The inseparable Incarnation and Resurrection
This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale.
Christmas and Easter. Growing up, I remember our family photo album wasn’t complete each year without picturing the joy of both annual celebrations. So from toddler to teen years, there were pictures of us kids grinning from ear to ear by the Christmas tree in the living room, and a few pages later we were outdoors, dressed in Easter outfits and squinting in the sunlight of Spring. As years passed, each combination of pictures help show who we were and who we were becoming.
|Matthias Grunewald, Annunciation and Resurrection (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)|
Of course we were not theologians—just a typical church-going family with three kids in the 1950’s and 60’s. But incarnation and resurrection really are inseparable, as T.F. Torrance makes plain in Atonement, the Person and Work of Christ (2009, InterVarsity Press):
The teaching of the New Testament makes it clear that we cannot isolate the resurrection from the whole redeeming purpose of God, or from the decisive deed of God in the incarnation of his Son that ran its full course from the birth of Jesus to his crucifixion and triumph over the powers of evil….when he, the eternal Word and creative source of all life and being outside of God, entered into our mortal and corrupt existence, that was wasting away under the threat of death and judgment, in order to effect the salvation and recreation of the world (p. 209).Torrance refers to the veiling and unveiling of God in the life of Jesus, and says we may think of a line from the birth of Christ to his crucifixion as a the line of the hiddenness of God, in which God entered into our estranged existence in order to “get inside our death.” He then describes another line from Christ’s birth to his resurrection (which includes miracles and the fleeting transfiguration), showing it is the resurrection that reveals once and for all that the virgin birth was the birth of the Creator-Word.
It is in the resurrection that we have the unveiling of the mystery of the incarnation: the birth and resurrection of Jesus belong inseparably together and have to be understood in the light of each other….When the eternal Word by whom all things were made himself became incarnate…. [it was] inevitably a concealing of the divine power, for that power now enters within creaturely reality…in order to operate within it in the fulfillment of the divine will for its healing and re-creation (p. 218).
If the crucifixion represents the nadir of the hiddenness, the resurrection represents the high point of the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God become man…. [and] these two lines of veiling and unveiling mutually involve one another – that is why Jesus revealed himself only slowly and in such a way that his self-disclosure kept pace with the development of his life and the steady march of events to their climax in the cross: one was not allowed to outstrip the other. On top of the final darkness of the ‘Eli, Eli lama sabachthani!’ and burial in the finality of death, came the rending of the tomb and the unveiling of Jesus Christ as the Son of God come to be our savior (p. 219).The Good News is that we too are caught up in that resurrection and new creation with Christ, as Torrance declares in his book Space, Time and Resurrection (1998, T&T Clark, Edinburgh):
The Church of the risen Lord has no right to be a prophet of gloom or despair, for this world has been redeemed and sanctified by Christ, and he will not let it go. The corruptible clay of our poor earth has been taken up in Jesus, is consecrated through his sacrifice and resurrection, and he will not allow it to sink back into corruption…. The Church must learn to take into its mouth the Good News of the resurrection and new creation, for that must be its primary note, one of limitless joy and thanksgiving.These pictures of our new life in Christ show who we are and what we’re becoming. Happy Easter everyone!
That is how the Church began its mission at Pentecost where the dominant emphasis in all its preaching was the resurrection of the crucified Christ and the astounding fact that because of the Spirit of God himself was poured out upon men. They knew that the Last Times had overtaken them and that they were caught up in the onward and outward thrust of the resurrection of Christ toward the new creation in which all nations and peoples and all times would be brought to share. The involvement of the Church in the suffering of mankind must never be allowed to stifle that supreme note of resurrection triumph…. (p. 105).