I’ve always been intrigued – not to say mystified – by the resurrection. It certainly seemed like the ultimate victory, the absolute vindication of the man, Jesus, that we were told was the son of God. But, like many of us, I came to find that it wasn’t quite as simple as that: the ‘resurrection appearances’ of Jesus, as they called the experiences that his followers had after his death and burial are not quite straightforward. In other words, they are certainly not literal descriptions of a resuscitated corpse. Which is where many part company with religious stories like these. In a recent blog I tried to highlight the difference between literal (scientific) facts and symbolic (religious) meaning. The first emphasizes evidence, the second interpretation.

Another way of saying this is that deep knowing – beyond the basic facts – does not happen simply with our thinking minds. To truly know something, our whole being must be open, awake, and present. We intuitively knew how to be present as babies, when, in the first months, we saw ourselves mirrored in our family’s eyes. We came to believe and then become this vision. The contemplative approach of religion offers a similar kind of mirroring, as we learn to see ourselves in the ultimate gaze of God.

Our early knowing is not so much heard, seen, or thought, rather it is felt as our original identity. But we all inevitably leave the Garden of Eden, this state of innocence and blissful, unconscious union of childhood. The psychologist, Erik Erikson, called it the Fall into consciousness, which is, in fact, a progression into the dualistic thinking that characterizes our adult – differentiated – world. Psychologists suggest that when we first begin to doubt and move outside of this essential knowing, we cling to things like teddy bears and dolls, or the classic security blanket as a way of holding on to this original world.

Unfortunately, if this primal knowing never happens for us, we will doubt whether there is or ever was a Garden of Eden (“God”) where all things are one and good. Without the initial attachment of a good family, we grow up with this uncertainty and its consequences. And as we see ourselves more and more through eyes that compare, judge, and dismiss, we need help to heal the brokenness of this this world. Resurrection is about bringing us back to the original knowing of a loving web of life and an original identity. In this fundamental human experience are the roots of both our sense of sin (as separated from our original identity) and salvation (as reunited with our true self).

In the previous blog I also noted that the context of the Jesus story is the Jewish world of interpretation of life-shaping experiences that became tradition, and reinterpretation of this tradition in the face of new existential challenges, like exile in Babylon or occupation by Rome. In the case of the Jesus story, the Jewish followers of Jesus could only imagine surviving the Temple-destroying savagery in 70 A.D, when the first Gospel (Mark) was written), because Jesus had. This is the essential meaning of Resurrection: a hope that evolved into a conviction that survival of the worst fate imaginable, including death, was a possibility—even, a promise. Moreover, this was a conviction rooted in the very heart of Jewish belief and expectation, centered in a particular way on the book of Daniel (which was part of the collective imagination of that time) which proposes the first clear prediction of the resurrection of the dead in the Hebrew Bible: “..And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” Resurrection was seen as the resurrection of the body – everything that is – into a here and now eternity where there was no more death. Eternity means that those resurrected will never die again (unlike the raising of Lazarus).

The Christian Gospels, then, were interpretations of existential challenges in the light of the Jewish traditions of the first followers of Jesus. The heart of these interpretations of the resurrection of Jesus was that death is now seen for what it is: not the end but a new beginning. Jesus is not gone but present in a different way, the way God’s presence was understood in a different way at the time of the exile in Babylon. The purpose of Jesus was not simply the overthrow of a corrupt system as a ‘revolutionary messiah’, though he clearly did challenge that, but the renewal of the human condition itself (remember our original identity) and the fulfillment of the life principle that beats in every human heart: namely that we are eternal, infinite, connected: God? This outcome was symbolized – that is ‘made present’ – by Jesus’ personal victory over death, which could only take the form of his personal Resurrection. The association with the Book of Daniel implied that the final realization, the new day – what Daniel called ‘the End Time’ – was here. Their literal interpretation of this ‘end time’ as being here, in the immediate sense, is understandable, though confusing, like all the literal interpretations that have dogged religion.

