Today (this weekend), people worldwide are remembering and celebrating the greatest event in human history- the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! All human discovery and achievement, all scientific breakthrough and advancement, pales in comparison to this most glorious event- which was essentially the abolition of death and meaninglessness and the ushering in of genuine hope for the world.
On Easter Sunday, I could tell you that:
Jesus didn't swoon on the cross but genuinely, truly, died. And it was seen-to by professional executioners.
They buried him in a well-known location, and yet three days later, the tomb was empty.
Women were the first to see him risen from the dead (which brought no credit to the claim in those days because of women's low role in society). Why mention the women at all? Because it's actually how it went down.
Five hundred people saw the risen Jesus at one time.
Jesus ate, drank, talked & walked with his closest friends and followers for forty days after his resurrection. His appearance was not just a one-time hallucinated experience.
After witnessing his resurrection, Jesus' own family members, who were skeptical of him, accepted him as Messiah and God.
Each of the Apostles (excluding John) died gruesome deaths for their claim that Jesus was Messiah and Lord.
I could tell you that people back then were not more gullible about these things than we are. No one in the 1st century (besides the Jews) believed in "resurrection," or wanted it for that matter - The Greeks had a very low view of the body and afterlife.. and yet the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and was Lord over all changed the world.
These facts concerning Jesus' resurrection are of enormous importance, but they aren't delivered to us via scripture as cold facts from a textbook waiting to be dusted off once a year around this time. No, the Christian life is to be one continual celebration and observance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!
N.T. Wright, in his book Surprised By Hope, says, "The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you're now invited to belong to it."
The Apostle Peter also develops this idea of living out or practicing resurrection in his 1st epistle. He speaks of God's people as having a living hope, an inheritance, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Peter wants us to think about the real-life implications of the resurrection of Jesus and bring that to bear upon our everyday rhythms.
To Peter, the resurrection of Jesus is a life-altering, earth-shattering, historical event. So significant is the resurrection that it changed the course of history and the possibilities for every human that has ever lived. Peter says that Jesus' resurrection means that we can now set our hope entirely on the coming Kingdom of God - with 100 % certainty. His call to all Christians is this: set your hope wholly on the grace brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. The phrase "the revelation of Jesus Christ" refers to the Day that God will seal up and finish everything that he did at the Resurrection of Jesus. The day that he will destroy death and bring new life to this world, the day when he will make all things new. This hope is everlasting, totally secure because Jesus alone has risen from the dead, never to die again. He has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, and He alone has the keys of hell and death. Now he sits at the right hand of God the Father with all authority and power guiding all things to this end; until the time when he will bring his kingdom to reign on earth, in righteousness and peace, world without end.
I love the way that Tim Keller uses this Tolkienism to refer to the new creation when he says, "The resurrection of Christ means everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost." -Tim Keller, The Reason for God.
That is the Kingdom of God - Peace, Shalom - complete healing and wholeness to all relationships in all of creation. In the Kingdom of God, we will be fully reconciled to God, to nature, to one another, and to ourselves.
Since all of this is guaranteed to us through Jesus' resurrection, I want to follow suit with the Apostle Peter and the famous American poet Wendall Berry and say to you, 'Live out that Hope, Practice Resurrection!'
But what does it look like to practice resurrection?
To the extent that that future is real to you, it will change how you live in the present. We call this "Eschatological Ethics." Living out the kingdom of God in the here and now.
This idea breaks down into two categories: the calculated and the care-free.
If Jesus Christ is risen from the dead - that means we should calculate all things in light of the final resurrection and the coming kingdom. It means that everything we do in this life has eternal weight and merit to it. Directly following Pauls' teaching on the truth and effects of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, he concludes -
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15).
N.T. Wright says, "The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it). They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom." - N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
Part of the church's task consists of implementing that achievement of Jesus and anticipating the future kingdom by doing righteousness, justice and bringing peace to the places and people of our city where it is absent.
