As I write this I am in the midst of Passion Week. On Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday and the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. When Jesus rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey he threatens the world’s notions of status and power. The coming king is not the fierce warrior who vanquishes opponents by force, but the slaughtered lamb who through self-sacrifice becomes the Lord of the entire world. As I write this I am looking forward to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I am looking forward to the resurrection, and the victory that is proclaimed because of the empty tomb. Thinking of the future resurrection brings joy to my life.
However, as you read this, it is the Monday following Easter. You are now back at work, or school, or on break following Easter Sunday. For you, the resurrection was in the past: victory over the grave was in the past. You are not looking forward to the resurrection, but living out the truth that the resurrection has already happened. Perhaps you have already put Easter behind you for another year, but hopefully you are still enjoying the promise of new life made possible because of the empty tomb.
It’s interesting, you and I, are in this interesting stage of experiencing the resurrection from two different places. We are experiencing it as an already/not yet reality. It’s already happened for you, not yet happened for me. Perhaps we are stuck in some strange space-time continuum, but in reality, we are living out the way Paul talks about the resurrection, salvation, and even life. We as Christians are living in an already/not yet reality.
The resurrection has happened. Two thousand years ago Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. Two thousand years ago the women went to the tomb early Sunday morning and found the stone rolled away and the grave-clothes neatly stacked off to the side. There was no need for grave-clothes anymore because death had been defeated.
While the resurrection has happened, the resurrection is also still off in the future. We still live in a fallen world marred by sin. We still live in a world where terrorists strap bombs to their chests and detonate them in public places. We still live in a world where women are treated as slaves and taken advantage of sexually. We still live in a world where fear of the other, fear of those different from us, controls many of the decisions that are being made, both nationally, and individually. We are still living in a world waiting the moment when God will cast the beast into the abyss of the sea and create a new Heaven and new Earth. We are awaiting the resurrection.
So how are we to live in this already/not yet reality? How are we to live when we are both celebrating Easter Sunday and desperately longing for Easter Sunday to arrive? How are we to live when we are declaring Jesus is Lord at the same time that we are waiting for every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that Jesus is Lord? How do we live in the truth of the resurrection?
It’s a tension that is created, but that tension should draw us deeper into the cruciform life, not farther away. The reality of the future resurrection is so sure, we are called to live now as if it has already happened. Yes, we live in a fallen world, filled with hatred, violence, and evil. But we, as followers of the resurrected one, have the opportunity to live resurrected life now. Christ has been raised as the first fruits, and we can live now as if we are already raised because we know that someday we will be. So we share resources now, because in the new creation all will share. We welcome all to the table, because in the new creation all will be welcomed to the table. We lay down our weapons of war, because in the new creation there will be no war. We tell the truth, because in the new creation there will be no lies. We treat everyone the same, because in the new creation all will be treated equally.
This lifestyle, living as resurrected people in the midst of a fallen world, will be counter-cultural. The culture of the fallen world will consider us strange, laugh at us, and dismiss us as naive. But our goal is not to impress the world. Our goal is to be a witness to a fallen world that a new reality has dawned because of the resurrection has already happened, and will one day be the full reality when the resurrection comes in its fullest.
That’s why we celebrate Easter. Because it has already happened, and it will happen again someday.