The first Resurrection story in the Gospel of Mark simply asserts, in the voice of a young man dressed in white, addressing the three women, “He has risen, he is not here.” The image and the words would have made a clear connection, in the minds of Jesus’ followers, to the vision in the Book of Daniel of a ‘son of man coming on the clouds..’ That the story seems unfinished is actually quite fitting, since the finishing was going to happen in the lives of the followers of Jesus. The Resurrection of Jesus, the author of Mark is telling his readers, will be manifest in you. The Gospel invited them to change, if not what they believed, then what it meant. Mark’s Gospel was not an intervention, but a realization. His followers began to come to the recognition that the way to make Jesus present – and the kingdom of God he spoke of actual – is to live as though it were true: as though this so-called kingdom, long expected there and then, were, in fact, here and now.

It has helped me to overlay two frameworks on these Resurrection stories: one is the process of transition that I have used with organizations and groups; the other is the dialogue method that I have applied to it. The followers of Jesus clearly went through a transition with the death of Jesus and they did so through a collective dialogue. Transition might be defined as responding – adjusting, learning, developing – to change. I have found it helpful to define Dialogue as skillful participation in the generation and emergence of new meaning (life, in that sense), often in the face of loss and change.

The stages of Transition are check this site out Letting Go (Grieving is a part of it), Uncertainty (affirming vision and direction is a part of this), and renagel costo en mexico New Beginnings when an expanded awareness or awakening occurs and reveals new meaning. The stages of Dialogue are Connecting in order to be present to what is happening; Exploring in order to understand the experience and what it is saying to us; and Discovering when we give voice to new meaning in the form of shared understanding that takes us to a new place.

Thus the followers of Jesus connected to their experience of the absent Jesus, through their letting go-grieving process – talking about him, sharing stories of him. All they could understand at first was that he was gone but still with them – ‘He is risen’ in the words of the Daniel-like young man at the tomb. But then as they explored this experience and remembered the things he had said, they began to recognize his presence with them: in the man they thought was the gardener at the tomb, in strangers they met on the road, when they sat down together to eat their bread and wine. And, in the midst of their uncertainty they began to make connections with the intuitions of their traditions (things the prophets had said). Finally, they began to discover little glimmerings of the implications of this emerging understanding: new awareness of God with them in the present moment, right in the midst of life’s challenges; and eternity as here and now, not later and elsewhere. Resurrection became a realization of what IS: the opening of the tomb of old perceptions and the emergence of a new way of being in the world.

The later (40 – 50 years) writing of Matthew, Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, and John would elaborate this recognition and awareness, and further develop it. But this first Gospel was giving expression to the adaptation that Jesus people, drawing on their Jewish habit of mind, had already been making. The later Gospels elaborated in Jewish fashion (re-interpretation in the light of further reflection) on this resurrection experience, realization, and recognition of Jesus present in their lives and in the lives of ordinary people now awakened to ‘eternity’: an awakening of and to the true (original) self beyond the limited ego-self. Pentecost was the logical collective response to an awareness that was expanding in depth but also in breadth into a movement…

9 thoughts on “RESURRECTION”

  1. I can’t know what really happened at the tomb of Jesus. It’s very difficult, even impossible, for us to imagine what the Gospels describe from inside our modern, secular, scientific world view. Miracles don’t happen in our modern world view. So we reach for another answer. I want to offer that this is a limiting factor, which modern physics challenges. I see so many “exceptions” that I believe that reality is more porous than our world view allows. “unusual” things happen very often, but we deny or dismiss them because they are “impossible.” I am certain that it is not impossible for Jesus to have actually appeared in a recognizable form to people he loved after his death. I believe he has appeared to me –not once, but over and over, very differently each time. I treasure these encounters with the resurrected Lord.

    1. I like how you write about reality being ‘more porous than our world view allows’. And yes, ‘unusual things’ do happen – all the time, I believe.

  2. In my humble opinion, resurrection, like all important issues, is not to be approached form an intellectual perspective, but to be explored intuitively, just like the mystics, including Jesus, always have told us.

    1. Certainly our dualistic thinking along with the lens of our assumptions and biases gets in the way of experiencing resurrectio!!

  3. Thank you for this clear vision of the resurrection of the true self.
    I often feel my limitations, the shadow parts of myself, the limited ego self that I speak to internally. I shout out that i embrace my awakened self and the invisible forces of non-duality as well as the shadow parts. Self forgiveness is the new discovery.

