Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Meanings of the Resurrection

With Easter just past, I would like to explore with you the several layers of meanings to the Resurrection, and how they are relevant to our faith walk today.

1. Messiah and Son of God

The first meaning is obvious: Jesus’ Resurrection proved that he was the promised Messiah. But it goes beyond being the Messiah, because the people misunderstood what the Messiah was to be all about. Jesus was the Messiah, but so much more. He is also the Son of God – God in the flesh – who came to earth to accomplish God’s plan to save the human race from the results of its sinful condition. We have all fallen short of God’s standard, but Jesus took care of that dilemma on the Cross, which leads into the second meaning of the Resurrection.

2. Good Triumphs over Evil

The second message for us in the Resurrection is the triumph of Good over Evil. The struggle between good and evil are recurring themes in the Bible. These forces are in constant conflict, which we see every day – just look at the news. What we see on the news, and often in our own lives, is a spiritual struggle that has spread to the physical realm with the fall of Adam and Eve. Let us be agents of good, triumphing over evil, as described in Romans 12:20-21, NRSV:

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When we consider the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we see that God has Good triumphing over Evil in at least three ways.

a. Jesus Triumphs over Death

The first way God triumphed over evil is that Jesus triumphed over death. Can you imagine how Jesus felt to be free of the grip of death, to be out of that cold tomb! The angels must have been singing and praising God, just as they did on that first Christmas morning 33 years earlier.

b. Jesus Triumphs over Worldly Evil

The second way Jesus triumphed over evil is that he triumphed over the plots of evil men, who wanted him gone for good. The Resurrection points to the eventual complete defeat of all evil – Christ’s Resurrection is the beginning of the end for the forces of Evil.

Despite the temptations, pain, suffering and grief that we have to endure in this life, remember that you and I are on the winning side. Halleluiah! So don’t let the trials of this life get you down – continue to look to Jesus, as we read in Hebrews 12:3:

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. NIV

c. Jesus Conquered Death

The third way Jesus triumphed over evil is that he conquered death for all of us by his Crucifixion and Resurrection. What does “conquered death” mean? It means we no longer have to fear death, because we now know with certainty we are going to a much better place when we check out of here. Yes, we still have physical death, as Jesus acknowledged in John 11:25-26, but we live on spiritually:

Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” NRSV

Jesus conquered death, so that we, who choose to believe, can be assured that physical death is a doorway to another, much better, life. We read in Romans 8:1-2:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. NRSV

3. God’s Sign of Approval

The Third meaning of the Resurrection, in addition to proving Jesus is the Son of God and the triumph of Good over Evil, is that it is a sign of God’s approval. God’s approval of what? By the Resurrection, God demonstrated his approved of what Jesus did on Friday. Although in human terms it would appear that Jesus was a complete failure, the Resurrection tells us otherwise. The Resurrection is solid proof that Jesus didn’t fail by allowing himself to be arrested and executed. Instead, he was being obedient to God’s plan, as we see in his prayer to the Father just prior to his arrest (Matthew 26:39b):

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” NRSV

Furthermore, we read in Philippians 2:8 about Jesus’ obedience to God:

He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. NRSV

Let me summarize what I understand this season to be all about. Our hope as Christians is grounded in the gift of eternal life which we receive the day we believe. This Resurrection hope is our way out of the valley of darkness and despair through which all of us walk at one time or another. The Resurrection illustrates that hope, plus points to our own resurrections in the last days.

This gift of eternal life begins right now for all who worship the risen Christ, and trust him as their Savior. By God’s grace and thru our faith in Christ, we will spend eternity with the Father who made us and the Son who saved us. This is the hope and the promise which Christians see expressed on Easter Day.

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