Monday, May 02, 2011

The "Livingness" of Jesus (Easter, Day 9)

As I suggested last week, there seem to be three different ways of bringing to speech what happened at Easter: (1) Jesus was raised, (2) Jesus has/is risen, and (3) Jesus is alive.

Let's treat that third one today, but without leaving behind the previous two. In fact, we'll see that this third way helps to fill out and clarify the meaning and purpose of the raising and rising of Jesus.

(3) Jesus is alive.

If find it intriguing that the New Testament does not only use cognates of "resurrection" (i.e., raised, risen) to express the Easter gospel. From time to time it also says that Jesus is alive. Whereas the other ways of speaking are verbs, this one is a noun. It is the result of being raised from the dead, i.e., to be alive again. It is the direction of his rising, i.e., he arose unto new life.

Hence it fills out the content of the Easter event.

As we saw, the raising of Jesus by God the Father and Jesus own rising were two ways of speaking of the same event. God raised Jesus; Jesus arose. The first speaks to the initiating act of Easter, whereas the second speaks to an ongoing reality. But the resurrection also has a future: the eternal life of Jesus Christ. The trajectory, telos and goal of the Easter event is that Jesus would be alive forevermore. So, whereas raising and rising point back to his death (i.e., raised/arose from the dead), being alive points forward to his future (i.e., eternal life). On account of his resurrection, the future of Jesus Christ is life.

This not only fills out the content of the Easter event, but also fills out our understanding of the subject of the Easter event.

Who acts in Christ's resurrection?

Our first answer was that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. The initiating act of Easter, i.e., the raising of Jesus, is appropriately attributed to God the Father.

Our second answer was that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus is not only the object of resurrection, but also its subject. As the Father raises him, the Son also rises.

Now a third answer must be added: Jesus was, is and will be alive in the Spirit. The Spirit gives life to the Son, and the Son gives his Spirit of life to us!

In the New Testament, the Spirit is consistently associated with the concept of life (John 6, Rom 8, 1 Cor 15, 2 Cor 3, Gal 6). The Church has enshrined this association in her creeds: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life." Christian piety takes this language for granted: we talk of life in the Spirit, etc. And there's just a commonsensical connection, i.e., that which is spirited is lively, and that which is dead lacks spirit. So the Easter livingness of Jesus is aptly attributed to the Spirit.

But this third answer requires that we restate our first two answers. For just as the livingness of Jesus fills out the content of his raising/rising, so the life-giving Spirit fills out the subject of this act.

So, again, who acts in Christ's resurrection?

First of all, God the Father raised Jesus by the Spirit. "The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is in you" (Rom 8:11a). The initiating act of Easter, i.e., the raising of Jesus, is enacted by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. The life-giving Spirit is not only the result but also the means of the Father's act of raising. The Spirit is the one by whom the Father raised the Son.

Secondly, Jesus rose from the dead by the Spirit. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17). The Spirit is the freedom, power, and authority of the Son to arise. (Note: this is how I would interpret John 10:18.) The Spirit is the very livingness in which Jesus arose from the dead.

Now we have come full circle. We have discussed the three ways of speaking the Easter gospel: Jesus was raised, Jesus has risen, and Jesus is alive. And we have seen how these three ways correlate with a threefold way of speaking of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In a word, the God of Easter is the triune God.

Any thoughts?


π² said...

Nicely done. Now that we are at the end of this section, I appreciate more how you added a layer each day. You also gave me some great thoughts on the creedal statements about the Holy Spirit.

pamod negi said...

I liked it so much and very interesting, too! Thanks for sharing the experience.
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