Victory in Defeat
Posted by Dan Paterson on March 27, 2016
He is risen!
This has been the central Christian claim for two millennia. But having heard this statement repeated for so long, the good news can grow stale for faithful saints. The strangeness tends to wear off. Without the broader Christian story, it is hard to see how Jesus being alive is an announcement of good news for you. This is, for me, where the truth of this story becomes more precious than anything I have.
When I think about Easter, I wonder what my life would be like if I had to stumble through it not knowing whether there is a God, or what that God is like. Wondering if I would be good enough to please him or her or they; not knowing whether I’m choosing the right path or wasting my life; whether I’m loved, or merely a cosmic accident or experiment. Thanks to the proof of the resurrection, where Jesus was, as the Apostle Paul put it, “declared with power to be the Son of God” (Rom 1:4), I don’t have to wonder. I know who God is, and through Jesus, through Calvary’s cross, I know of his affections for me.
When I think about Easter, I remember all the tender moments of discovering that all of the evil I had hidden from others, all of my sins I had stored up over the years, were no longer mine to carry in secret, nor to shoulder in judgment. Jesus shouldered my sin. I think about all of the tears of shame that have streamed down the faces of those who have encountered God’s conviction and have come to Christ in repentance. Jesus wipes these tears of shame away, replacing them with the joy of forgiveness, and acceptance, and rebirth.
When I think about Easter, I think of the faces of loved ones I’ve lost. Those who have died, and whose bodies are now planted in the earth. I treasure the thought of being reunited with them and embracing them in our resurrection. I believe that death is not the end; that the grave is not my final destination. I think of those who struggle through this life; for the kids with dreadful disabilities. I wonder what it will be like to see them run and jump and play and laugh when Jesus returns to set everything right.
This is Easter. Without the resurrection, all of this is false hope. Without the resurrection, Jesus was not God incarnate, just a failed Jewish carpenter-turned-rabbi. Without the resurrection, Jesus cannot forgive sins, and his death was just an execution, not atonement. Without the resurrection, we are all metaphysically challenged, and death is the end of every human being. No hope. No heading. No healing.
This is why Jesus’ resurrection matters. Through it God revealed himself to you and me. He revealed that he is there, that Jesus’ death was an act of his divine intentions towards us, and that he wants to know us.
Through the resurrection God accepted Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for your sins and mine. The cheque cleared. The balance has been paid. God can extend mercy to us without sacrificing justice. And the store of sin that corrupts your heart, that keeps you in the shadows from truly revealing who you are, can be brought out into the light of God’s grace. Through repentance and belief in Jesus, you don’t earn your way into God’s good graces; Jesus’ sacrifice is the grounds of your forgiveness and adoption into God’s spiritual family.
Finally, through the resurrection comes the battle cry that death is defeated! The grave has been conquered. What a great enemy of the human race, taking from us old and young alike. Yet in light of Jesus’ resurrection, we can know about the afterlife. The dead are not gone. Like Jesus, their bodies were merely planted as seeds in the earth to sprout forward one day. Jesus’ resurrection was just the first fruits. Because Jesus rose from the dead, not only can we know that for those who trust in Christ, our souls go to be with him in heaven, but we know that one day, just as Jesus promised, we too will receive resurrected bodies to inhabit God’s future world.
All of this traces back to the resurrection of Jesus. If it didn’t happen, then Christians are to be pitied above all people for their false hope. But here is the good news: Jesus is alive! This is not a religious idea; this is an announcement.
He is risen indeed!