Tag Archive: resurrection


Parallels

2 Cor 4:7-18

Sometimes life is hard. Bad stuff happens to good people, even those who want to do their best to please God. And this troubles us.

But nobody wanted to please His Father than Jesus Himself, and He suffered more than anyone. And everything in the Christian life has to do with our identification with Him, of our being “in” Him, part of Him, part of His body.

Jesus suffered on earth and died – and rose again.

So do we. This should hardly surprise us. If our Lord suffered on earth, do we think we shouldn’t? And if we suffer the same way – suffering injustice, trial and mortality – we are also promised we will also share in His resurrection.

Jesus endured, for what followed was greater. Likewise our “light affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”. So must we endure, for what lies ahead is greater. We have been promised nothing less than an eternal, physical existence with Him: this is the hope of every Christian.

What Christmas Means

How God can allow pain in the world? What answer can He possibly give us? From ISIS to the gas chambers of Auschwitz it often seems He is silent.

And like us, Jesus as Man even asked the same: “Why have You forsaken me?”

But the answer was given over 2,000 years ago. At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God became man, an act of staggering humility. But why was this necessary?

If we understand God is real, and that He desires relationship rather than just religious rule keeping, we must be free to choose or reject Him.

And in the only world where free will can exist, so will the potential for this chaos, pain and the evil we choose to do to one another. An act of divine power to just fix things would violate this freedom; so He had to come as a helpless baby to grow, dwell in our broken world and actually share in our pain. He identifies with us because He became human.

His answer was to suffer with us, and then to offer Himself as the atonement for our sin. And if He identifies with us, when we choose to enter relationship, we identify with Him: and what happens to Him becomes our fate as well.

His work was that, having died to sin, to rise again, through death to the resurrection: the defeat of the random, decaying order we see, an eternal hope for all will put their trust in Him.

If, in our identification with Him we died, we hope also to rise. This is the central belief and hope of the Christian faith: death and sin are defeated in fact.

He came to do so much more than teach.

Promises

As a Christian, I still wrestle with fear from time to time; certainly more than I used to as I come to terms with mid-life. The future, regardless of what the Telus ads suggest, has not been that friendly. We have done our best, but still endured the loss of employment, serious illness, the death of loved ones, and the potential displacement from our home of 43 years.

It’s easy to endorse Christ’s moral teachings, but we struggle to rest in His promises. When He says to love others, we agree, at least in principle; but when He says “don’t worry”… well, it’s not as easy, because now we’re betting our way of life on what He said. Putting the weight of our lives on His promises raises the stakes considerably.

Look what happened to Jesus. “He trusted in God” – and He was crucified. “He trusted in God”, yet He owned nothing; He was rejected, hated, and betrayed by one of His inner circle to a foreign occupying force to be executed – and that as a criminal. And He forgave those who put Him on the cross.

But He was then resurrected. Do I really believe that? Do I really believe He rose? It is the proof that all will ultimately be well and that His promises are real; and the degree to which I believe that determines how much peace I will have when the you-know-what hits the fan. This serves as a pattern for the believer’s life.

It doesn’t mean it will be easy. We will all have our own personal Gethsemane, our own “dark night of the soul”, and Jesus was Himself in such anguish that He sweated blood.

But for the love of us, He stayed the course; and, by His grace, so will I.

Sunderland Falls, south of Revelstoke, BC

Sunderland Falls, south of Revelstoke, BC

Bitterness and Despair are two sides of the same coin. When we’re treated unfairly, it’s easy to get bitter. But if one could sum up the feelings bitterness arises from, I think it would be a sense of angry helplessness, of being victimized, and of hopeless frustration. In a word, despair.

But what’s at the root of despair? That everything is hopeless. There’s no sense, no justice, no hope… and in the end, all that awaits is death and futility. Everything runs down; for even the best people, death gets the final word.

And this world is so full of despair, sadness, and injustice.

That’s why the Resurrection matters. It tells us that death does NOT get the final word; that it is a defeated enemy, and that we may know that as Christ rose, so shall we. That in one instance, the physical didn’t stay dead, and the promise is that Jesus was just the first of many (we must never forget that “dying and going to heaven forever” is not what the Bible teaches. It is a temporary place until the redemption of our bodies). We ourselves will live again, and along with eternal life, will see all the wrongs righted, all the tears healed.

And this hope should spill into our daily lives. If we live as those who know death loses in the end, the bumps and bruises of daily life – though real enough – are viewed in a different light, because we expect a different outcome.

A Reasonable Faith, Part 3

Finally, there is the resurrection itself. A careful study of the times shows us that everybody, pagan and Jew, had no doubt that resurrection meant a physical event; it’s just that most non- Jewish cultures denied it could happen, deeming the physical world either evil or illusory.

Something happened on Easter morning, something so huge, so remarkable, that the writers of the New Testament were unafraid to write down the full account, even down to details that (at first blush) would seem to detract from their message. It was something the first witnesses were willing to lay down their lives for.

