We are a few episodes into ABC’s new drama “Resurrection.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, I’ll summarize briefly: It is set in the town of Arcadia, Missouri, the residents of which suddenly find their deceased loved ones returning from the dead.
Thus far, we have met only one of them (possibly three, but that’s another story) — 8-year-old Jacob Langston (Landon Gimenez), who drowned in a nearby river 32 years ago. Inexplicably, he wakes up in the middle of what appears to be rice field in China; once Jacob is repatriated back to the U.S., Agent J. Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps) is charged with taking him home. Expecting a chauffeur job that will be done in a day, he is drawn into a mystery that will turn an entire community on its head.
It’s very interesting that in this show, the deceased return neither as disembodied spirits nor as “dis-ensouled” bodies (a.k.a. zombies); rather, they return to their loved ones just as they were before they died.
Color me over-analytical, but I think this resonates with us because of something deeply held in the human psyche for thousands and thousands of years. We may be surprised to learn how closely the notion of immortality was linked with the body in the ancient world. Most cultures believed in an afterlife of sorts, but for the most part this consisted of a sort of shadowy half-existence to which some mysterious remnant of the person went after bodily death.
For the early Hebrews, belief in a personal afterlife was not widespread…if it was there at all. As we see exemplified in the story of Abraham, a man was thought to achieve immortality through his progeny. A child, a parent’s own “flesh and blood,” was how one lived on after death.
By the time of Jesus Christ, a belief in personal immortality had developed in Israel — and so had the belief in bodily resurrection at the end of time. The Jews had the understanding that the body was not a mere “shell,” but expressive of the person; the separation of the soul and body was precisely what death was. And so, the resurrection of the body would have been essential to the notion of personal immortality and the defeat of death.
And then when Jesus came to preach the kingdom to the world, one of the chiefest ways in which He showed His divine power was by raising people bodily from the dead.
I’m not saying that God is the One bringing people back in “Resurrection,” in the minds of the show’s creators. The source of these resurrections is not clear, and in fact there are already some suggestions that perhaps what’s really going on is not what it seems. My point is that when the community is confronted with a phenomenon that they clearly cannot explain, something that is most obviously bigger than any of the categories within which they live — in other words, when there is the hint of a miracle in their midst…well, to a few — like Joshua’s mother, Lucille (Frances Fisher) — this is a comfort. But to most, it is a stumbling block.
Surely, they may comfort themselves with the thought of their deceased loved ones being in an ethereal “better place.” But when they seem to have been brought back to them in the flesh, this confronts them with something greater than themselves in a way that is more real than the vague spirituality they may be used to.
Pastor Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth), a childhood friend of Jacob’s, is unsure what to make of his long-lost friend’s apparent resurrection. At one point, he says to his wife, “I’ve spent the past 10 years preaching the miracles of God, and now that there is one right in front of me I can’t believe it.”
Even more telling is a later scene in the same episode, in which he is giving a sermon to his congregation. We can see that he is in his element here; he speaks with great passion and conviction.
In come Lucille and Jacob, and at that point he freezes. He is overcome with emotion and confusion, unable to speak. This shouldn’t suggest to us that he didn’t believe in what he preached before. But this personal confrontation with the miraculous has clearly taken things to a whole new level.
When I saw this, I was reminded of the following quote from C.S. Lewis:
It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out!” we cry, “It’s alive.” And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back–I would have done so myself if I could–and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal God”–well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads–better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap–best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband–that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
- From the book “Miracles” (as quoted in “Jesus Shock” by Peter Kreeft)
Ultimately, an encounter with resurrection is an encounter with Christ. In His glorified Resurrection, a Resurrection which admits of no further death, we find the very principle of our own resurrection.
So these are my thoughts for the time being. If you haven’t seen the show, check it out. It’s quite interesting.
Images from Wikipedia