For most people, the best gift you can present to them is reality. Speak truth. Live with integrity. Be honest. Keep your promises. Stay loyal. But too many of us dip in and out of reality, preferring to insist on our version of how life ought to be, how we want life to be.
Wisdom is dealing with life as it really is. The challenge to loving people is loving them as they really are - love in the world of reality. Wisdom is what we need to cultivate in order to more skillfully and artfully love as we really are. Thus reality is one of the best gifts you can give.
The Apostles, as they speak about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, claim to be dealing in reality. They are compelled by what they have seen and heard. They saw Jesus crucified by Roman soldiers. They saw Jesus taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea. They saw Jesus dead. It was crushing reality, but it was real nonetheless.
The disciples were just as perplexed as the next person when Jesus appeared to them. Their reluctance to believe corresponds with our reality - we wouldn't expect a beloved brother to show up a day after the funeral, no matter how much we want it to be true. But Jesus presents himself to them. Through convincing proofs they come to believe that Jesus has been resurrected.
And this changes everything for them.
If Jesus is really resurrected, it means that God has begun something new in the world. In and through Jesus God has fulfilled his plans for Israel, but he has also initiated a new project for the globe. It's a plan that has its roots deep in history, but now they are branching out in unforseen ways. And resurrection is the starting place.
The book of Acts is about the Apostles proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. It's the heart of their sermons, it's the stuff they are teaching in the Temple. It's what they are proclaiming as good news. It's what they are getting in trouble for. It's what they are commanded to stop preaching about. It's what they get jailed and flogged for. It's what they talk about when they get scattered across the Empire. And people believe them.
What was it about the resurrection of Jesus that compelled the Apostles to tell everyone about it?
What if you knew you'd be resurrected? What if you knew that someday God would lift up your body from the casket, stand it up on the ground - a restored, renewed you...? What if you knew that death was not the end for you - that no matter what happened to you in this body and life, God would give you a day to start again?
What if you knew that on the day of resurrection, everything was going to be made new? What if the whole world could start over again? What if the new world of resurrection was also full of reconciliation? Would that be a world worth waking up to?
If reality is the true gift, then most of our thoughts of heaven probably don't correspond with reality. And if you are looking to a pagan world to inform your thoughts about the future - you're going to find a bucket full of fate, destiny, inevitability, powerlessness to change, and survival of the fittest or hopes of pleasure and leisure and abundance. The promise of resurrection presents us with a new alternative for what this world is coming to.
I'm in the midst of learning and studying and reflecting and coming to terms with the resurrection. I've always believed it, but I've not really understood it. All I've heard is about going to heaven when I die. Except that Jesus and the Apostles talk all the time about resurrection and the kingdom of God.
I want to deal with reality. The good news of God is tied up with resurrection. I want to know the truth. I want good news for this life and the one to come. And the more I understand about resurrection, the more confident I become.
Resurrection - be raised up from death. That's what happened to Jesus. That's what God promises to us. To the degree that we don't really understand it, we'd can start learning.