Reflections for the Week of Sunday March 27, 2016 Easter Sunday

Scriptures: Isaiah 65.17-25; Psalm 118.1,2,14-24; 1 Corinthians 15.19-26; John 20.1-18.

In Isa 65 God says He will create a new heaven and a new earth where the wolf and the lamb will lie down together. Ps 118 says, “I shall not die, but live, and the stone which the builders rejected [meaning Jesus] has become the chief cornerstone [i.e., the Messiah].” 1 Cor 15 speaks of the resurrection. Jn 20 tells of the resurrection and the appearance of the Lord to Mary of Magdala.

The Resurrection

The fact of the resurrection is the historical basis for Christianity. Paul says, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is also in vain” (1 Cor 15.14). But Paul says the risen Christ was seen by “Peter, then by the Twelve, and after that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15.5). 1 Cor was written about 55 AD only some 25 years after the crucifixion and resurrection. The fact that “the greater part remain to the present” means ‘if you don’t believe me, you can go talk to them’. N.T. Wright, a world-class historian specializing in the first century, takes the resurrection to be an irrefutable fact. The evidence for the resurrection is the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb which was never produced by His opponents, in addition to His many appearances after the crucifixion (including the first in Jn 20). Another telling fact is the change in the Apostles who before the resurrection were cowering behind locked doors in fear but after the resurrection boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah at the risk of their lives. They were willing to bet their lives on the resurrection which they had seen with their own eyes. But what does the resurrection mean for us? Certainly that Jesus so embodied life that death could not hold Him. Life is the main theme of this season of the liturgical year (Lent through Ascension). Rev 12 describes a vision of what took place in heaven during the crucifixion as a struggle between Satan as a dragon and Christ, and “the dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down’” (vv. 9,10). Revelation depicts Christ as a Lamb who was slain, recalling the Passover Lamb whose sacrifice saved Israel from the angel of death. Christ initiates a new Exodus from the bondage of sin and death led by His Spirit to a Promised Land, a new heaven and new earth (Isa 65.17-25) where they will live forever with their Triune God in resurrected bodies (Rev 20-21). This belief and doctrine is what we affirm every Sunday when we say, “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” (Nicene Creed). Implicit in this is that when Christians die, their spirits go to be with the Lord until He returns on the last day and then they will be resurrected and dwell in their new bodies with our Triune God in the new heaven and earth forever. Hallelujah!!

Memory Verse: … in order that I may gain Christ…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3.8-11).

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