From the rising of the sun, look on me with love, Lord of all. From my rising in the morning, guide my steps in the way of life, the way that pleases you. Let Christmas be in my heart and Easter on my mind. I walk in the world to which you came, Son of the Most High. I am of the blood for which you came, and in the rising of the Son I have received my own resurrection. Let me live awake and arisen, for you, today.
When the apostle Paul was dragged before the Sanhedrin to give an account of his teaching, he expressed the core of the Christian faith with profound simplicity: “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6, NIV).
Now, in the context we are shown that this was a very savvy move given his situation. He observed that the assembly included both members of the party of the Pharisees (who affirmed the resurrection) and of the Sadducees (who did not) (v.6). Declaring that he was on trial over this contested doctrine was a cunning way to turn the united opposition against him into a body divided against itself–as immediately followed (vv.7-9).
Nonetheless, it was not only a rhetorical technique; it was also a fair statement of the Christian hope. When Paul was later brought before Governor Felix, he spoke of his faith in terms of the Scriptures, God, and “a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (24:15). Then, presenting his faith before King Agrippa, Paul quickly puts the resurrection at the center (26:6-8). Indeed, his faith is the story of his encounter with the risen Christ (vv.12-23). The centrality of the resurrection is further evident at various places in Paul’s letters, as well as other New Testament writings.
The Christian faith is a resurrection faith, a resurrection hope. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and in the coming resurrection to eternal life of all who belong to Him. Indeed, these two are inseparable: for salvation is union by faith with the Son of God, such that His death is our death to sin, and His resurrection our new life. The resurrection is inaugurated in the resurrection of Christ; death has been dealt a mortal blow; our sins were paid for on the cross, and we were declared justified in the resurrection. This is the faith of the Christian church.
And this means that watered-down Christianity can be no more acceptable to us than it would have been to the apostle Paul. “Faith” has no value unless it is faith in the risen Son. Vague theism offers no hope. Liberal theology that sees the resurrection as a poignant myth is utterly bankrupt. Only the boisterous supernaturalism, the potent scandal of orthodoxy, holds the secret of hope–resurrection hope.
And resurrection hope is stronger than all the tempests of life. The terror of death itself is overwhelmed in the mystery of resurrection life. The apostle’s confession is the perennial and world-shaking witness of the Christian faith: “I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”
I have written before on troubling statements to come out of Union Theological Seminary, an institution that would at one time have been called a Christian school, but can hardly be given that label these days. Earlier this month, journalist Nicholas Kristof did an interview with Union’s president, Dr. Serene Jones, for the New York Times.
Dr. Jones’s views highlight just how far the school has strayed from its original vision and from anything resembling Christian orthodoxy. Her statements are also illuminating as yet another example of where we end up when we stray from the truth.
The interview might be characterized as a brief list of key Christian beliefs that Dr. Jones denounces. She doesn’t believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, the atonement (at least not in the biblical sense), the virgin birth, or even in the God of the Bible.
Where does such (un)faith lead? Kristof asked, “What happens when we die?” Dr. Jones answered,
I don’t know! There may be something, there may be nothing. My faith is not tied to some divine promise about the afterlife...
Theological liberalism is a road to nowhere. Without the cross and resurrection of Jesus–the real cross and resurrection, the atoning death and bodily resurrection of the Son of God incarnate–there is no hope. We are left with only this life and what we can make of it. It is so tragic when people reject the gospel.
But God is real, God is strong, and His promises are good. Christ is risen, and offers life eternal to all who trust in Him. Christmas means light in our darkness, and Easter means hope unshakable.
The story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem begins holy week with such joy; yet the message of Christ’s love and compassion is only magnified by our understanding of what He entered Jerusalem to do for our salvation.
The King of Kings came into Jerusalem not on a warhorse, but on a donkey’s colt. This was a deliberate gesture by Jesus, symbolic of His gentleness and compassion. Matthew the evangelist recognized that Christ’s coming in this way to the city fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey'” (Matt. 21:5, NIV).
Here is the compassion of the Lord of all things. He comes to us not with a flaming sword of wrath, but humbly and gently, bearing His message of grace. He comes to bear Himself our sins upon the cross. And there He will triumph, conquering Satan, sin, and death.
The crowds acted better than they knew to greet Him with the cry “Hosanna!” ‘God, save!’ is what it means; and here came God their Savior, our God and Savior, to save us from our sins.
Hosanna! Blessed is our Lord and King!
Apologies that I am posting these Easter reflections late…but someone has said ‘better late than never’:
Christ is risen!
This is the joyful proclamation of Easter, the center of Christian faith and hope. A miracle that took place two millennia ago means life and peace with God for us today—for anyone and everyone who places their faith in the risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
On that first Easter Sunday, certain women who were followers of Jesus came to His tomb. They had seen their Master crucified and buried, and all hope seemed to have died with Him.
Imagine the surprise and confusion when they found the great stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and that Jesus’ body was nowhere to be seen.
Imagine the wonder and joy when a pair of angels appeared to them and said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Lk. 24:5-6, NIV). This is the news that changed the world, and has shaken it for two thousand years since.
This is the message we must receive and believe. Why look for the living among the dead? Why count Jesus Christ merely among the figures of history, when He lives and reigns today?
Why continue living in darkness and futility, when Christ has risen in glorious light? Why live this life alone, when you can know Him, the one who died to save you from death and rose to bring you eternal life?
Christ is risen, and that changes everything.
Christ is risen! Risen, indeed.
He is risen!
So we greet one another on Easter Sunday. We will be blessed to grasp the joy that truly underlies these words. I’m afraid that too often Christians speak about the resurrection as though it were merely an afterthought to Good Friday, Jesus’ happy ending or the proof that He accomplished His work. It is both of these things, but it is also the very joy of the gospel.
Paul was anxious that the Corinthian believers should understand the place of the resurrection in the Christian faith. Beginning in 1 Cor. 15, he described to them how utterly necessary the resurrection of Christ is: without it they have no hope, no forgiveness, and no future.
For the resurrection of Jesus Christ means new life for all who belong to Christ and are united with Him by faith. His cross and resurrection together make the center of His saving work. Because He rose from the dead, all those who trust in Him are even now spiritually made alive, risen from being dead in sin, and are guaranteed a future consummation of the resurrection life when He returns. Easter is no afterthought; Easter makes all the difference in the world.
He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!