Wesley Hill distinguishes between resuscitation of a corpse and the resurrection of the dead:

There is a profound difference, in orthodox Christian thinking, between, say, the raising of Lazarus from the dead (recounted in the Gospel of John, chapter 11) and God the Father’s vindication of Jesus Christ on Easter morning. In the former instance, Lazarus was truly dead—his remaining in the tomb four days sealed that fact—and he was truly pulled from death’s blaze, like an ashen remnant lifted from amid the coals, and given a restored life. Even so, he had to die again, still subject, after his grave clothes had been removed, to the same old process of decay he had known before he heard Jesus’ summons from the tomb. But unlike Lazarus, Jesus emerged from his tomb, St. Paul tells us, never to die again: “death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9). There is, in other words, a qualitative difference, not merely a difference of degree or intensity, between the raising of Lazarus and the raising of Jesus. The former is a miracle, but it doesn’t solve the problem of death for all. The latter is an apocalyptic action of unilateral divine sovereignty, forever defeating death and ensuring its absolute eradication. As Luke Timothy Johnson has put it, “The Christian claim concerning the resurrection of Jesus is not that he picked up his old manner of life, but rather that after his death he entered into an entirely new form of existence, one in which he shared the power of God and in which he could share that power with others.” …

Although Wright has written the definitive historical defense of the empty tomb tradition, he has also drawn attention to the fundamentally non-historical truth that the empty tomb points to. The new life that Jesus now enjoys is, in Wright’s fine coinage, “transphysical”: it is real bodily life, but at the same time, it is unlike any bodily life we now know. Jesus’ body is, precisely, the first instance of God’s eschatological renewal of all things. His resurrection is the beginning and initial example of the new creation. It is dissimilar to anything we’ve seen before—without analogy or pre-formed pattern, utterly unique in its unsurpassable theological significance. …

With his raising of Lazarus to enjoy the old life he had before he died, Jesus is creating an analogy or signpost that will serve as a faint—but true, nonetheless—indication of what Lazarus, Martha, and all believers can expect from him in the end. Jesus’ granting of historical life to a corpse becomes a window into what it may be like when he finally and irreversibly grants eternal, immortal life to those who are dead.

The moment I begin to feel like I comprehend Christianity in its essence is always the moment when I remember that whatever I’m comprehending isn’t Christianity in its essence. It is distinctly beyond our logic, which is one of the reasons why I trust Christ’s Easter promise.

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