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Coop's Column - Risen Indeed

"All suffering, trouble, and despair are now taken away, because of Jesus’ great love for me when he took up his cross, went to Calvary, and rose again on Easter."

“…Jesus came and stood among them and said: ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.’”

It’s Easter—the grandest day in the Christian year, and a time of excitement and joy for Christians the world over. In tiny rural villages, in large cathedrals, on ships at sea, amid desert caravans, in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes—no matter where and under what local circumstances Christians gather to worship, there they are tossing aside all usual restraints, pulling out all stops on the church organ, blowing their trumpets, clashing their cymbals, and joining their voices in strong chorus to sing: “Christ the Lord is risen today. Alleluia!” A preacher is marvelously dull if her heart doesn’t skip a beat for joy when on this day she mounts the pulpit to announce the news that the Lord is risen.

But it’s a demanding day, too, for preachers. And for all Christians, really. Who has words sufficient to report—let alone adequately to describe and explain— what actually happened, and how, on that day two millennia ago when Jesus arose? Perhaps simple words report the event best: “He is risen, and is going before you into Galilee.”(Mt. 28.7); “I have seen the Lord.” (John 20.18); “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”(John 20.20); “We have seen the Lord.“ (John 20.25)

And, from Apostles Creed: “ On the third day He rose again from the dead.”

Responding to Jesus' death and rising

To sum up what happened: Jesus, who was “crucified under Pontius Pilate”—that is, an objective, datable, historical event—also “on the third day”—thus, another objective, datable, historical event—became alive again and strode forth from the grave that had entombed him. What’s to say when there’s little more to say?

More important—by far—than trying further to explain—is to do two things in response: 1.) To bow low before him, exclaiming “Hallelujah!” 2.) To obey the angel’s command: “Go quickly and tell….’He has risen from the dead.’” (Mt. 28.7)

To participate in an event is far different from being a spectator of it. Take an athletic event, for an example. Except for being out the price of admission ticket, spectators on the sidelines remain quite unaffected by the game itself. They just watch it—from afar.

How different a participant. Participants are part of the action. In their bodies they feel firsthand the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

People who belong to him do not merely observe from a distance what happened to Jesus when he arose. They actually participate with him in his rising. The astonishing reality of what happened to their Lord and Savior in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea continues—no less astonishingly—in their lives today. With Jesus they too become resurrected daily to new life. In Jesus they too are now “Eastered” people.

A trio of benefits to Christians

The Heidelberg Catechism, a 16th century Christian confession, declares that Christians benefit from Jesus’ resurrection in three ways. They:

1. “share in the righteousness which he won for [them] by his death.”

The wrong they have done doesn’t count anymore. Their risen Redeemer has paid the penalty which released them from their former bondage. Their risen Rescuer has ripped Satan’s strangling hands from their necks, and breathed fresh life into them again. They are free forever from sin’s curse. This single fact, says John Stott, is “the mainstay of Christian assurance.”

2. “already now are resurrected to new life.”

No bride on her wedding day fusses her head over what she’s going to wear for the important occasion. Of course!--she’s going to put on her wedding dress, the only garment fit for the great event. St. Paul encourages Christians who have been risen with Jesus to dress appropriately. (cf Col. 3.1) They must make it their daily habit to “clothe” themselves in their bridal gown of Easter. They must put on--again, daily and deliberately—the several bridal adornments which make up their Easter wedding gown, those resurrection virtues St. Paul lists: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience….” etc, (Col. 3.12ff) Each of these new patterns of behavior fits their new life with their risen Groom.

3. "are guaranteed that after they die, they shall rise again with their Savior and Lord."

Jesus great love for me

Those who belong to Jesus and participate with him in his resurrection know—for sure—that the evening of their life does not end in a night of eternal death. They have sure and certain hope—Easter hope—that as surely as their Lord once rose in triumph over (his) death, so too shall he conquer theirs. Now safe in him, they know his resurrection assures them of their own rising again. Knowing this, they can face (their own) death with the courage and tranquility, which spring from hope. They can declare with the 19th century Dutch minister/poet, H.W Kohlbrugge:

“Therefore when I die—though now I die no more—and someone finds my skull, may it proclaim:

‘I have eyes no longer, and yet I see him;
I have a tongue no longer, and yet I praise him;
I have ears no longer, and yet I hear his voice;
I have lips no longer, and yet I kiss him.
I am a cold, hard skull; yet I have been softened and melted by his love.

All suffering, trouble, and despair are now taken away, because of Jesus’ great love for me when he took up his cross, went to Calvary, and rose again on Easter.

It is my signal honor, my high privilege to announce great news: “Jesus, our Savior and Lord, has risen in triumph over sin and death!”

And to encourage all who hear and believe: “Comfort one another with these words.” (I Thess. 4.18)