“The do it yourself, self-help culture of North America has so thoroughly permeated our imagination that we ordinarily don’t give attention to the biggest thing of all — resurrection. And the reason we don’t is because resurrection isn’t something we can use or control or manipulate or improve on.” Eugene Peterson, (Living the Resurrection)
I love the days leading up to Easter Sunday. This is one of my favorite times in the church year. Many people get caught up in Easter egg hunts and baskets, nice dinners or wearing new clothes to church.
For Christians, there should be no distraction with shopping, gifts or chocolate bunnies. Instead, the symbolism and beauty of these days should far outweigh commercialism. Our attention should be solely on Jesus and His resurrection.
Yet we are easily preoccupied. Sometimes it’s a struggle to see relevance in an event that took place so long ago. One big problem for Christians is that the resurrection has become an event that “happened,” instead of an ongoing part of our lives.
Preparing for Easter this year, I found Scripture verses that may help us to see anew the “resurrection life” we have been given. I use Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” edition of the Bible to emphasize this theme.
“The whole congregation of believers was united as one — one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, ‘That’s mine; you can’t have it.’ They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.” Acts 4:32-33
Right in the center of those first Christians’ daily lives was the resurrection. It’s like the first cup of coffee in the morning, our eyes are opened, and we’re ready for the day. Christ has risen, just as He said. Because He did, everything is possible.
When we look at the cross through our modern worldview, we see it as the motivation for the first Christians. But the cross wasn’t the focus; it was the resurrection.
“If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of His Son. Now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of His resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!” Romans 5:10-11
The resurrection was the ultimate reminder of God¹s power and love. The first Christians basked in it, rejoiced because of it, lived in it — every single day. The resurrection wasn’t just about receiving eternal life; it was about fully living life in the here and now. This life after the resurrection is full of opportunities and possibilities.
“God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?'” Romans 8:14.
It provided a barrier against all the hazards and hardships that the first Christians faced, and provided them with a glimpse of God’s glory and His grace. It was motivation enough to endure, but not just endure — to undergo the worst that life could bring and ultimately take a stand.
“I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I’d do this if I wasn’t convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn’t be the end of me? Not on your life! It’s resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live.” 1 Corinthians 15:31-32.
Friends, we need to learn to “live the resurrection.” We’ve been given a new lease on life, as well as a new life today and a new life tomorrow and beyond. Too often we take this resurrection for granted, become complacent and “run through the motions” of faith. We must remember that we have been led from prison cells into the wide open spaces of God’s love and eternal power.
“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ — that’s where the action is. See things from His perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life, even though invisible to spectators, is with Christ in God. He is your life.” Col 3:1-3.
Look up and come together to see where our freedom takes us — where this incredible opening we have in the veil of this life leads us into “resurrection life” today, tomorrow and the days after that.
Dr. Robert S. Henry, Pastor: Silverton Friends Church