  4. Hi tThese are deep mysteries indeed. I have often pondered on what we are meant to
    Take from the appearances after the resurrection and have thought about it as being like recognising someone as ‘living on’ in their child or grandchild. In this way we are reminded that we share a collective spirit and should try to meet Jesus in everyone?

    1. It clearly is an aspect of resurrection: recognizing someone ‘living on’ in their child or… Certainly it is about awakening to a reality that is truly there but but mostly invisible to us. In the next Blog – The Connecting Loop – I address this, I think, by suggesting that when we truly connect with anyone (or anything) we see what I call ‘the beauty’ that is already there but usually missed. Perhaps then it’s more about meeting what Jesus spoke about and pointed to…

  5. The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! the right hand
    of the Lord is exalted! I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.The same stone which the builders rejected has become
    the cornerstone.This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it!
    Psalm 118:16-17; 22-24

    Over the years, I have preached many Easter sermons. Some have been inspiring—some not so much. As I have gotten older, I have come to the conviction that I can really only preach from personal experience. Finally, that is all we have to say. I am remembering the words of the man blind from birth healed by Christ, when he was questioned by the temple authorities. His final witness was simply– “This I know, once I was blind– and now I see– once I was blind, and now I see!”
    When I consider my own experience of the resurrected Christ, I fall back ultimately on two vivid events in my life– the first when I was converted to a living faith in 1953 at Yale University at the age of eighteen. My first year in college was extremely difficult, as I wrestled with what we would now define as deep depression and anxiety. Struggling against the downward pull of destructive emotions, I turned to religious reading and practice.
    One day I was studying alone deep in the stacks of the library, reading a book on philosophy, when I sensed a powerful ray of light that suddenly emerged from the shelves in front of me and penetrated my chest with an expansive warmth. In that instant I realized the love of God surrounding me, and a sense of oneness with the universe that lifted me beyond my daily struggles to a realm of certainty and truth.
    At that moment there was not any doubt in my being that the God of the universe was a real and personal force, and that in the person of Jesus as the Christ he had shown the reality of love for the human race—and, more especially, for me as a unique individual.
    In the weeks following this experience in the Yale library, I found myself healed of the emotional problems that had been with me for over a year. There were other factors at work, by there has never been any doubt in my mind that the moment in the stacks carried with it the healing power of the risen Christ, a power as real as the force of gravity.
    The second event occurred twenty-nine years ago, in the summer of 1984. We were on vacation in the town of Eastham, on Cape Cod. I had already been ordained for twenty-five years, and had undergone the many and varied experiences that accompany ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church. I had known the heights of inspiration and the depths of sorrow that are so much a part of sharing people’s life journeys day by day.
    I had sat with parents mourning the loss of a young child, had been present at numerous deathbeds, had preached countless sermons, performed many weddings and baptisms. I had seen most of the aberrations of human behavior that one can imagine. My ministry had taken me to large and small churches, to urban and suburban settings, to involvement with social issues from mental health to civil rights.
    Yet with all of my experiences at that point in my life, I was still sur-prised by that quiet morning on Cape Cod. I was walking alone along one of the shore roads, as was my custom, at six o’clock in the morning. It was a lovely Cape day in late summer, with the early sunlight glinting on the Bay, and bird songs the only sound to be heard.
    As I walked over a particular stretch of the road leading to First En-counter Beach, I was thinking about my own journey through life– the places I had been and the things I had done. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with the sense of a Presence. I don’t really know how to describe it. It wasn’t my rational mind that perceived the Presence– perhaps it was my sixth– or seventh– sense.
    It was like that eerie feeling that you sometimes get in a dark place, where the hair actually stands up on your arms, as you imagine something terrible there in the dark with you– except that this time it was neither dark nor terrible. I was aware with an overwhelming certainty that someone was walking along with me– a few steps behind and to my right. Because of the depth of the feeling, I had no doubt who it was.
