James Killeen was a man about to die. Like most people facing death, he wanted to live. He was a member of a small religious sect that believed God was about to work a miracle in response to their faith. And so, when James died in his bed, his wife and the other believers gathered around his body and prayed that God would restore his life.
They prayed mightily for three weeks, ignoring the stench of decay, until police were finally tipped off and took the body away.
The Scriptures claim that Jesus restored the life of a little girl who had died of a sudden illness. They also claim that after Jesus’ good friend, Lazarus, was dead and entombed for days, God brought Lazarus back from the dead in response to Jesus’ prayers.
The greatest resurrection story of all, of course, is Jesus’ own. He was beaten, scourged, crucified to death, speared, and buried, only to be raised from the dead by God as a demonstration of his authority and his plan to reconcile humanity to himself. The resurrection of Jesus is the miracle we celebrate at Easter.
Today, in the twenty-first century, we shake our heads at the zealous friends of James Killeen and wonder how they could be so… naïve. We’re immersed in rationalism and scientific skepticism. Miracles? Resurrections? Dead is dead. Once the heart stops and the neurons die, that’s it. End of story.
It’s a little embarrassing, all this Easter happy-talk about resurrection, so we celebrate pastel-colored bunnies and chocolate, instead. And children in beautiful Easter outfits, frolicking in the grass in search of colored eggs.
But what if Jesus actually walked out of that tomb? What if there is a spiritual realm beyond the reach of science, ruled by an all-powerful and loving Creator—would it be so difficult for such a God to breathe life back into dead flesh and bone?
At the tomb of his friend, Lazarus, Jesus said:
I myself am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and anyone who is alive and believes in me will never die at all. —John 11:25,26, J.B. Phillips
After Christ had risen from the dead, appeared to his followers and returned to his Father, Peter, a witness to the resurrection, wrote:
Thank God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in his great mercy we have been born again into a life full of hope, through Christ’s rising again from the dead! You can now hope for a perfect inheritance beyond the reach of change and decay, reserved in Heaven for you. —1 Peter 1:3,4, J.B. Phillips
Easter is about a very startling and über-science hope: that by faith in Christ, we will be liberated from death, just as he was. Death is not the final chapter. We will awake from death to see God face to face.
It’s probably easier to believe in rabbits and chocolate. James Killeen is dead, despite the earnest prayers of his friends. And yet, if Christ was raised from the dead, there is hope that one day, just as he promised, we, too, will live again, beyond the reach of change and decay.
It’s Easter once again. Have you put your hope in rabbits, or resurrection?