I'm also not asking if you believe in the doctrine of the resurrection, although that too is important. The actuality of the resurrection has theological implications, and it’s important to understand the theology of resurrection, and to believe and accept it. But, again, that’s not what I'm asking when I ask if you believe in the resurrection.
What I'm asking is if you are willing to roll the dice and stake your life on the resurrection—not just Jesus’ resurrection, but your own, as a future historical reality. Now, to be clear, I'm not asking if you believe that you are going to heaven when you die. Everyone believes that. There are few people who believe in a heaven—or some place of reward or goodness in the afterlife—who don't also believe that they are going to end up there. According to polls, you don’t even have to be particularly religious to believe that.
No, it really gets down to this: Jesus asks his followers—demands, really—to risk it all in following his program, because his program demands things that, quite honestly, most people don’t think work in the real world.
For instance, Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, not kill them. And the truth is, most people, including most Christians, don’t believe that non-violent resistance works, not really. Martin Luther King tried it, and a bullet ended things pretty decisively. Sure, the assassin went to prison, and the civil rights movement largely succeeded, but dead is dead. And it’s not like non-violent resistance became de rigueur as a means of achieving social change. One look at King lying on that Memphis balcony and most people decided that no matter how effective it may be, better that someone else lead the way. It’s always better to be on the other end of the rifle. You know, be the good guy with the gun. You have to meet violence with violence, that’s just the way the world works.
But Jesus met violence with a cross. His own, that is.
It’s a risky strategy, this put-down-your-sword thing that Jesus talked about. Are you willing to risk it? Not without the promise of resurrection. And for many of us, not even with the promise of resurrection. We really don’t believe.
The resurrection is God’s vindication. Jesus came preaching faith, love, and forgiveness, and he was sent by God to do so. He claimed that this is the way God’s world actually worked. The world disagreed, and nailed him to a cross. It mocked Jesus, and mocked God at the same time. Faith is nice, if you have the luxury to afford it, but stark realism works better. Love is great, but it’s too weak in the face of evil. Evil must be killed, executed, exterminated, nuked. Everyone knows that, and to say anything different is to either to put your head in the sand or to live in an ivory tower far removed from the realities of this brutal world. Forgiveness is good, but not at the expense of justice. Justice must be served! This is what the world was saying when it crucified Jesus. It still says it.
And how did God answer these charges? With inaction. He just watched as Jesus died. Could have rescued him, but didn’t. And God answered with silence. For three days, nary a word. And then, resurrection! God’s assertion that love does triumph over hatred, peace over chaos, forgiveness over bitterness, hope over cynicism, fidelity over despair, virtue over sin, conscience over callousness, life over death, and good over evil, always. Do you believe that? Do you believe in the resurrection?
That’s what I'm asking.