They had seen an empty tomb. They had seen Jesus, alive in the most physical sense possible. The Old Testament made sense in a new, wonderful kind of way.

As typical first century Jews, they all believed there would be a general resurrection, but that of Christ didn’t happen the way they expected – but happen it did. It forced them to re-examine their take on the Old Testament. It didn’t contradict what was written, but it made sense in a bigger, wonderful way.

A whole book wouldn’t be enough to examine it all, but (to name a few) Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, the Passover, the whole system of sacrifice for sin have a new significance.

The resurrection of Christ is the defining moment, the distinct event that sets the Christian religion apart: a historical event, the final integration of the physical and the spiritual. God was shown as not an abstract creed, but a Person, the embodiment of sacrificial, redeeming love.

It is the proof that Jesus’ sacrifice really did atone for our sins, and that we can be sure of our acceptance in Him. It happened in history, at a definite time and place, and we can dig and research and examine the evidence for ourselves.

Right now, a Human Being sits on Heaven’s throne. And we are promised, as those who trust in Him, that we will share in His physical, immortal existence. Death itself has been defeated; beyond all hope there will be a happy ending – if it can be called that: for this life will be seen as just the beginning.

Incarnation and Resurrection

God assumes a human body, truly a human, yet truly God. The spiritual is no longer just an abstract code because He invades our physical world; people heard, saw, and touched Jesus. They saw him die a very obvious and complete death; the Roman soldier even speared Him in the side to make sure of it.

But He didn’t stay dead. The disciples saw Him physically alive after His crucifixion; they saw Him eat and examined his wounds. And His resurrection – even death couldn’t hold Him – proves the reality, the effectiveness of what He did. It ratifies His teaching and sacrifice.

This brings the spiritual into real time. It’s no longer a code or set of moral truths; it’s a historical and very practical fact that we can base our lives on. This is what drove the early church; this is why the martyrs died with a smile and cared for the sick even at the risk of their own lives. People had known a physical Person, seen Him rise from the dead and understood that they would share His destiny: that He was the first of many. The spiritual had become physical, palpable, and everyday in their lives.

No wonder it’s called good news. We tend even now to reduce Christianity to a set of creeds we give intellectual assent to, just one choice on a spiritual smorgasbord we can pick and choose from. We may even believe it in our heads; but what if the real God gets loose in our lives? We must never lose track of the fact that the Gospel is above all an announcement, the proclamation of a done deal. That which separates us from God has been paid by Christ who (by virtue of what He has done) underscores our dignity as those made in His image, and of the real Hope He makes accessible to all who call on Him.

I celebrated my 58th birthday a few weeks back. I don’t feel old (yet) but I’ve been around the block enough times to know that everything changes and runs down. Life always throws a lot of curveballs our way. But… if death itself is defeated, then we’ve really got something to look forward to. We have a hope that doesn’t change, eternal and just waiting for us to live in it.

And that hope starts now.

A few days ago a young man in Moncton shot and killed 3 RCMP members and wounded two more. One of the deceased Mounties was a Christian, and friends of his were interviewed on the news yesterday. He had been married for 4 years, and his wife is expecting their second son in September. They talked about how their pastor, before laying the carpet in their new church, had members of the congregation write on the cement floor of their new sanctuary. His verse was from Jeremiah 29:11 which reads, “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

This young man loved Jesus, and now he’s gone, victim of a random, evil act. Where was God in all this? Larger questions of evil loom large: why does a supposedly good, all powerful God allow such things?

We must remember that God went to the cross. God as the incarnate Son submitted to that same capricious evil that befalls us and so identified with our pain and hurt. How does He fix it? Does He just wave a magic wand and make everything better? No. He comes instead to suffer with us, to share our pain, to sit down in the ashes with us and weep and bleed and die.

God does not want a bunch of robots. He desires sons and daughters in relationship with Him. But in a world where relationship is possible, there must be free will, and such freedom means we will sometimes abuse our free will to hurt others, to hurt and kill even the Son of God Himself: as Luther says, we carry His nails in our pockets. When we hurt one another, we sin against the very One who made us.

But something else happened. He rose from the dead, proving that the seeming triumph of evil is not the end of the story. He defeated death itself.

I’m reading an interesting book right now, The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N.T. Wright. I’m finding it a slow read, but it’s an important book, well researched and deep. He examines what really happened on Easter morning, and what it means for us.

It means He’s the Real Thing. It means His death really did something to change our relationship to God: that we really are forgiven. It means that we were created for an eternal hope and purpose, that we matter infinitely to Him. It means that these feeble bodies of ours will be one day changed to eternal, perfect ones free of pain, and that we will live with and love Him forever. It means all the wrongs will be righted. It means that we are destined for ultimate joy and satisfaction.

And when that gets down into your bones, everything changes. We don’t grieve as others do; we know death is not the end. It’s a matter of perspective.