Saturday, March 26, 2005

Easter, a Beginning of Real Life

So goes the common greeting of Christian to Christian over the centuries. This foundational truth is what Christianity is built upon. As the plan of God unfolded over the centuries, a central component of God's plan of redemption is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, and is the power of the gospel, as presented by Jesus, while He walked among men. Jesus made the Atonement possible by suffering death for all sinners on the cross, and God the Father manifested His acceptance of that sacrifice in raising Jesus bodily from the grave. The sacrifice for sin empowered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings forth the fullness of the salvation plan of God for man.

This celebration of Easter is, for the Christian, the pinnacle of what was started in the Christmas event as known to us from two of the Gospels of Jesus Christ. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke, give to us the account of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem of Judea. They, along with the Gospels of Mark and John, go on to illustrate the life of Jesus and His teachings, ending with His trial, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. Each Gospel focuses on the life of Jesus with slight variations in theme, but with overall harmony in the telling of His life and teachings. The climax of each is the account of the Passion of Jesus Christ and the glorious resurrection of His body from the grave by the power of God in what we refer to as Easter. The Gospel of John focuses mainly in the last week of the life of Christ, and gives us a dramatic view into the last night and day of the life of Jesus. It is the Apostle John who wrote in his Gospel the theme of all of the Gospels in John 20:31, But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (KJV)

There was an episode earlier in Jesus’ life that gives impetus to this statement made in John 20:31. In John 11:23-27 there is a conversation between Jesus and Martha, the sister of Lazarus, after the death and burial of Lazarus, Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. (KJV) Notice what is said in this conversation; Jesus announces to Martha that her brother will rise again, and she confesses her belief in the resurrection of the ‘last day’ when God will bring time to an end. Jesus then asserts that He is the Resurrection and the Life. This is what Easter is all about; Easter is life for the believer now, who was dead in trespasses and sins, and a future of eternal life for those that die as believers. Jesus pointed out that ‘he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live’. This is the promise of Easter, life in abundance now and eternally through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Upon hearing this, observe that Martha then makes the connection between Jesus’ pronouncements of who He is by confessing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Also note that Jesus said that He is the Resurrection now and this was days before the actual event of that resurrection. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s plan of Redemption come together in this resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ by the power of God as it had been planned from the foundation of the world.

It is the power of the resurrection that brings true living into daily life and hope into the physical death of man, for Christ says, ‘whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die’; physical death, for the believer, is but a passage through the shadow of death, and not eternal death. Let us consider a passage from 1Corintians 15:12-20 concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (KJV) Paul explains for us the importance of this resurrection of Christ. Without the reality of the resurrection from the dead there is no power in the sacrifice of Christ, because He also is not raised. If Christ be not raised from the dead, then our sins are not forgiven and we express a vain faith in Christ. There is no power in our life if Christ be not raised. If we enjoy hope in Christ only while we live, we are found to be miserable creatures with no hope; for all who die are cut off from Christ. However, the power is there, for Christ is risen indeed and is the first to be resurrected from the dead by the power of God giving hope to those who die in Christ. Listen to the message of Paul to the Philippians in chapter 3:8-10, Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (NKJV) It is through this power of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we have our hope of salvation.

Easter is the hope of eternal salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, established by the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1Corinthians 1:23-24 says, But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (KJV)

May you rejoice in this most blessed event in the history of mankind, and may you know the true salvation and the power of the resurrection that it springs from, and enter joyously into the beginning of Real Life that we call Easter.