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3/14/2002
WORD OF FAITH
Becoming something new
REV. ROGER KARBAN


 

 

Many Scripture readers don't understand the difference between resuscitation and resurrection. When biblical people are brought back to life after dying, they're almost always resuscitated, not resurrected.

Resuscitation presumes the individual was dead and now lives. But the person brought back to life is the same person who died. If she was a woman before death, she's a woman now. If he was a black man, he remains a black man. If she liked pizza, she continues to like pizza. One has the identical DNA after resuscitation as he or she had before death.

That's the case in Sunday's first reading with the Jews who die before the end of the Babylonian Exile (Ez 37: 12-14). Yahweh swears through Ezekiel, "I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel....I have promised, and I will do it!"

Ezekiel believes those whom Yahweh will bring back to life for this triumphant return will look, think and function as they did before their deaths.

Coming back

The four evangelists presume the same about the daughter of Jairus, the widow of Naim's son and Lazarus, the man Jesus loved. Though the events which brought the three back to life anticipate and symbolize real resurrection for Jesus and His followers, they're simply resuscitations. None of the three is alive today.

The person truly raised never dies again. Not only does he or she live forever, but they're not quite the same persons after their resurrection as they were before their death.

In several of his writings, Paul refers to the resurrection person as a "new creation," a person not limited by human boundaries of race, social status or sexual gender. He compares the dead body to a seed before planting and the resurrected body to the completely different entity that springs from the ground after the seed germinates.

The only biblical person who rises from the dead is Jesus. That's why Paul is so concerned with describing the resurrected body (Rom 8: 8-11). He believes anyone who dies with Jesus will one day rise with Jesus. He reminds his readers, "If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit dwelling in you."

But biblical theology evolves. In the 35 years between Paul and John, some Christians being to believe that it isn't necessary to wait for physical death in order to experience the benefits of resurrection.

Old and new

In the Gospel, Martha expresses the "old" theology; Jesus, the "

"new."

"I know Lazarus will rise, in the resurrection on that last day," Martha states. "I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus proclaims, "those who believe in me, even if they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." Then he gets personal: "Do you believe this?"

John eventually has Jesus resuscitate Lazarus, demonstrating his belief that those who believe in Jesus have already stepped over the line into eternity. Though they still live in this world, they've begun crossing the threshold into the next.

As hard as it is to live in anticipation of becoming a new creation, it's much more difficult to start becoming that new creation right here and now, and even more a problem to see and experience that new creation in others.

It's one thing to believe we'll evolve into something totally new when our natural bodies begin disintegrating. It's another thing to believe we're someone new and different while our natural bodies are still intact.

Not everyone can accept the development of theology expressed in the Christian Scriptures. Some see what others never notice. Perhaps the ability to do this flows from the fact that we're already a new creation.

(03-14-02)










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