What does Easter mean?
I mean on its own, because there is a lot said about the victory of the cross, and it is impossible to separate the events of Good Friday from that of Easter Sunday. But Ill try. Bit first a look at the passion.
Jesus last words from the cross,”It is finished,” show that Gods work of redemption on Jesus was complete. Jesus, the Lamb of God, has in dying taken away the sin of the world, and this is true with or without the resurrection. I’m not belittling the crucifixion of Jesus, it is the central event of the Christian faith, and the event on which my own faith is based, but if the work was finished, completed, on the cross, with or without the resurrection, then why did Jesus need to rise again?
Now my tradition, Evangelicalism, is centred on the message of the cross, and rightly so. I’m trying to think about what is different about the resurrection or what it adds to our faith.
(Note to self, when doing one of these stream of conciousness blogs remember to keep it simple. See, this alone I found: God made human beings straightforward, but they search for many complications. Ecclesiastes 7:29)
Saint Paul can help here.
Paul’s letters to the early churches are full of the Cross, of preaching Christ crucified. Paul is two things, he is the great theologian of the New Testament, before his conversion to Christianity he studied under Gamaliel, one of the great Jewish theologians of his time. But Paul was also a missionary.
Saint Paul was an action man. A large part of the Acts of the Apostles are the acts of Paul, travelling around the North East Mediterranean, spreading the Gospel, planting churches, never staying in one place more than a few years. Finding opposition in some places, being welcomed in others.
Then he got arrested.
In prison and under house arrest things change. The wanderer gets tied to one place. Paul can no longer go and visit churches he has planted. Paul’s missionary focus centred on the cross becomes a pastoral focus.
Two of Paul’s prison letters letter stand out. The letter to the Colossians deals with heretical teaching, not by focussing on the heresy, but by focussing on Jesus Christ, what he has done and what this means in the life of the Christians. Then there’s the letter to the Ephesians …
Unlike his other letters Paul’s letter to the Ephesians talks more about the resurrection and what it means than it does about the cross. Paul had mentioned it before, but in this letter he focusses on the resurrection. The central message is this, We have been raised in Christ.
We have been raised in Christ, we have been given new life in Christ. We were dead in our sin, we are made alive in Christ. (italics mine.)
The tense of the verbs is important. Because while the teaching about the crucifixion is about what Christ has done, the teaching about the resurrection is about how we should live.
And this is how we should live, we should show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us. We have been created in Christ Jesus for good works.
So let’s get doing it. Feed the hungry, visit an heal the sick, visit those in prison, clothe the naked, sit alongside the bereaved, give an ear to those anxious, let them rant if necessary, if you can’t get there yourself support those who do. Do you see a need in others and you have posessions that you don’t need, sell them. Give your time. Give your money. Give yourself.
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matt 5:16