Easter is over. The contents of plastic eggs have been eaten. Hard boiled Easter eggs are now egg salad and only the head of the chocolate bunny remains in the box. Baskets have been tucked away in the basement waiting for next year. And Jesus has been tucked safely back in the tomb.
On Easter Sunday morning churches fill with people to celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The organist pulls out all the stops (pun intended) to fill the sanctuary with triumphant sounds to honor the risen Lord. Trumpet fanfares accompany the congregation’s voices, which are raised in the singing of Charles Wesley’s hymn Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Orchestra and choir join in festive songs of victory. And, at last, the service concludes with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah. Hearts soar and joy fills the souls of the faithful who rejoice in Christ’s triumph over sin and death.
Then comes the morning after. The emotional charge of Easter Sunday has left our hearts. Our soul, which had soared upward into the heavens on the wings of the truth of the resurrection, is brought earthward and burdened with the cares of the day. Our minds exchange meditations on the glories of Christ for a list of errands and groceries.
Our worldly cares, like traffic cops, push any thoughts of Christ’s resurrection out of our minds, doubt loudly declaring, “Move along there is nothing to see here.” It also makes us question the Easter miracle, and when we look back at the tomb, the stone covers the opening and we go back to our old lives, going about business as though Christ was lying cold, still and dead inside the sepulcher.
We treat Christ as though his resurrection from the dead is the climax of an Easter play. When the music stops and the church service ends we applaud His performance and leave, remembering that we can catch the same show again next year.
God knew how difficult it would be for our finite minds to apprehend the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. He even sent an angel to the tomb to redirect the women’s thoughts from doubt and pain to faith and joy. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:5-6)
God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Christ’s condescension to take on a human body and take on sin and death has ended in triumph over the grave. Singer/songwriter Michael Card wrote, “Love crucified arose and the grace became a place of hope for the heart that sin and sorrow broke is beating once again.”
Jesus is not a fictional character in a play. He no longer occupies a tomb and just as he appeared to His disciples in His glorified risen body so He continues to exhort and encourage His faithful through the Holy Spirit. When the faithful gather on Sunday in church for worship they are testifying to the world that Jesus Christ is alive. His living body, the church, is in the world as a witness to God’s miraculous work in Jesus Christ. By the living Spirit of Christ the church is empowered to declare the truth of Christ’s resurrection. The church in the world speaks the words of the living Christ, who said, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again” (Luke 24:7).
The church’s existence is proof that Christ is risen. The church lives in the world. The church is not a business or organization but living proof of the Lord’s resurrection. The apostle Paul wrote, “The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23). The fullness of the risen Christ fills the church through the person of the Holy Spirit. By His power the living Christ still reveals Himself to His disciples in the world and exhorts and emboldens the faithful to participate in His ministry of reconciliation. As ministers, the faithful are to dispense the duties of the church on Earth: preach the Gospel, forgive sins, baptize, and unite believers in the foretaste of the supper of the Lamb.
Through the Spirit the faithful become Christ’s competent ministers. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6) which is confirmed and made visible in the resurrection.
God has raised Jesus from the dead. And through Christ’s death and resurrection, God raised up His church to witness to the Almighty power of God and to testify that “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
When Christians are baptized into the church, they are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. The church is the risen body of Christ. In baptism, they renounce the things of this world, including the lie that Christ is dead. And through the Spirit they are given eyes to see Christ risen and living in glory in the holy city of God. A sinner sanctified and regenerated by the Holy Spirit sees Christ clothed in power, strength, honor and glory. And as members of Christ’s holy church, sinners living in the new life given them by Jesus Christ are called to surrender all to His authority. The living Christ calls believers to a life of obedient servanthood to God. The living Christ empowers His servants through the grace given through the power of the Holy Spirit to be His loving ambassadors in the world and ministers of reconciliation to those perishing in sin and death.
As members of the church of the living Christ the faithful must relinquish all claims to this world and be subjects of the living Lord. The fear that grips us when we think of this submission is the reason so often we want to roll the stone back over the tomb. The living Christ calls us to a life of obedience. By His grace He turns our hearts toward God and exhorts us to do the work of God through His Spirit. The living Christ expects His followers to imitate Him in the world every day and join together each week to celebrate the feast of the Lamb, look ahead to the Church Triumphant, and be strengthened by the truth that Jesus is alive.
On the day after Easter, and each day after that, the stone remains rolled away from the entrance of Christ’s tomb and all God’s ministers must get to the divine work of proclaiming the eternal truth to a dying world that Christ is alive.
Denise Larson Cooper has a passion for Christ and sharing His Word. She is an avid walker and spends many hours in the great outdoors admiring God’s creation. She also enjoys photography, leads small group Bible studies and invests the Gospel in all she does. Denise graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and worked ten years of inner-city ministry in Rochester, New York. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise currently works as a gymnastic coach. For Daily Devotionals from Denise, follow her on Facebook.
Publication date: March 10, 2016