By Bill Hall, National Director, Canada
Every time I preach during our Easter service, I recall the emails I used to get when I woke up Easter morning. They were from an acquaintance living in Romania. The emails would read something like this: “Dear Pastor Bill, Blessings on this day, He is risen, He is risen indeed!”
This electrifying proclamation is based on Luke 24:34, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (ESV).
For me this is the basis or foundation of my Christian faith. The apostle Paul said this succinctly:
And if Christ has now been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (1 Corinthians 15:17-18 ESV)
No one wants a futile faith, but I submit there is more at play than just the fact that without the resurrection, we are just following some good moral teacher, or a philosophy promoted by some first-century rabbi.
One of the phrases that keeps coming back to me as I reflect on the life of Jesus includes the two words: “For us.” We see it in the Incarnation when Jesus took on our humanity, “for us.” At the waters of Jordan where he was baptized, “for us.” When he suffered a terrible death on a cross, counted as a traitor, “for us.” And finally, in his resurrection and later ascension, “for us.”
I love how Hebrews puts the “for us” declaration:
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, not to appear for us in God’s presence. (Hebrews 9:24)
That is a powerful statement.
I can never get used to the wonderful thought that the Triune God was willing to take on our humanity and then bring it back to a relationship with the Godhead. But not only that, we have a place with Jesus as he lives in us:
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. (Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV)
While we still have to live this human life, because of God’s grace we have received the gift of eternal life. Those in Jesus are a new creation, part of a new dominion, a new reality.
Reflecting on the Feast of the Ascension, Canadian singer and songwriter Steve Bell makes this observation:
Whether through actual teaching or Sunday school songs or some other inexplicable misinformation, I grew up thinking that the incarnation, with all of its appealing drama of divine rescue, was at its core God’s “Plan B” after “Plan A” was spoiled by human sin. This assumption suggests that God was “pushed,” as it were, into unappeasable wrath until a radical transaction of horrific proportions would occur to satisfy a righteous rage.
But what if this picture is inaccurate? What if, from all eternity, God’s plan had always been to unite, through incarnation, with his creation, drawing it into the mutuality and joy of his own triune being?
Indeed, if Jesus had come to earth to execute a legal transaction securing our salvation from a terrifyingly ticked-off God, then we may be happy for his descent. But his ascent is still a loss, and we are left without him. However, if the descent of God as Christ into our midst was meant to penetrate the fullness of our existence (including our death), and unite us to him, then indeed, his rising is our rising, his fellowship (Father, Son and Spirit) is our fellowship, and their joy is our joy. (Steve Bell, Pilgrim Year-Easter [Novalis, 2018], 59-60).
The gospel is good news.
He is risen, he is risen…indeed!