The following guest post is from the heart and hand of Edward Fudge, author, teacher, scholar, and mentor to thousands including yours truly. You can enjoy and be blessed by his wisdom by subscribing to his gracEmail which will arrive in your inbox every few days. I hope you enjoy and are blessed by this Easter message as I was.
When the apostle summarized things “of first importance,” he used verbs and not nouns to identify what is primary to Christian faith. The Messiah died . . . was buried . . . was raised . . . appeared–just as the holy texts had long anticipated (1 Cor 15:1-8). And as surely as these events lie at the core of Christian faith and life and teaching, the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives meaning to this sequence of events. If Jesus had not been raised, his death might elicit sorrow but it would not accomplish our redemption. That he was buried means he really died. If he lived again after dying, some new order of life must even now have begun. It is not surprising that the testimony of many witnesses who saw him alive–under many conditions, states of mind, and varieties of circumstances–should become the grounds for marking history henceforth according to its temporal relationship to the earthly life of this single man.
The logic is clear. Jesus is dead, his friends see him buried, but before the weekend passes, his tomb is found to be vacant. Then, quite to their surprise, people all over the place start running into Jesus, who assures them that he is alive and that they are not seeing a ghost. The resurrection of Jesus is not a sentimental spiritual counterpart of butterflies, bunny rabbits and Spring flowers. It is not an imaginary self-fulfillment of some long-held but suppressed desire, not a fictional literary device symbolizing a psychological new beginning. It is a historical event that occurred within this created universe and opened a portal to dimensions of life and reality we cannot begin to imagine. Jesus did not come back from death, as if he stuck his foot in the water and drew it out again. He passed through death with all its danger and darkness–passed through it and out the other side, to new life of a kind never experienced before.
The first generation of apostles and evangelists did not go out proclaiming a new religion, a special church, a different law, or even heaven and hell, and how to gain one and miss the other. No, they related the story of Jesus of Nazareth–whom men murdered but God raised, whom men rejected but God exalted, whose resurrection certified Jesus as Messiah, authenticated him as Savior and identified him as future judge. Throughout the early Christian writings contained in our Bible, Jesus’ resurrection stands out as the touchstone, the wellspring, the compass, from which and through which everything significant flows or is accomplished or is understood. It illuminates God’s intent for his people and for all creation, and it illustrates his power that will bring all that about. As we gather this Easter, let us unashamedly greet each other by affirming “Christ is risen!” and let us respond, “He is risen indeed!” And let us rejoice mightily and give hearty thanks to God.