“A miracle is defined as a suspension of the natural order . . . as David Hume says, what is more likely, that the laws of nature have been suspended in your favour, or in a way that you approve, or, that you’ve made a mistake.
It appears (at the time of Jesus) resurrections were somewhat of a banality, they happened all the time.” Christopher Hitchens
Hitchens puts his finger on the pulse quite brilliantly here.
Richard Dawkins once said, “. . . the resurrection of Jesus. It’s so petty; it’s so parochial; it’s so beneath the universe.”
Then there are some Christians who use the phrase, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” How banal is that.
When Hitchens talks about the “banality” of resurrection stories, he’s quite right. In the New Testament people die and come back to life, and in ancient myth stories, the gods regularly died and rose from the dead.
When Christians use the “It’s Friday” line they simply help make Hitchens’ point; resurrection is commonplace in the ancient world; in other words, someone rose from the dead, so what?
It sometimes appears that within some Christian thought the resurrection of Jesus was the natural order of things, the idea that after he died this is what was bound to happen, and this is the banality of which Hitchens speaks. Of course too there is the absurdity of it, the suspension of the natural order, an idea that is beneath the universe, something that is spoken of simply to try and hold on to a belief system that is in your favour. When the resurrection is spoken of in all the above ways, then total rejection is the only appropriate response.
But here’s the thing. In proper Christian theology, the resurrection of Jesus is an event that language is still trying to catch up with. The “It’s Friday” line of thought fails to register how utterly inconceivable, how beyond all thought, how beyond all understanding the resurrection of Jesus was and is. It was not the natural outworking of the death of Jesus on the Cross. When Jesus died, Jesus died, and there was no expectation of what was going to happen, because, quite frankly, nothing was meant to happen, and yet what did happen was unlike anything, ever.
In Jesus’ death and resurrection every conceivable realm of reality, every moment, every part of humanity, all things, all things, have been changed. Language fails to adequately describe the scope, uniqueness and totality of what is going on. Proper Christian theology recognises this reality.
The resurrection of Jesus is not like the gods who are killed and then rise to bring vengeance, but the coming of the Prince of Peace, in total compassion and forgiveness.
The resurrection of Jesus is not something we can approve for our favour, because the resurrection has changed everything we think about who God is, what God is like, and the totality of scope God’s love reaches to.
The resurrection of Jesus is not the suspension of the natural order of things, but the outworkings of how things are meant to be no longer bound by sin and death, the transformation of all things in order to bring everything in every sphere of reality to its intended goal and purpose.
The resurrection of Jesus is not the resuscitation of a dead person, but the entering into a new human reality where death and necessity are no longer master and lord. The resurrection of Jesus is not like anything. Ever. It catches us completely off guard, causes total disbelief, and is utterly beyond all our ways, beyond all our understanding, beyond all our categories of life and death, the way of the world and the cosmos, yet brings all things together into its harmonious, purposeful goal; through the resurrection all things are becoming.
The Cross and resurrection reframe all theology, our whole understanding of who God is, of life, death, humanity and the cosmos.
If we do not come to resurrection with a sense of disbelief, mockery, and shock, then we have not begun to grasp what is happening.