All resurrection is change from one kind/state of being to another. If there is no change, there is no resurrection. But as we see in the life of Jesus, Peter, the other disciples, and our own lives, there was and is indeed, resurrection that has and does take place. Last week we talked about the resurrection of Jesus and Peter and, by extension, about our own resurrection. So, after the resurrection, what do you do?
We could spend a few weeks looking at the early church and see what they did and quite often, if you follow the lectionary that is exactly what many ministers do. But I am curious about the idea of death and resurrection throughout the Bible, the other places where a person has found a dramatic change in life and direction after dying to a way of life and embracing another. So over the next four weeks, we’ll look at the lives of several people – two Old Testament, two New Testament, two men, two women – and see how death and resurrection idea played out in their stories and how it might relate to our stories. And we start with someone whose life was all over the place, quite literally, Moses and the quintessential story of salvation for the Jewish people.
The story of Moses places his birth in hard times for his people. Joseph, the Hebrew slave turned Egyptian prince, has passed away and within a generation or so, so has the favor of the Egyptian rulers. The problem? The Hebrews were growing as a people within Egypt and were beginning to outnumber the native Egyptians. The rulers were afraid that they might revolt and take over the country. So, one of the Pharaohs who had come to power, one who had long forgotten Joseph, enslaved the Hebrew people. Despite this, the Hebrew people continued to multiply to the point that the Pharaoh ordered all the male children to murdered by midwives as soon as they were born. The midwives of course, refused and claimed the Hebrew women were too quick to give birth, not giving the midwives time to get there. Eventually, Pharaoh ordered all male children born to be thrown into the Nile, midwives or not.
And now we come to Moses. The baby was born to a Levite family, the family that would eventually become the tribe that all Israel’s priests would come from. The woman fearing for the child’s life came up with a shrewd plan to place the baby in a basket and hide him at the edge of a patch of reeds where Pharaoh’s daughter often bathed in the river. The hope was that she might find the baby and want to keep him as her own. The baby’s older sister was sent to watch from a distance and help the process if needed.
And it worked. The princess saw the child’s basket and when she heard him crying took pity on him. When it appeared that the princess would keep the child, the older sister offered to get a Hebrew woman to nurse the child if the princess wanted. Of course, that woman that nursed the baby was his own mother and in time, the child was brought to the princess and raised as a prince in Pharaoh’s court with the name Moses. Rising from slave child to prince before he left childhood.
The story goes on from there in familiar fashion. The boy grows up in Pharaoh’s court, eventually sees a Hebrew being beaten and decides to punish the Egyptian who did it by killing the Egyptian. Fearing the wrath of Pharaoh, Moses ran to the land of Midian where he saves the a group of women from some greedy shepherds while the women were trying to draw water and becomes a part of the family, marrying Zipporah and starting his own family.
Then, it happens. He is watching his father-in-law Jethro’s sheep one day when a bush catches fire. Noticing that it doesn’t burn up, Moses goes to see what is going on with the bush. It’s then that a voice begins to speak from the bush, a voice that apparently knew his name. “Moses, Moses,” the voice calls. When Moses answers, the voice introduces itself as the “…God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…”
From there, we get a back and forth conversation that starts with God laying out the plan for Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand the release of the Hebrew people and Moses refusing. “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh,” Moses asks. “Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” I imagine Moses is remembering that a previous Pharaoh wanted him dead for killing an Egyptian and Moses may not have been certain that he would be welcomed back in any pleasant sort of way.
Back and forth Moses and God debate.
- Who am I to go and do this? Don’t worry I’ll be with you.
- By whose authority do I say that I am doing this? Tell them the I AM, the God of their ancestors sent you sent you.
- What if they don’t believe me? I’ll perform miracles like this one, turning your staff into a snake.
- But I don’t talk well in front of others. Take your brother and let him do the talking.
Eventually, Moses runs out of excuses and goes to Egypt. The story follows that he leads the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness where God weeds out the generations not prepared to enter the promised land of Canaan. For forty years, the people wander with Moses as leader, moving slowly toward the promised land. Just in sight of it, Moses dies, and Joshua leads the people into the new land.
But all along this journey, Moses is living into a new, resurrected life and new identity. Walk through the roles of his life and how he changed: born a Hebrew slave, he is rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and becomes a prince. As a prince, he kills and Egyptian and is reduced to becoming a fugitive shepherd. Comfortable in the life of a shepherd, he ends up called to confront a great world leader and lead an enslaved people out of bondage. Leading them into the desert, he is called on to be prophet and leader of a fledgling people and in the process is physically changed (his face and shines, reflecting the glory of God when he comes down off Mount Sinai the second time) by his encounter with God.
What we see in the story of Moses is the story of a resurrection, a resurrection of identity. Identity is simply who we are at the deepest level of our being, our truest self. One aspect of resurrection is that it is a change in identity. Jesus went into the tomb as an itinerant preacher, healer, would be revolutionary political leader. He came out of the tomb as all those things but also as redeemer, restorer, and example of the complete change that comes with following God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. According to the resurrection stories in Matthew and Luke, he was real yet not perceivable as himself. He was a new creation in the words of Paul.
Moses undergoes this too. His journey is one that leads him to be changed little by little, painstakingly until the person he was is unrecognizable from the person he has become. The Moses who murdered an Egyptian in rage over the man’s treatment of a fellow Hebrew is not the same Moses who timidly tries to avoid going before Pharaoh’s court or the one that comes of Mount Sinai having to wear a veil to protect the people from the glory of God on his face.
In truth, each of us whose life is resurrected by our encounter with God through Jesus by the guidance of the Holy Spirit finds we are not able to remain the same person we once were. The encounter with God puts us in a place to have to confront the old person with the person God is showing us, helping us become. We cannot be resurrected and unchanged. We are either one or the other. Resurrection reorients our identity and places it squarely in the Way of Jesus with the expectation that we walk in that way. If we let it and don’t fight the change, it quite literally alters our spiritual DNA to create (as Paul says) a new being, fashioned after the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
What of your life? Is it a resurrected life? Does it need to be? If it does, give yourself over to the work of the Holy Spirit to make it so, to alter your spiritual DNA. Quit fighting against God and allow God to create a resurrected life within you.
Be safe. Be prayerful. Be resurrection people.