The Risen Christ

I hope you all enjoy this picture of Tuesday’s lovely sunrise as much as I enjoyed standing there in the frost-covered grass watching the world wake up.

Sunrises and sunsets are my most favorite times of day (perhaps this is why I love Le Petit Prince so much?). Watching the earth come alive, bathed in color; watching the frost on the grass melt slowly as the crystals met with the sunlight—what a beautiful moment!

I can’t watch a sunrise or sunset without thinking about God, especially His roles as Creator and Sustainer of the universe. And especially with this being the week before Easter, I saw this lovely sunrise and thought of my Saviour rising early in the morning to pray, thought of the sun going down that Friday night as He was buried, thought of how long that Sabbath must have seemed to those who wanted to cover His dead body in spices, thought of the mixture of joy and surprise His people must have felt as the sun rose Sunday morning as they discovered the empty tomb to the words—He is risen!

And He is risen indeed! I was talking with a friend on Monday, and we came to the conclusion that we as Christians seem too often to forget just how important the resurrection is. Paul emphasises the importance of the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15. In this passage, Paul is giving a defence against some who were saying that there is no resurrection of the dead (that is, that there is no life after death). In verses 12-19, he writes:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 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. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For in the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

When Paul says that, “if Christ has not been raised . . . you are still in your sins,” he is pointing out that Christ’s resurrection is proof that God accepted the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. Because Christ has been raised, we know that the sacrifice was acceptable in God’s eyes; that is, that we have been redeemed, atoned for, justified, purified, made a workmanship of God.  As it is written in Ephesians 2:1-10—

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

(Now is a good time to listen to Jon Foreman’s Mercy’s War.)

Notice the emphasis placed on the fact that we Christians “all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” In other words, we aren’t special. We’re just as lost, just as broken, just as godless as any other human being, except that God “made us alive together with Christ.” Or as 1 Peter 2:9-10 puts it,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We are Christ’s reward for having accomplished God’s will; we are His workmanship, created to bring Him glory.

And how is it that we have passed from death to life? Romans 10:9-17 says,

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Now, there’s a lot of doctrinal points that can be made, and certainly all of these passages are complex and can be examined on multiple levels. But the really amazing thing about the Word of God is that we don’t have to be theologians to understand the most essential parts of the message. Put simply, all people are called to repentance from sins and faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Those who will believe have been called, predestined, chosen by God, and yet at the same time, individuals have the responsibility to confess, believe, and repent or to remain as they are.

And for those of us who do believe, who have been called, who choose the Gospel of Christ as “our hill worth dyin’ on” (to quote TobyMac), there’s another call: the call to preach the good news.

Yesterday in my on-campus Bible study, we looked at a passage in Luke where the risen Jesus is speaking to His disciples before ascending to Heaven. Luke 24:44-48—

Then He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Christ died for love. Not because He came to this earth and got into more of a mess than He planned on and ended up being crucified; no, it was written that He was coming to die.  Coming to die because He wanted to redeem to Himself a people, a people that He loves. (Now I recommend In Love by Jon Foreman.)

And, in Jon Foreman’s words, His love is enough! Enough to satisfy my every longing, enough to give me the purpose and value which I desire, enough to anchor my hope in His coming kingdom, enough to redeem me, enough to make me whole and restored; yes, how I long to be in my Maker’s arms! (Now listen to Foreman’s Your Love Is Enough.)

Yes, friends, He is risen!

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