Yet, believing that Jesus is risen is different than believing that Napoleon invaded Russia or that Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Though Christians say today that “Christ is risen” as a point of historic fact, we are saying something more as well. We say this to herald God’s power in the world and in our lives, even now.
Christians believe that because Jesus is risen, the same power that raised him from the dead is alive in us. The Book of Romans says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.” This historical event leaps out of history into the present tense.
Another poem that I keep in conversation with Updike’s stanzas is Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” a gorgeous poem published in 1918 about a deadly shipwreck. Toward its end comes this line: “Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us.”
Easter, here, is a verb. It is not only an event but it’s something that happens to us and in us. This poem and prayer asks that Jesus transform our lives, that he rise not just in a tomb but in us as well, that the piercing light of the Resurrection fall on the darkness in our cramped selves.
Updike reminds us that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, the church is a lie, but Hopkins tells us that if he was and is raised, then absolutely everything can be changed and redeemed — even shipwrecks, even death. In the final pages of the Bible, the end of the long story of the redemption of the world, the writer describes a vision of Jesus. He is sitting on a throne and says, “Look” — most translations use “behold” but that sounds so churchy; I think what he’s saying is closer to “look,” “notice,” “hey, pay attention.” And then he says, “I am making all things new.”
Jesus promises a future when everything is made new. But the only real evidence that that is any more than wishful thinking is rooted in history, as solid as a stone rolled away. The Resurrection happening in truth, in real time, is the only evidence that that love in fact outlasts the grave, that what is broken can be mended, and that death and pain do not have the final word.
Not everything will be redeemed in our lifetime but, even now, we see newness breaking in, we see glimpses of the healing to come. We believe that, because “He is risen indeed,” we can know God and our lives can participate in the life of God, that our own biographies and mundane days collide with eternity.