Our country and the world at large is consumed with conversation and panic about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Over the past several weeks we have been faced with both literal and figurative death as businesses, churches and schools have been forced to close their doors. With the Coronavirus on everyone’s minds and lips, we have been forced to consider the frail nature of our humanity.
In the midst of all of the pain and confusion, Christians around the world are preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. For many churches, the manner in which they do this will be different, but the implications of Christ’s resurrection are as important now as ever.
The reality of resurrection
Many people think of the resurrection as a one-time event, but resurrection still takes place today. Every autumn, beautiful plants begin to wither, and a few months later they blossom again as Spring approaches. Ninety-eight percent of our bodies’ atoms disappear and are replaced every year.
The world is in a continuous process of death and resurrection.
The apostle Paul presents resurrection as a universal principle in his first letter to the Corinthians: “If there is no resurrection from death, Christ himself cannot have been raised (1 Corinthians 15:13).”
Positive change could be another way to refer to the reality of resurrection. The thing about change is that in the short run, it barely ever seems positive. In the short run, it often just looks like death. To Jesus’ followers, his death on the cross seemed like the end of his story. But Jesus’ resurrection brought about a positive change.
The reality of death
Still today, when something changes, it often seems like the end. The Coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to change the way that we do life. To many people, it feels like death – death of social lives, death of businesses, possibly even death of loved ones.
I do not want to downplay the significance of the situation that we find ourselves in. Many people are at risk of losing their earthly lives. The economy is at risk of plummeting. People are at risk of losing jobs and young people are at risk of losing their education.
But what if, just like Jesus’ death on the cross, this is not the end of our story?
The hope of Christians
Christ-followers live their lives in the hope of eternal life. This is why we celebrate Easter. Contrary to popular opinion, eternal life does not only begin after we have departed this world, it starts now. Our hope in a better future is not only for a new heaven and a new Earth but a better world on this Earth as well.
Christians are just as susceptible to pain and suffering in this life as non-Christians, but Christians believe in resurrection – both Christ’s bodily resurrection two thousand years ago and also tangible resurrections in our lives today. When the entire world is in despair seemingly with no hope for the future, the Christian retains hope for a better tomorrow.
A wounded resurrection
In John 20:19-28, we read a story of the risen Christ meeting with Thomas. Many have termed him ‘doubting Thomas’ because of his insistence for Jesus to prove that he really was the risen Christ. And how did Jesus present proof? He showed Thomas the holes in his hands and feet and let him touch them.
Wait, what? Jesus’ resurrected body still had holes? Why is that? Surely, Jesus’ resurrected body should have been perfectly whole?
Perhaps the author of this story included these details for a reason. Well-renowned Catholic Priest and author, Richard Rohr, suggests that this story is not so much a story about believing in the fact of the resurrection, but a story about believing that someone can be wounded and also resurrected at the same time.
Christians worship a God who not only suffered for us, but a God who suffers with us (Romans 8:17). I do not believe that God sends or desires suffering, but it is often through deep suffering that we are connected to God – refined and renewed. Perhaps, to fully experience the power of resurrection in our lives, like the apostle Paul, we need to be willing to “participate in Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).
Life during and after Covid-19
Many people have rightly claimed that life will never be the same again after we have recovered from the Coronavirus pandemic. We will need to change, adapt, rebuild. All of the pain and suffering that we are experiencing during this crisis is not suddenly going to disappear. Perhaps, like Jesus, we can be wounded and resurrected at the same time.
Perhaps once we have survived our current situation, we will be more appreciative of our friendships and fellowship with others; perhaps we will realise the power of physical touch; perhaps we will cherish our health; perhaps we will better care for God’s creation; perhaps we will value life more than we did before. I believe that these are all resurrections that we can hope for.
Both healing and woundedness are available paths to transformation.
Great love and great suffering bring us back to God. Jesus’ journey was not just a path to resurrection, but a path that included death and woundedness.
Death and resurrection. Not death or resurrection.
Our story, and the world’s story, seems to follow a similar pattern. We cannot jump over this world, or its woundedness, and still try to love God. We must love God through, in, and even because of our suffering. It is through this love of God that we, like Jesus, can experience a wounded resurrection.