The things hoped for: on faith and the resurrection

As we Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord, we loudly proclaim that he is risen. Now through much of my Christian life, I tended to translate that into merely a spiritual enterprise. Meaning, the resurrection signifies the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father, baptism into the kingdom of God and union with Christ. It is that transaction that raises us to new life in Christ (see Romans 6:5-11).

Over time, I’ve come to recognize how this frame of thinking circumvents the significance of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. For his resurrection not only points back to God’s intention in creation but also brings the future of that intention into the present. In other words, it’s not enough for us to reduce the resurrection to merely a spiritual enterprise, that we are now part of God’s adopted family but there is a broader framework in which this reconciliation happens related to God’s restoration of what he intended. It’s why Paul emphasizes our bodily resurrection in 1 Cor 15, to which Christ’s resurrection is a first fruit. Death is an enemy because it is antithetical to creation. The entrance of sin and death unleashed such cosmic wreckage that the whole of the Bible’s story explains God’s plan and action to redeem his creation from that cursed grip.

In that regard, here’s a connection to the resurrection and faith I found quite interesting and insightful. I’ve been reading through this incredible book by Michael D. Williams, professor at Covenant Seminary. Far as the Curse is Found: the Covenant Story of Redemption  is essentially a biblical theology of God’s historical-redemptive narrative from Genesis to Revelation, or in other words, “the biblical story of God’s unfolding covenant relationship with his people.” I absolutely love that he starts the book off with The Resurrection: the Single Best Page of the Story to show that the whole story of redemption is anchored in and centered on the work and person of Christ according to what God intended from the beginning.

The writer of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). How does this relate to the resurrection? Continue reading

Yes Sunday is coming . . . but today is Friday

eastercrossAs Easter draws near, I’ve noticed a trend and one that I’ve fallen comfortably into myself. On Good Friday, it is not uncommon to hear some brief reflection on the Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross followed by these words, “but Sunday is coming.” Of course, the sentiment strikes at the heart of the culmination of this Lenten season, the anchor of the Christian faith – not just the death of Christ, but his resurrection. That is where our hope resides. As Paul indicated, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:13-14).

To be sure, the resurrection cannot be undermined. I confess that for much of my Christian life, I treated Easter Sunday as kind of a resurrection birthday only to downplay it’s significance the remaining of the year. The cross of Christ is nothing without the resurrection. At the cross, Jesus final sacrifice of atonement, where he bore the penalty for our sin, is not complete unless he rose from the dead. In his resurrection, is where we find life in him. The resurrection is where we can anchor our hope.

We have the advantage of hindsight. Imagine what his disciples felt at that time. This person they followed and believed to be the Messiah, the promised Savior, who would come and rescue the God’s elect from the oppression of Gentile rule, was now seemingly defeated by it in the cruelest manner. But they would come to realize that in God’s paradox, he would use an instrument of death to bring life and nailed at his resurrection.

And so living on the other side of this revelation in Christ, we want to celebrate in the victory that secures eternal hope for those found in Christ. To put in more simply, we want to skip to the good part. Continue reading

Don’t Make Easter Like a Resurrection Birthday

empty tombOn Easter, we Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ and rightly so. Not only is this monumental event the distinguishing mark of Christianity, but it is the one that assures us forgiveness of sins and hope for the future, including the bodily resurrection. Go to any church service and the on the tip of many lips is “He is risen!…he is risen indeed!” We are awash with this glorious event.

A funny thing happens after Easter though. The resurrection gets a back seat to the cross.  Now don’t misunderstand, the cross is significant, too.  This is where Jesus propitiated the sins that were held against us.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling a record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:13-14)

His atoning sacrifice provided payment of sins in one transaction for sin of all times. It is all sufficient to cover all our transgressions. (Heb 10:10-13).  Those in Christ stand in no condemnation before God because of what was because of what God did through the Son, what the law was powerless to do (Rom 8:1-4). Continue reading

They Were Not Rejoicing

passion of Christ_mary cryingAs Christians around the world celebrate Good Friday today, we celebrate the transaction on the cross where Jesus atoned for the sins of lost people. While we have the immense benefit of recognizing what this day meant, if we were to transport ourselves back in time, there was nothing to celebrate on that day at all.

In his book Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright says it well;

And it shows, of course, that the crucifixion of Jesus was the end of all their hopes. Nobody dreamed of saying, ‘Oh that’s all right – he’ll be back again in a few days. Nor did anybody say, ‘Well, at least he’s now in heaven with God.” They were not looking for that sort of kingdom. After all, Jesus himself had taught them to pray that God’s kingdom would come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ What they said – and again this was the ring of first century truth – was ‘We had hoped that he was the one who would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21), with the implication, ‘but they crucified him, so he can’t have been.’ The cross, we note, already had a symbolic meaning throughout the Roman world, long before it had a new one for the Christians. It meant: we Romans run this place, and if you get in our way, we’ll obliterate you – and do it pretty nastily too. Crucifixion meant that the kingdom hadn’t come, not that it had. Crucifixion of a would-be Messiah meant that he wasn’t the Messiah, not that he was. When Jesus was crucified, every single disciple knew what it meant: we backed the wrong horse. The game is over. Whatever their expectations, and however Jesus had been trying to redefine those expectations, as far as they were concerned hope had crumbled into ashes, They knew they were lucky to escape with their lives. (39-40)

Imagine the grief and hopelessness of the situation. Is it any wonder that they were huddled inside, when the news came?  To be continued…

My Easter Grief…and Prayer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the day that should bring Christians the most hope and joy, I find myself a bit troubled. Not troubled over what we are celebrating mind you. For that I greatly rejoice. The resurrection represents hope and power of the God of this universe who sent his Son to reconcile man to himself. Christ is risen, has expunged the penalty of sin and sits at the Father’s right hand.

But every year as this day approaches, I find a divisiveness exists in his body. The same body that he prayed for in his high priestly prayer;

My prayer is not for them alone (the apostles), I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, just as you and I are Father. May they also believe in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)

While all true believers celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, something creeps in to temper and even hinder that celebration together. This body that Christ calls one experiences tensions over the one day that should unite them.And it hinges on the use of one word – Easter. Continue reading