Essay / Theology

The Living One, Alive with Divine Life

John Webster on the meaning of the resurrection:

“Jesus Christ lives. Whatever further claims may be made about the resurrection of Jesus, and whatever consequences it may be necessary to draw from the primitive Christian confession that ‘God raised him from the dead’ (Rom. 10:9), they can only be a repetition, expansion or confirmation of the primary reality, namely that Jesus Christ is ‘the living one’ (Rev. 1:18).

As the living one, Jesus is alive with divine life. His resurrection is thus not simply the prolongation of creaturely existence, but the demonstration of the fact that in him there is life, that he has life in and from himself, in semetipso and so a se. The one who died and rose again is ‘alive for evermore’ (Rev. 1:18). His life, that is, is not simply created life given infinite duration but eschatological or original life, life derived from nothing other than is participation in the infinite being of God without cause.

The resurrection of Jesus is the temporal enactment of the eternal relation of Father and Son. ‘As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself’ (Jn. 5:26). It is this inner-Trinitarian reality, the eternal relation of paternity and filiation, intrinsic to the divine perfection, which is the ultimate ontological ground of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ risen life is divine life, and his resurrection is the elucidation and confirmation of his antecedent deity, by virtue of which he is the one he is.

From the standpoint of the resurrection, Jesus’ entire temporal career is to be understood as the dwelling among us of the grace, truth and glory of God’s own life. His earthly history is thus stretched between its eternal basis on the Word (‘in him was life’: Jn. 1:4) and its consummation at the resurrection in which that eternal basis becomes manifest.

Even the dreadful episode of Jesus’ betrayal and destruction is to be seen as the enactment (not the contradiction) of the life which the Son has in obedient relation to the Father: ‘I lay down my life, that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father’ (Jn. 10:17-18). The Son gives his life; he is not robbed of it; his giving is undergirded by the eternal, indestructible will or power which is his as the Son of the Father.

Accordingly, the resurrection is not simply a dramatic reversal of the fate of Jesus, but part of the same free and potent divine movement of laying down and taking up life, the Father’s sending and the Son’s glad assent to his call; and this movement is the actuality of God’s livingness as the one ‘who as and is and is to come’ (Rev. 1:8).”

–John Webster, “Resurrection and Scripture.”
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