, but holds fast in Faith to the promises of Jesus. Blessed are those who mourn; they will be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; they will be satisfied.
Hope hurts. It is much easier to cling to control, to protect ourselves, to numb our pain, or to cast the blame on others. It is so hard to reach out in Hope when we do not know how or when the answer will come (indeed, what if no answer comes?). There is so much vulnerability there. And so much freedom.
Resuscitation can be a good thing. But in the end, it can only bring us back to the present world of corruption – a world still destined to pass away. Only Resurrection can usher in the New Creation, in which God promises to wipe away every tear, in which there will be no more mourning or death.
During these painful and challenging times, you and I have a choice. Will we cling to our flimsy hopes in resuscitation – or will we go into the depths of grief and lament and dare to hold out Hope in the Resurrection?