…and God said, “Let there be light!”
About 14 billion years ago, there was an explosion that propelled outwards to form billions of galaxies. If gravity had been slightly weaker, the stars would not have exploded into supernovae – the source of the heavier elements involved in life. If marginally stronger, then stars would have died out in thousands rather than billions of years, making biological evolution impossible. If the rate of expansion had been lower by one part in a hundred thousand million, everything would have re-collapsed, but if greater, it would have expanded too rapidly to form planets. If the explosive force was slightly weaker, only hydrogen would exist; if marginally stronger, only helium. It was just strong enough to form carbon but not too strong to convert into oxygen. The lists of precision occurrences have unfathomable implications. So, why is there something instead of nothing?
One variation of the fine-tuning of the laws of physics then no universe, no earth, no life! Science continues to discover more constants, making this random event seem far less accidental. There are theological implications, but God and science are not at odds. After all, it was a Belgium Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre, who identified the expanding universe theory, which would be called the ‘Big Bang’! Theories like the big bang and evolution do not disprove God’s existence…much to the disappointment of many an atheist. Stephen Hawking stated that what happened before the Big Bang is meaningless, like asking what lies south of the South Pole. Science may be uncomfortable with the unknowable, relegating it to the pointless. Still, we people of faith know a little more about mystery, in which we often see meaning, and know that God may reveal more to us…in time…when He is ready!
The resurrection was also an explosion of epic proportion – considering it as anything less is a travesty! It was not symbolism. It was very real and meaningful – frightening, unsettling, unique. Jesus had raised people from the dead, but this was different. These people were instantly recognisable and identical in every aspect as they were before. Jesus, on the other hand, was changed. A bodily person (not a ghost), but his triumph over death made him glorious. We know this by stories, such as the two men on the road to Emmaus who do not recognise Jesus until he broke bread with them. My personal favourite is the story of Mary Magdala. Finding the empty tomb, she is distraught. Seeing a gardener, she pleads for him to show her where the body is. He says one word, “Mary!” and she immediately recognises him. We are all called by name to witness the risen Christ.
The resurrection overcame the brutality of the cross. Crucifixion was a humiliating and bloody death, a gory warning to all that Jesus of Nazareth was a blasphemer and a fraud. Yet, what was meant to deter, became the most powerful sign of Christ’s dominion and of hope! The resurrection brought judgement on all who denied or abandoned him, judging all powers of tyranny and injustice. As St Peter said in his first speech in the Book of Acts, the author of life came, but you put him to death! The resurrection was a game-changer, and they wanted everyone to know – willing to die for this belief! Sadly, almost every witness of Christ Jesus’ resurrection was martyred for this truth. St Paul would risk everything on this very fact (1 Cor. 15:14-19):
If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless and your believing is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ had not been raised, you are still in your sins. And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.
The resurrection reduced the options. Either Jesus had not risen, and we are all fools and fraudsters, or he had risen, and everything he said was true. In this case, we should make Him the centre of our lives. There is no middle road! This is something that requires a radical rethink for many of us!
When the risen Jesus first met the disciples, he says, “Shalom!” (Peace be with you). The conquering of death and sin did not come with more violence; vengeance was not sought. Instead, God’s divine mercy absorbed the hatred and betrayal with love, dissolving all bitterness and anger through forgiveness. Even on the cross, in agony, Christ would call out (Lk 23:34):
Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing!
Sin had led us away from God. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God revealed his divine plan, affirming his salvation vision. Easter provides hope for all, even the most hopeless amongst us. In the resurrection of Jesus, heaven and earth met. The resurrection is God’s promise to never abandon us no matter what we do – to be with us to the end of time. All we have to do is fulfil our part of the covenant (Jer. 31:33):
Deep within them, I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Enjoy your Easter. Spend time with the family and overeat chocolate. Yet, remember that there is something more to this celebration. Easter needs us to remember God’s explosive love for us: a God who was born incarnate to experience our mortality, who gave himself up to be tortured and die a brutal death for our sins, and who conquered death in the resurrection to show us the hope of our salvation. So, please do not forget about God this Easter, because He will never forget about you!
Dr Nathan Leber