The colors at the front of the church have changed from white to red to mark the beginning of a new season in the church calendar. Having traveled through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter we come to the next chapter of Jesus’ story, the event of Pentecost. Pentecost marks the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church.
May 12 is the day that we will celebrate Jesus’ ascension to heaven as the culmination of the Easter season. In the worship of many modern Christian churches, Jesus’ ascension to heaven is a neglected and forgotten reality. However, it has not always been so. As the annual liturgical calendar developed in the fourth century, churches began to devote a special day to commemorate Jesus’ ascension within the Easter season prior to Pentecost. Not only the calendar but also the early Christian creeds signified the ascension’s prominent place in early Christian thought and life. Both the baptismal creed that later developed into the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed formulated in the first two ecumenical councils at Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.) list Jesus’ ascension among the most fundamental articles of the Christian gospel. Continue reading
The season of Easter rests upon a historical claim: Jesus died, and on the third day he rose from the dead. But is this historical claim true, and is it rational to believe it? Was Jesus’ resurrection an actual historical event? Is Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection the best rational explanation of the historical testimony about Jesus in the New Testament?
The apostle Paul himself said that not only the season of Easter but the credibility of the entire Christian faith rests upon this issue:
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:14–19 [ESV])
The following collection of resources demonstrates that there are strong historical arguments and evidence that support belief in Jesus’ resurrection. The four Christian scholars who produced the articles, videos, and books in the following list (Craig, Habermas, Wright, and Licona) have all devoted a substantial portion of their scholarly career in research and writing about Jesus’ resurrection and are widely recognized experts in the historical and philosophical issues involved in studying the historical Jesus.
1. Introductory defenses of Jesus’ resurrection
Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004).
The colors at the front of the church have changed from purple to white. These colors mark the seasons of the church year, which are designed to help us remember and live in light of the story of Jesus’ life. Having traveled through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent we come to the next chapter of the story—the climax of the story—the season called Easter.
After journeying through Lent by recounting the sufferings of Jesus that culminated in his death and burial, Easter is a season of celebration. Easter is a time of joyfully retelling and remembering the true story that Jesus was not defeated by death, but rose again from the grave three days later (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20)! This special celebration of Jesus’ resurrection continues for fifty days until Pentecost Sunday. Continue reading
During the season of Easter, we will learn this classic hymn about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his consequent enthronement as king who reigns from heaven over all:
1. See, the Conqu’ror mounts in triumph.
See the King in royal state,
riding on the clouds, his chariot,
to his heav’nly palace gate.
Hark! the choirs of angel voices
joyful alleluias sing,
and the gates on high are opened
to receive their heav’nly King.
2. Who is this that comes in glory,
with the trump of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies,
he has gained the victory.
He who on the cross did suffer,
he who from the grave arose,
he has vanquished sin and Satan.
He by death has spoiled his foes.
3. Now our heav’nly Aaron enters
with his blood within the veil.
Joshua now has come to Canaan,
though the kings against him rail.
Now he plants the tribes of Israel
in their promised resting place.
Now our great Elijah offers
double portion of his grace.
4. You have raised our human nature
in the clouds to God’s right hand.
There we sit in heav’nly places;
there with you in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels,
man with God is on the throne.
Mighty Lord, in your ascension,
we by faith behold our own.
This hymn not only expresses joy at Jesus’ resurrection but also shows its cosmic and historical significance. Continue reading
Holy Week is the final week of the season of Lent that commemorates the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry in his first coming. By the fourth century, it had become the high point of the entire annual liturgical calendar of Christian festivals and seasons with the greatest concentration of special services during the entire year. Such services recounted the spiritual meaning and implications of such events as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Palm/Passion Sunday), his establishing the Lord’s Supper at a Passover meal with his disciples (Maundy Thursday), his death on the cross (Good Friday), and his resurrection from the dead (Easter Vigil on Saturday night, and Easter Sunday, which initiate the season of Easter).
For more resources on the history of Holy Week as well as devotional materials for worship, see the Holy Week page under the Liturgical Calendar tab at the top of the page.
During the remaining services in the season of Lent, we will learn a new song to confess our sin and need for the Lord’s mercy:
Come, O Redeemer, Come (Audio)
Text and tune: Fernando Ortega, 1996; © 1996, Metro One, Inc.
1. Father, enthroned on high—“Holy, holy!”
Ancient eternal Light—hear our prayer.
Come, O Redeemer, come; grant us mercy.
Come, O Redeemer, come; grant us peace.
2. Lord, save us from the dark of our striving,
faithless, troubled hearts weighed down. REFRAIN
3. Look now upon our need; Lord, be with us.
Heal us and make us free from our sin. REFRAIN
The austerity of this song by contemporary Christian songwriter Fernando Ortega forms in us a posture of heart appropriate to the suffering of Jesus that we emphasize during the Lenten season. As we ponder and pray in light of the cross of Christ, may the Lord make this song our humble and yet hopeful lament and plea for the Lord’s mercy that not only forgives but also heals and liberates us and the whole broken world longing for its Redeemer.