    Back in my early years, when I had the experience in the library at Yale, I had sensed for a moment what I knew to be the Presence of the living Christ. But that had been thirty years before, and though I had known deep moments of inspiration in my ministry, nothing had been as powerful as that first experience. Yet here I was, walking along a road on Cape Cod, and that same overwhelming Presence had returned. I said, “Is it really you?” I heard no voice reply, but I knew the answer with all of my being. And I just kept on walking.
    I walked for a distance of about fifty yards, with this overwhelming sense of the Risen Christ beside me. In those moments I felt my life’s journey affirmed. In that state of awareness, there was nothing to do but to be and walk. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the Presence was gone. There was no doubt in my mind that I had experienced once more the Holy Spirit of the Living Christ.
    As I stood on a bluff overlooking Cape Cod Bay, I saw the sand spits stretching out into the blue water. A lone seagull flew past me, heading to-wards the East. At one with this lovely, natural scene I felt, rather than heard, a quiet voice say to me, echoing in my mind— “Heal My Earth”. It was at that point that my focus of ministry shifted to environmental concerns. And it is the echo of that voice, rather than some philosophical or political agenda, that has kept me engaged for the decades since in searching for ways to bring healing to God’s Creation.
    On both the occasions I have described, I was vividly aware of a presence, a light, an energy which conveyed to me the power of divine love and was experienced by me as the presence of the Risen Christ. I was acutely aware of being fully known– and fully accepted. I sensed that I was being connected with the force of life itself– yet conveyed in a personal form that was not overwhelming, but affirming and caring.
    I felt a vital message being given to me in both of these experiences– the first calling me to a living faith in the Risen Christ, the second gently moving me in the direction of serving God’s Creation. One lasted but a few seconds– the other several minutes as I walked fifty yards along the road in Eastham on Cape Cod.
    What both experiences brought with them was a certainty that has never been shaken– a knowledge of the reality of God and of the resurrected Christ. Oh, I can debate the theology of the resurrection with the best of them. I can argue against the possibility of revivifying a dead body. But whatever the mechanism and whatever the theology, the one thing I cannot deny are those two experiences of the Living Christ, both gifts of grace.
    With the blind man healed by Jesus I can say with conviction “Once I was blind, and now I see!” But what is it that I saw? A fairy tale God that blasts through the created order to perform miracles at odds with the laws of the universe? I am more and more convinced that this is not the case. I am more and more convinced that the Easter Event was an expression of spiritual laws that underlie the functioning of the universe itself– not contrary to, but fulfilling what we call the “laws of nature”.
    What amazing miracles are being discovered every day about the origin of the universe and the solar system, the intricate structure of matter and of the biosphere. Biologists have completed the mapping of a human genome in a single individual– the DNA structure of human beings. What a miracle of complexity and genius resides in our very bodies as we sit today in this church!
    And what the scientific understanding of the creation expresses about that genius behind its origin! We are increasingly aware that all of life is a miracle, beside which miraculous events recorded in the scripture sometimes seem like sleight of hand. My experiences of what I would identify as the resurrected Christ left me with a sense of connectedness with the source of the miracle of life itself. It skinned my eyes of that blindness that so often comes when we are so sunk in our immediate surroundings that we cannot see beyond them.
    For me, along with this wonder, experience and understanding has come an increasing certainty that life does not end at the grave– and that the entity and experience we know as the human spirit has about it the quality of eternity. The event of the resurrection is not so much an invasion of life as it is the culmination of a work that has gone on throughout the evolutionary pro-cess– and has surfaced in the human race through the religious instinct. In Jesus of Nazareth that work exploded into consciousness, and we came to see beyond the limits of earthly life to eternity.
    “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed!” cries the psalmist. “The right hand of the Lord is exalted! I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”
    What would I say to you this Easter? I would say, look around you with new eyes. For whatever reason you came to St. Bernard’s on this Easter morning– out of habit, guilt, the pressure of parents or spouses– or the true joy of belief– know that here today you are on Holy Ground. This place, this altar is an opening to the mysterious forces from which you have come and to which you will return. And here in this place I proclaim to you what is for me not a vain hope, or a fanciful wish– but the knowledge that comes from one whose eyes have been opened, and whose life experience has been the living out of this ultimate reality:


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