If you called my dad right now, on Easter Sunday, he wouldn’t say hello when he picked up the phone. He’d say, “He is risen,” and he’d sit there waiting on the phone for the proper reply before you could talk. “He is risen, indeed,” you’d blurt, awkardly, then he’d laugh a preacherly laugh. It’s something the early Christians said to each other, and two thousand years later we’re still saying it. Or, my dad is. I used to think it was hokey, but the older I get the more I wonder if we couldn’t all use a little more hokeyness in our lives.
The other day I tweeted a Martin Luther quote about the resurrection: “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime,” and some guy tweeted back, “Show me one person who’s been reserected [sic], MEDICAL verification required, and we’ll talk.” I’m not an apologist, but something tells me no amount of arguing would convince this guy of a thing. I appreciate that he’s a guy after the answers (or, hopefully he is)–but it’s not proof he needs. It’s wonder. Or, if you like, faith.
But the early Christians, the ones who greeted each other like my dad will when I call him today, didn’t need faith to believe Christ’s resurrection like I do. They had medical verification. They saw him. They ate fish with him. They walked and talked with the man who just a week ago was strung up like a criminal and dead as a doornail. For them it wasn’t blind faith. And that’s why the word spread like wildfire. Hundreds and hundreds of people laid eyes on the one human being since the beginning of time who kicked down Death’s door and made it out alive again.
C.S. Lewis: “The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection and its consequences were the ‘gospel’ or good news which the Christian brought; what we call the ‘gospels’, the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracles of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection.”
I long to see him face-to-face. I long to put my hand in his side, and touch the scars. I want to thank him and to worship him without this confounded veil between us. Just fighting to believe can make you weary, and faith is hard to hold. But we are given moments of reprieve. Easter comes around and the pews are full of every-Sunday sinners and once-in-a-blue-moon saints. The ice melts. The daffodils glow like little suns. We remember the earth-shaking fact of the resurrection of Jesus, and hope comes galloping in from the east, trumpeting the tune of victory.
Today, when I walked the hill and saw the buds on the tulip poplar spreading out their little hands, I believed it. When I sat in the dark during the Good Friday service and sang “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” with a roomful of saints who, astonishingly, forsook whatever else they could have been doing to drive across town to mourn the murder of Christ–I believed it. And now, as I write this on Easter morning, when I think of the pain and death and sorrow that surrounds me and my community, I believe it, because I have seen a light the shadow cannot touch. I have seen healing, and unexplainable faith; I have seen quiet mercy stop evil in its tracks.
Demand proof if you want. Proof has its place, as it did for the early Christians. But blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe. The stories are true.
Let wonder infect you.
Here’s an Easter song I wrote last year for the Resurrection Letters tour. It’s the only recording we have, and I must once again apologize for my crybaby tendencies. When this was recorded the song was only about a week old, so I got emotional. It won’t be on Counting Stars because I’m saving it for Resurrection Letters, Vol. I. I hope your Easter Sunday is a good one.
And so the winter dies with a blast of icy wind Like a mournful cry—it’s giving up the ghost again Another sheet of snow melts away to gold and green Just look at Peter go, he’s racing to the tomb to see
Where has my Jesus gone? He is not dead; he is risen, risen indeed
And now the flowers bloom like a song of freedom Behold the earth is new, if only for the season And so the seed that died for you becomes a seedling Just put your hand into the wound that bought your healing
And let your heart believe He is not dead; he is risen, risen indeed
And the rain will fall on the furrow It immerses the earth in sorrow Mary, the sun will rise again Mary, the sun will rise again Daughter, listen, listen Daughter, listen He speaks your name
Father Abraham could not have dreamed of this Could never understand the end of all those promises How all the pieces fit, every star and grain of sand Is safely hid in Jesus’ hand
Let every tongue confess He is not dead; he is risen, risen indeed
Mary, the sun will rise again Daughter, listen, listen Daughter, listen, he speaks your name.