Life After Death
by Jo Kadlecek, author of A Desperate Faith
When Jesus encountered his utterly desperate friends after his death, as well as another five-hundred-plus people (Paul tells us), something changed for them. Whether the women at the tomb, the disciples in the upper room, or the fishermen on the beach, their hearts were no longer despairing when this Man stood before them. They were delighted! They’d watched every terrifying part of his execution and now with those same eyes were watching his arms and legs move again, not as some superpower angelic vision or apparition, or even some cool special effect in a movie, but in physical form. As a man who was now walking beside them. They heard his voice. They smelled the fish he cooked over the fire. A few touched his ankles, one even poked his ribs.
This dead man they’d loved was alive? That would change everything. And from that point forward, Christ’s resurrection became the reason for their life together. It defined church history, so much so that many faith-filled martyrs were burned at the stake or sentenced to death because of it. They regarded these encounters with the Son of God as true stories, actual events that defined the center of their beings, the primary purpose for living at all. They grounded their lives on the reality of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from a gruesome death and were willing to believe both events actually happened, no matter what it cost them. It was no intellectual exercise or weekly confession for them.
For Jesus, of course, it was all very normal. He was simply continuing his mission. During his forty days of resurrection, he continued to console his grieving friends, as he had throughout his three-year ministry. He continued to confirm the truth of his words as he had with each sermon or healing across Jerusalem, and he continued to commission his followers with the news of eternal life in him.
He hadn’t changed. During his post-death time on earth, he was merely doing what he’d always done: pursuing those he loved. But for them—for Peter and Mary, John and Thomas, and the others who’d seen his battered body and were now watching the same shaggy-haired man eat and hearing him laugh and talk—how could they not be transformed? It was a moment of complete upheaval in all they’d ever called reality; their lives were radically altered the moment they knew that Jesus was alive. He redefined real for them.
“Because I live, you also shall live,” he’d said.
So it wasn’t a movie? Not some fairy tale or fantastic Greek myth or cool interactive website?
No. It is instead the point on history’s time line around which the rest revolves, a fact as factual as the fall of the Roman Empire or the creation of Michelangelo’s David or the signing of the Declaration of Independence. To be sure, the triumph of his living presence has been at the heart of more social changes, more political agendas, more movements for good than any other single influence on any continent in any time period. More stained glass windows have been dedicated to this single story; more mosaic walls, painted ceilings, sculpted stone, and grand symphonies have been created around this history than all the creative efforts of other religions combined. As J. R. R. Tolkien said, “There is no tale ever told that men would rather find true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits… This story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified.”2
Jesus is alive. And if he is indeed, how can our lives be the same?
His followers knew the answer. They, in all their grief and cowardice and lack of faith, were transformed by his presence; we can be as well. Their stories are far more than a morsel of wisdom for the day; they are an invitation to participate in the impossible, to feast on the Bread of Life today and tomorrow and forever so that, as with the early church, those around us will never be the same.
Jo Kadlecek, A Desperate Faith, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2010. Used by permission.