The Resurrection as Natural Event
The Resurrection needs to be seen, not as a supernatural in-breaking of God’s power in the natural order, but as a natural event. In fact the resurrection is so natural that we feel compelled to call it supernatural. We have grown estranged from the naturalness of God and God’s creation, such that we consider God at odds with the natural order. How should we see these things?
We start with the freedom of God. God is free. God is free in God’s love toward Godself. God’s free love eventually flowed out into creation. For God so loved the world. This divine creative love demands that creation is free. Utterly free to be itself, utterly free, ultimately, to be freely aligned with God’s freedom. The world is free; this is creation’s character; this is what it is for the world to discover and make concrete as it develops. There is a purpose to this freedom which can neither be stipulated nor demanded. It needs to be discovered: the world is free to become wholly God’s; to freely become obedient in reciprocal love and transform into the self-expression of very God. Atoms are free to race and swirl. Molecules are free to assemble and disassemble. Species are free to evolve and produce creatures that devour other creatures. The universe is free to develop stars and produce meteors that plunge into planets resulting in the extinction of whatever life forms might exist there. This is the world’s freedom.
The world’s freedom eventually led to the emergence of human beings in whom the potential for God’s free reciprocal love became expressed in self-awareness and moral cognition. As with the world at large but more intensely, humanity’s freedom did not lead to loving submission but expressed itself from the outset as differentiation, independence, and self-centeredness. Freedom given in selfless love became the freedom to love self.
It is only with the incarnation that God’s freedom was received and expressed in reciprocal freedom. In Christ we see free submission to God and freedom to give oneself for the other and on behalf of the other. It was in Christ that God’s freedom became manifest and was at the same time God’s freedom as well as the freedom of a human being. God was able to express God’s own freedom for the other without any limit. And in this freedom the man Jesus Christ freely expressed his true self. It was here, in the God-Man Jesus, that the natural order came to its true self, that God came to full self-expression in God’s creation. The presence of God in creation, always emerging to give freedom and desiring to freely receive this freedom back in free self-giving obedience, became tangible and visible in this man. For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only-begotten Son.
The full presence of God in Jesus’ bodily existence could only overflow and become more concrete. Jesus, entirely contrary to the natural order of the revelatory presence of God in the world, was murdered. The full self-expression of God in Jesus, the Word who came to his own, was seen as a mortal threat to the selfish freedom of the world. But it was already too late. God’s freedom had already come to expression in the life of the man of Nazareth. The crucifixion of this man was an untenable outcry against the natural order of God’s evolving freedom in the world. Free love had already come to full self-expression in Jesus Christ. God had come to Godself in the created order.
Therefore the most natural thing happened. Jesus was raised from the dead. God, present in his creation from the beginning, freely giving and searching for the reciprocal self-giving love in the freedom of the world and the freedom of humanity, burst forth through Jesus’ life and through Jesus’ death. This is not a supernatural event, where a God from above pushes a few buttons and pulls a few strings. This is God expressing the very love and freedom of Godself in and through the human Jesus. Jesus is risen and with him our hope is fixed on the full all-encompassing expression of God’s free love in all of creation. The resurrection, therefore, is only the most natural thing that could possibly happen. It is the expression of God’s freedom in creation through the free obedience of a humble man. Christ is risen! The women at the grave have seen our Lord. Hallelujah!