Easter's Big "If"
What are we saying when we gather to worship on Easter Sunday? We are actually saying something radical, are we not? We're saying that an itinerant rabbi who lived 2,000 years ago in a backwater town in the Middle East is actually God. But we're saying more than that, aren't we?
We're not only saying that we believe Jesus was God, but that his life and death and resurrection proved this. We're saying that Jesus' predictions of his future death and resurrection tell us that He was no ordinary human, but that he was God in the flesh. But we're saying more than that, aren't we?
We are not only upholding the apologetic of the Resurrection, we're not only affirming that the historic Jesus did indeed rise again and was seen by 500 witnesses. We are also saying that "if" this is true, then it changes everything about us, about the world, and about what we think we know about God.
We're saying Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, the hope of Israel, the Promised One who will not only satisfy God's just punishment of sin against humans. We're saying that the fallen corrupted world, a world of war and disease and famine and strife and murder and corruption, will one day be restored. We're saying that the utopia we long for, the blessed, beautiful world that we all want to see happen, but seem powerless to effect--we're saying that Jesus' resurrection signals that this kingdom will one day happen. That's what we're saying.
But we're saying even more. On Easter, we're saying that "if" this is true, if Jesus was God, did suffer the death for sin we should have suffered, if He indeed rose again, than death is defeated, the invisible enemy was crushed, and restoration is on the way. Easter is a kind of spring season, it reveals the first colorful shoots and seedlings that point to a new a brighter day. It gives us hope that the world's long winter freeze has been lifted. Instinctively, we all long for a better world, we all want things to change, all want personal renewal and corporate renewal. But we all know that mankind, at his best, cannot bring this to pass. The 20th century marked the century of the most human progress. And yet, it was the century that arguably saw the most blood shed. So, by Easter, that's what we are saying.
But we're saying so much more. Easter also says that Creation itself, the world, the planet, the universe, will also one day be restored. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ not only defeated the death brought to mankind by sin, but it defeated the curse placed by sin on creation, a planet and universe that now rumbles with trouble, unleashing devastating natural disasters. Easter says that there is renewal around the corner. But Easter says even more than this.
What we are saying Easter says is that there is a new Kingdom and a new King coming. We're saying this new King is calling citizens of a new Kingdom, enlisting them in the immediate task of creating an alternate community, the Church, who is to be a window, a glimpse into the final Kingdom. These kingdom people, empowered by the king, live by a different set of values. The poor, the peacemakers, the virtuous, the humble, the forgiving, the courageous. But we're saying more than this.
Easter says that God not only came in Christ to renew the earth, rescue humanity, and reverse sin's curse, but He came to offer personal salvation and access to God. By his life and death and resurrection, Jesus grants those who believe personal intimacy with God. Easter says that this access, citizenship in the new Kingdom, is not given because of merit or birth but by personal regeneration. Consider Jesus' words to Nicodemus, the most religious man in Israel (John 3). Jesus said that this eminently religious and presumptively qualified man that despite his religious devotion and spiritual heritage, he too needed spiritual rebirth. He too needed a new heart, a new allegiance, a new life. By putting his faith in Christ, Nicodemus and all who believe, become citizens of this new Kingdom.
All of this is what Easter is saying. It is declaring the Bible's beautiful narrative: Life was once good and beautiful, how we all think it should be. It tells us that man was created uniquely to image God. It tells us what happened to this beautiful world and to man himself. -An enemy seduced humankind into rejecting the Creator. It tells us the consequences of sin: death, destruction, evil--every imaginable horror. It tells us, though, that God already had a plan to restore his creation and his people, through the death and resurrection of Christ. Easter tells us that the centuries-long desire for rescue--the arc of the Old Testament--was fulfilled in Jesus. It tells us that because of Easter, there is a better world coming.
Easter is an invitation into this new world through faith in the King who died, was buried, and rose again.
This, my friends, and not any other reason, is why we celebrate Easter. If this is true, it truly changes everything.