Don’t Simply Believe the Resurrection
By Chris Castaldo–
Christ the Lord is risen! He has risen indeed. But don’t simply believe it.
The risen Christ exercises dominion over the expanse of history. He is the alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. In the final words recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
As men and women whose identities are founded in the risen Christ, our calling is not simply to believe that Christ rose, necessary as this is. Further and deeper and more immediately, God calls us to experience the resurrection. By the Spirit who lives within us, we have the capacity to encounter the resurrected Christ. Invading our personal history as the Sovereign One, Jesus forges an inexplicable relationship with his creation, what the Bible calls the Kingdom of God. We don’t believe that this kingdom has simply started; we believe the kingdom is currently advancing.
The movement of Christ has a discernible trajectory. It moves us toward one another, which requires involvement in each other’s lives. It is a mutual encounter that bleeds from the vertical axis to the horizontal. The New Testament calls this the Body of Christ. We don’t believe that this body was simply born; we believe it lives.
As Paul encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, we likewise have our moments of awakening. Such an encounter enlivens the soul with resurrection power. Darkness becomes light, bondage is broken, and bitterness is turned to joy. In this posture we address the world with the good news. In doing so, we don’t believe that the Father declared the Lordship of Jesus simply in the resurrection from the dead; we believe that God continues to declare the good news through his church.
Resurrection life is not peaches and cream. Until Jesus returns, such life is identified by its thorny crown. The presence of the resurrection brings with it the cross of Christ, for we cannot rise with Christ unless we have first died with him. The sting of death is sin, which lays all of us in the dust. But Jesus went lower still, even to death on a cross, in order to raise us in new life. We don’t believe that we were simply made God’s new creation; we believe that we are his new creation.
When Paul the Apostle looked back upon his days as a faithful Jewish observer of religious stipulations, he confessed that his activity was meaningless. He wanted only one thing. In his words:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:8-11).
Like Paul, we don’t believe that the resurrection was simply a historical event—something we argue to protect the credibility of Christian faith; we believe it was an event that categorically defines our present and future, endowing it with supernatural power, meaning, hope, wisdom, peace, and purpose. Thus, we don’t simply believe the resurrection; we have the pleasure of living it.
Chris Castaldo serves as the Director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.