The Hope of the Resurrection
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (The Apostle Peter preaching the gospel, in Acts 2:32, ESV)
Jesus our Lord “…was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, ESV)
Historically-speaking, we Presbyterians have not been slaves to the church calendar. We are convinced from Scripture that the only “holy day of obligation” God imposes upon the consciences of His people under the new covenant is observance of “the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10), or “Christian Sabbath” — that is, Sunday. Our Lord Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday (the first day of the week), and therefore the church has historically gathered for corporate worship on this resurrection day of the risen Lord. Therefore Sunday is our only obligatory “holy day.” At the same time, most of us Presbyterians also recognize the wisdom of periodically reflecting upon and celebrating the great events of redemptive history (for example, the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church); and therefore most of us are comfortable observing, in addition to the weekly Christian Sabbath / Lord’s Day, the major “feast days” of the traditional church calendar, such as Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. (The continental Reformed churches also observe “Ascension Day” in addition to these other major “evangelical feast days.”) Of course, we don’t celebrate these days as “holy days of obligation” (i.e., days binding upon the Christian conscience which are sinful to neglect, except of course when these observances fall on a Sunday); rather, those of us who choose to celebrate them observe them as voluntary opportunities for edification to be observed in Christian liberty.
As we approach the traditional celebration of “Easter” Sunday, it is important to understand that the events which have been traditionally celebrated in the church during this season of “holy week” are the heart, center and foundation of our Christian hope. The basic gospel (“good news”) is summed up in the propositions: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins, and rose again for our justification (see First Corinthians 15:3-5). Our Lord’s atonement on the cross and resurrection from the dead are what Christianity is all about! Without the realities celebrated on Good Friday (the atoning death of Christ) and Easter Sunday (the bodily resurrection of Christ), Christianity has nothing better to proclaim to the world than Confucianism or any other ethical system. In fact, if you read the sermons of the Apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts, the death and resurrection of Christ were at the center of their gospel preaching. (In fact, in a sense it can be said that the apostles seemed to emphasize the resurrection of Christ even more than they emphasized His death.) The Apostles of Christ didn’t preach moralism or do-goodism or “be nice to people” sentimental mush. Instead, they preached Christ crucified and risen again as mankind’s only hope.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to our Christian faith for a number of reasons:
1. The resurrection of Jesus proves beyond any shadow of doubt that He is the Divine Son of God, Messiah and Lord whom He claimed to be. It demonstrates that our Christian faith and hope are not built upon fantasy or wishful thinking or clever myths; rather, our hope is anchored in the historical fact of our Lord’s death for our sins and resurrection from the dead!
2. The resurrection of Jesus proves that God the Father has accepted His sacrifice for our sins! This means that we who believe in Him as Savior and Lord can be assured that our sins (past, present and future) have been decisively, effectively, once-and-for-all nailed to His cross, buried in His tomb, and have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west! The resurrection gives us eternal hope and assurance of salvation, for it proves that God’s just wrath against our sin has been propitiated (satisfied). God is no longer angry with us for our sins. He is no longer our mortal enemy. We believers are no longer under His just wrath or subject to His condemnation. Rather, He is pleased with us, for we are in union with His beloved Son, in whom He is well-pleased. Christ has removed our filthy garment of sin, and instead clothed us in His perfect, everlasting righteousness. Believer, when God looks upon you, He no longer sees your sins; He sees Jesus’ righteousness. Christ’s resurrection proves it and has secured your right standing with the Father. (In fact, it was the Father’s love for sinners that moved Him to send Christ His Son to satisfy the righteous demands of His own just wrath against our sins. Jesus didn’t die to make an angry God loving; rather, God’s love moved Him to send His Son to die for those who were the objects of His just wrath.) Christ’s resurrection gives us hope because it assures us the Father has loved and forgiven us, for Jesus’ sake!
3. Finally, Christ’s resurrection gives us hope because it assures us that one day we will be raised up in a glorified, resurrection body which is like Christ’s resurrection body! In this present age our bodies are subject to sickness, suffering, death, decay and corruption. But when Jesus returns in glory and raises the dead, we who are united to Him by faith will be raised up with Him incorruptible. In this present age when our pilgrimage through this valley of tears often confronts us with the weakness, frailty and corruptibility of our bodies, the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope, for it reminds us that one day we too will be raised up incorruptible.
During this time when most Christians throughout the world reflect upon and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may your heart be filled with joy and hope as you contemplate and rejoice in the resurrection victory of Christ!
Come, and worship!
Come, and worship!
Worship Christ, the Risen King!