Photo by jdurham on Morgue File.
Well, Easter has come and gone for another year. It was a busy Holy Week this year, as I published devotionals for each day. If you saw them and used them, I pray they were beneficial for you. It was a help to me, a God send really, just to focus, each day, on the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry.
My wife and I attended a Tenebrae service Good Friday evening at a local United Methodist Church. This is something I have been doing for several years now. As I have lived in different places, it has afforded me the opportunity to visit several different churches over those years. Last year, we visited and participated in a Good Friday service at a local Episcopal church. They observed the stations of the cross, so we walked around the sanctuary and had responsive readings at each station.
There is something about doing this that highlights the joy of Easter morning for me. It helps me center on the solemnity of Good Friday and the quiet stillness of Saturday. This all prepares me for the victory and joy of Resurrection Sunday.
The last two Easters, I have gone outside to see the sunrise. As I have stood outside praying, I feel the warmth of the early morning sun, as it creeps over the horizon. It reminds me, in vibrant colors and soothing warmth, of the rising of the Son on that first Easter morning.
I taught a young adult Sunday school class yesterday. We were looking at 1 Cor. 15.20-28. I asked them if the Gospel would still be the gospel, i.e. good news, apart from the resurrection of Christ? In other words, would the gospel have any soteriological value if it did not include Easter morning? If the news of Jesus of Nazareth was simply: he was born, lived a perfect life and died on the cross a vicarious death for our sins and was buried, with a big fat period at the end of that, with nothing else said, is it still good news?
Paul answers this forcefully in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul makes it clear that the Gospel message apart from the resurrection of Christ from the dead is no gospel message. In fact, Paul puts it bluntly when he says, such a gospel (i.e. one absent Easter) would cause our faith to be vain or worthless.
We see then, for Paul, the resurrection of Christ is at the heart of the gospel message. I am afraid we modern Christians too often neglect this great doctrine. From my experience, we are very good about extolling the cross, which we should, but we are a bit lax on giving due place to the resurrection. Sure, we do a nice job of it on Easter Sunday, but should it not be more prevalent in our thinking and devotional lives than that?
After all, the very reason the church began meeting on the first day of the week, i.e. Sunday, was to commemorate the resurrection of Christ on that first Easter Sunday.
Do not misunderstand me. I am all for praising God for the cross of Christ. This we should and must do. It is by the cross that Christ paid the penalty I owed because of my sin and rebellion. It is on the cross that God’s love is poured out for humanity. But, without Easter morning, the cross becomes just another sad event in human history, along with millions of other sad events. It is the connection of the two together: Good Friday and Easter, the cross and resurrection Sunday that gives hope and salvation.
So, as we, as Christ-followers, move forward from Easter to the rest of spring and approaching summer, let us, throughout the year remember and commemorate the victory of Resurrection Sunday. Let us praise God for the truth that our Savior is risen and alive!