I see here a correlation to Jesus' parables of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price. The exhortation of these stories is to give everything you have for the working and building of the kingdom of God. To live our lives as though the kingdom were here now. To begin to practice now the language and characteristics of faith, hope, and love in our everyday lives. For this is the language they speak in the courts of the kingdom of heaven.
Again, N.T. Wright, "Every act of love, every deed done in Christ and by the Spirit, every work of true creativity - doing justice, making peace, healing families, resisting temptation, seeking and winning true freedom - is an earthly event in a long history of things that implement Jesus' own Resurrection and anticipate the final new creation and act as signposts of hope, pointing back to the first and on to the second…" - N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
Tim Keller, in his book, Jesus the King, asks a series of questions that help us to realize the everyday implication of the power and freedom that the resurrection of Jesus offers to our lives. He asks,
"Why is it so hard to face suffering? Why is it so hard to face disability and disease? Why is it so hard to do the right thing if you know it's going to cost you money, reputation, maybe even your life? Why is it so hard to face your death of death of loved ones? It's so hard because we think (and act) as though this broken world is the only world we're ever going to have. It's easy to feel as if this money is the only wealth we'll ever have. If I only have one life to live, I better live it to the fullest by bringing ultimate satisfaction to myself. "But if the resurrection is true, then this is not my only life, nor is it my best life, but the best is yet to come." - Tim Keller, Jesus the King.
Not only is the best to come, but it is "imperishable, undefiled, unfading and reserved in heaven for us, protected by God!
Because of this, we are free. Free to love all people liberally. Free to show kindness to all. Free to forgive. Free to think the best of people. Free to loosen our control and worry. Free to give more away. Free to take ourselves less seriously. We're free to spend more time being with people, invest in their lives, and less time securing our own little kingdoms. We are free to bless the people who hate and curse us. Might I even suggest free to read another story to our kids or spend more time playing with them? We are free to throw a great party or plant a garden.
People who have no belief in God or the Resurrection - who have no hope in a restored heaven and earth, say stuff like this all the time. How much more can Christians live care-free? Indeed, if Jesus rose from the dead, your life should be care-free, but not because of flippancy. Your life should be care-free because of such great certainty and underlying hope about the future and the kingdom of God.
If you're lonely in this life, in the resurrection, you will have perfect love. If you're empty in this life, in the resurrection, you will be fully satisfied.
If you and I know that this is not the only world, the only body, the only life we are ever going to have - that we will one day have a perfect life, a definite, concrete life - then who ultimately cares what people do to you, and what happens in this life?
Because of the resurrection, we can be free from ultimate anxieties in this life; we can be brave and take risks. We can sacrifice greatly. We can face even the worst things with joy and with hope because it doesn't end there. Death, chaos, and destruction do not have the final word over our lives - Jesus the resurrected Lord does.
It's because of this hope we can freely give our bodies in obedience to God, to his use, and for his glory. We can have the mind of Christ, who did not hold onto his glory and comforts but laid them aside for others. We can be humble, like Jesus. We can make ourselves the servant of all, like Jesus. We can die to ourselves, our will, our self-preservation for the sake of others and receive a great reward in the Kingdom of God." Only in the gospel of Jesus Christ can we find such enormous hope to live in. Only the resurrection promises us not just new minds and hearts but also new bodies. Only the resurrection promises that the best is yet to come!
Listen to the voices of the prophets, and just let this vision sink into your bones.
"On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isaiah 25:6-9)
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:1-5)
"If you believe the resurrection is true. If you believe that Jesus has died to save you - to redirect your eternal trajectory irrevocably toward God. If you believe that God has accepted you, for Jesus' sake, through an act of supreme grace. You are a part of the Kingdom of God which means - a guaranteed new heavens and new earth, a healed material creation, absolute wholeness and well being- physically, spiritually, socially, and economically." - Tim Keller, Jesus the King.
If you believe this, then Practice Resurrection.