We all watched this week with dismay as flames swept through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The loss incurred consists of more than just ancient wood and stone; some nine centuries of French culture and Roman Catholic tradition suffered a devastating blow as a result of the blaze.
Nevertheless, in the hours after the tragedy, the French government and others have stepped forward to support the rebuilding of Notre Dame, spreading hope in the midst of loss. In 1978, my wife and I spent some time in the cathedral, taking in the spiritual ambience and being inspired by the beautiful religious art work. The resurrection of the cathedral may very well become a powerful witness to the enduring relevance of the Christian gospel for the French, all Europeans, and for the world at large.
American Baptists throughout the centuries have boldly proclaimed that the death and resurrection of Jesus brings hope, peace and joy to those who open their hearts to the good news of God’s redemptive love (Romans 5:1-3). Having experienced divine mercy and forgiveness through Jesus’ atonement (Romans 6:23), the Spirit calls us to demonstrate the “power of the resurrection” as individual disciples and as communities of spiritual conviction. Paul expressed the aspiration of all dedicated disciples of the Lord when he wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
As I faced open-heart surgery last year, I pondered with fresh eyes Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Indeed, having recovered from the surgery, I now feel like a new man! While Jesus’ death and resurrection does not promise temporary relief from every illness, it does point to a promised future resurrection that opens up the endless possibilities of eternal life (John 3:16). As Jesus said to Martha, in anticipation of raising Lazarus from the dead: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26).
Destroyed buildings can be rebuilt. Similarly, our lives may be redeemed and our bodies resurrected from the dead (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus invites us to an eternal house where resurrection defeats mortality. He said:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).