From the Pastor's Pen
From The Pastor's Pen.....
Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, and Easter baskets filled with chocolates, jelly beans, and plastic grass—these seem to me to be a very strange way to celebrate the most important event in human history. Despite their roots in pagan ritual, it is not that I find anything particularly wrong or sinful about these things in themselves. To the contrary: they fill the hearts of children and adults alike with the joy of simple pleasures and traditions that make special days, well, special. But neither do I find these expressions of Easter celebration to be particularly surprising. Why? It is not surprising that the enemy of God would undertake to undermine the most important event in history.
One of the devil’s most effective ways to oppose the Kingdom of God is to trivialize the holy, the sacred, and the significant (e.g., the incarnation, the resurrection, the name of God). If the enemy is successful in redirecting our focus away from God’s life-changing, earth-shaking, history-shaping incursions into the world of men, he greatly diminishes the appeal of the gospel to a world that quite eagerly settles for plastic trinkets rather than the true, eternal treasure our heavenly Father offers to those who seek Him with singleness of heart. For those who have embraced the gospel and placed their trust in Christ, such trivialization of the key celebrations of our faith slowly, almost imperceptibly, erodes our own appreciation of the heritage and riches that are ours in Christ Jesus.
The preceding paragraphs notwithstanding, my thoughts this month are not conceived as a rant against the Easter bunny. Rather, I hope to appeal to every reader to embrace a fuller, deeper appreciation of the resurrection of our Lord. Only as we understand the significance of the resurrection can we assess its importance in human history. Only as we understand the true nature of the resurrection do we genuinely share the faith of our forefathers. Only as we understand the promise the resurrection holds can we experience its power and joy.
What is biblical resurrection? Perhaps it is best to begin by settling what resurrection is not. Contrary to the belief of many, even many who call themselves Christian, the biblical concept of resurrection does not refer merely to the immortality of the soul. The Bible teaches that the human being is an embodied soul, not merely a soul living in a body. In the interval between the death of the body and the resurrection, special accommodation is made for the souls of believers in heaven (2 Cor. 5:8), but this state is only temporary until the soul is reunited with its resurrected body at the end of the age. Another concept sometimes confused with resurrection is reincarnation, but the latter is diametrically opposed to the former. Biblical resurrection is a blessing; reincarnation is understood by those who believe in it, to be a curse. The Bible says, emphatically, that “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Sometimes resuscitation (e.g., the raising of Lazarus) is mistakenly referred to as resurrection. Resuscitation, however, refers to a return to this earth only to have to ultimately lay aside the body again. Resurrection refers to a permanent change of condition from mortality to immortality, from a body suitable only for this world to a body that is suited for both earthly and heavenly realms.
What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection in history? Often this question is answered merely by pointing to the division of western history into two epochs, B.C. and A.D. Sometimes more thoughtful answers will refer to the presence of the church and its impact upon civilizations through the ages. Both answers, while correct, fall far short of the historical impact of the resurrection. Perhaps, the greatest impact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as it applies to human history is that it decisively changed how we must think of ourselves as humans, and how we as humans must think. Allow me to explain. For millennia, human beings had relatively limited knowledge of the world in which they lived came into being and how it was sustained. The only plausible explanation was that a Creator, distinct from the stuff of this world, created and sustained it. As technology advanced, so did man’s understanding of the size of the universe, the forces that governed it, and the processes that were continually, but ever so slowly changing it. Soon, man had a plausible explanation for the existence of everything, an explanation that required no God, nothing that transcended the material world in which we live and move and have our being. Or so man thought. In the process, Loren Eiseley observed, mankind made itself to be a “cosmic orphan,” a mere accident of nature. Beyond what mankind could see, touch, or measure, there was nothing. No plan. No purpose. No future. No meaning. Nothing at all.
But there was Jesus. God incarnate, crucified on a cross, and resurrected from the dead, never to die again. If the resurrection of Jesus really happened, that changes everything. If the resurrection of Jesus is true there is something beyond what we can see and touch and measure, and there is something, reality, beyond the grave. There is a plan, there is purpose, there are promises, a future, and meaning. And it matters how we conduct ourselves in this life. This is the biblical worldview, and it challenges the self-focused, self-satisfied, self-ruled worldview that governs most of the cultures and institutions of our day.
What promise does the resurrection of Jesus hold? Because the resurrection is real, we have strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Because the resurrection is real, we can know that we are never alone. Because the resurrection is real, all Jesus taught us about life beyond the grave is true. Because the resurrection is real, all the promises of God are “Yes and Amen!” We could go on and on, but you get the idea.
No event in the history of mankind is better substantiated than the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. All the so-called theories used to explain away Jesus resurrection are no longer held by any serious scholar. The only way skeptics deny the resurrection today is to refuse to accept the possibility of miracles, preferring instead the worldview of the cosmic orphan who clings to lostness simply because he is more comfortable in that dreadful condition. We, on the other hand know that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and He is Lord! Hallelujah, Jesus is alive!