“The earliest [Christian] writings do not speak of the resurrection as a resuscitation, but rather as Jesus entering into the life and power of God, as an exaltation (as Psalm 110:1 puts it) to the ‘right hand’ of the Lord, thus earning for himself the acclamation ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). Jesus is not less alive, but more alive; indeed, he has become, in Paul’s words, ‘Life-giving Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 15:45)—he shares the power, unique to God, of giving life to others.”— Luke Timothy Johnson, The New Testament: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 19.
The earliest testimonies to Jesus’ resurrection are exasperatingly divergent. (Almost all scholars agree that these are the earliest testimonies: 1 Corinthians 15, Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28, Luke 24, John 20-21.) Attempts to harmonize them inevitably look forced. But they display some common themes:
1) After his shameful execution Jesus somehow started showing up.
2) His showing up somehow engaged all the senses.
3) His showing up was more elusive than simply meeting the same person who had been executed.
4) His showing up began to enliven his followers not only with his own life but with no less than the life of God.
Resurrection faith for today’s Christian is awakening trustfully to the message of how Jesus still enlivens his followers not only with his own life but with no less than the life of God. This present awakening makes the common themes of these other testimonies about what happened back then plausible to those who share it, but it does not and cannot prove them. They can all be explained away by someone who does not share this present awakening. But those who do share it still have every reason to regard them as plausible.
Do I really believe that Jesus himself still enlivens his followers? Do I really believe that Jesus is still “doing things,” after his execution?
I do. And my flirtations with process thought help me to articulate how to say this and mean it. (Note: I am NOT saying that process thought is the only reasonable way to say this and mean it. And my conviction that Jesus is still active, as the humanly divine and divinely human presence of God, comes before my flirtations with process thought.)
To begin with, at least in my interpretation of process thought, there is a real sense in which all who have died are still doing things. When we die, all that we are and all that we have been continues to enliven the endless life of God, and through God, the life of all others who come after us; but further, our finished, embodied lives remain a living presence in the ever-embodying life of God. (Don’t ask me what that’s “like”; I have no idea.) So at the very least Jesus is still doing things in the way all who have died are still doing things, as a living presence in the ever-embodying life of God.
But Jesus is also doing things unlike any others’ doings, because his life-story, in Greek, his logos, is the uniquely humanized Logos of God (John 1:1, 14). As the earliest Christian writer, St. Paul, tells that story (Philippians 2:5-13), Jesus lived an utterly self-giving, humanly divine and divinely human life whose unconditional embrace now outlives and undoes his utter rejection, devastation and death, and this gives rise to a community (“the body of Christ”) animated by this utterly self-giving, all-embracing life, which is radically one with the endless life of the God who is at work in all of us as we work out our own salvation.
So because Jesus’ life-story is the uniquely humanized life-story of God, radically one with the endless life of God, his “post-mortem” living presence in the ever-embodying life of God is still doing things, humanly divine and divinely human things.