"The Lord is risen!"
For two thousand years, Christians have gathered weekly to honor the risen Savior Jesus Christ. Across the world, men, women, and children unite their voices in affirming that "on the third day he rose again from the dead."
Of the four major world religions centered around persons, only Christianity claims a leader who is not now dead and buried. Certainly, the Lord Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, but at a point in human history (about a.d. 30) he emerged victorious from the grave.
When Christians proclaim the Resurrection, they identify Christianity as more than a collection of ideas concerning human spirituality. Christianity is established upon the historical reality of the crucified, risen, and reigning Jesus Christ.
Although every Lord's day testifies to the risen Jesus, many Christians have made Easter a time of focused celebration of his resurrection.
I hope that, during Easter 1988, you will rejoice and encourage yourself in these great truths about the Resurrection:
- Easter authenticates the personal claims of Jesus. During his earthly ministry, Jesus made astonishing claims about himself. He claimed equality with God (John 8:58), and said that God would raise him three days after his death (Mark 8:31; John 2:19-21). He asserted that his life would be given as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), and that whoever believes in him has eternal life (John 3:16). The Resurrection is the divine seal of approval stamped across the words of Jesus. Not a promise he makes in the Bible will go unfulfilled. You can count on him!
- Easter vindicates the personal sufferings of Jesus. The sufferings of Jesus were not pointless. His righteousness was indisputably established (John 16:10), his victory over death was demonstrated (Acts 2:24), our forgiveness was assured (1 Cor. 15:17; Rom. 4:25), and the hope of our own future bodily resurrection was secured (1 Cor. 15:20-28, 35-58). By his resurrection from the dead, he was "declared with power to be the Son of God" (Rom. 1:4).
- Easter demonstrates the resurrection power of Jesus. Paul declares: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection" (Phil. 3:10). The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead now works in us to make us Christlike. How we need to be challenged over and over again with Paul's exhortation: "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness" (Rom. 6:13)! We need no longer give ourselves over to be enslaved to rage, impurity, idolatry, cheating, stealing, and lying. We have been set free from sin to lead holy lives.
- Easter celebrates the present accessibility of Jesus. In his resurrection glory, our Savior possesses a glorified and perfected humanity. From his position at the right hand of the Father, the Lord Jesus has poured out his Holy Spirit into our hearts that we might know him. J. Gresham Machen wrote earlier in this century that our Lord was "not a teacher who survived only in the memory of his disciples, but the Savior who after His redeeming work was done still lived and could still be loved." Therefore, we love him and he loves us, and we live our lives with him in the fellowship of the Father's love.
- Easter anticipates the promised triumph of Jesus. Because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, Christians are assured of God's concern for his material creation. The God who raised his Son from the grave will demonstrate that same resurrection power when he raises the bodies of believers at the Second Coming of our Lord in final triumph. Indeed, the whole universe will be liberated from its bondage to decay (Rom. 8:20-21), and all of the redeemed will be gathered to worship and serve God together in the new heaven and new earth (1 Cor. 15:35-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 21-22).
As we gather together on Easter Sunday, we stand between two momentous events in human historythe resurrection of Jesus Christ and the future resurrection of his followers. He is risen! We shall be raised incorruptible! Both rejoicing in Christ's resurrection and anticipating our own resurrection glory, let us make that old Easter prayer our own:
O God, who for our redemption didst give Thine only-begotten Son to the death of the Cross, and by His glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy; Grant us so to die daily from sin, that we may evermore live with Him in the joy of His resurrection; through the same, Thy Son Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mr. Wingard is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church North Shore in Ipswich, Mass. Adapted from The Salt Shaker, April 1997. Reprinted from New Horizons, April 1998.