The Meaning of Easter

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.

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The Fact of Easter

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 careers 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

Articles

William Lane Craig, “The Resurrection of Jesus”

Gary Habermas, “The Case for Jesus’ Resurrection”

William Lane Craig, “Forum on the Resurrection”

Video

Gary Habermas, “Teaching on the Resurrection of Jesus”

N. T. Wright, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?”

Books

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004).

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Beautiful Savior

During the month of May, the sermon series will highlight the various spiritual benefits that we receive from Jesus because he is risen from the dead.  At the 11:15 service, we will sing a new song, “Beautiful Savior,” to celebrate the many victories Jesus won for us in his resurrection.  If we are united to the risen Jesus by faith, then we can sing of “sins forgiven, of conscience cleansed and of death defeated and life without end.”  Jesus’ resurrection shows that he is the “Lord of history” and “heaven’s champion” who “reigns over all,” and it will be our greatest joy to celebrate his victory eternally with the whole company of heaven where “the glory never fades” and “cries of ‘worthy’ will honor the Lamb” forever. Continue reading

Gregory of Nazianzus on the Paradoxes of Jesus’ Salvation

Gregory of Nazianzus, also known as Gregory the Theologian, was a 4th-century bishop of Nazianzus and, briefly, Constantinople.  Here is an excerpt from his famous Third Theological Oration, in which he explains the paradoxes of Jesus’ salvation of the world in his death and resurrection:

He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but he redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the price of his own blood. As a sheep he is led to the slaughter, but he is the shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also. As a lamb he is silent, yet he is the Word, and is proclaimed by the voice of one crying in the wilderness. He is bruised and wounded, but he heals every disease and infirmity. He is lifted up and nailed to the tree, but by the tree of life he restores us; yea, he saves even the robber crucified with him; yea, he wrapped the visible world in darkness. He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall. Who? He who turned the water into wine, who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is sweetness and altogether desired. He lays down his life, but he has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise. He dies, but he gives life, and by his death destroys death.

Behold Our God

The new song for Easter season in the 11:15 worship service is “Behold Our God.”  The sermons during this season will focus on the beauty and supremacy of the risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ as revealed to us in the Book of Revelation.  This song draws our gaze to the risen Lord Jesus so that we might behold him together with awe and delight as we sing.

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See, the Conqueror Mounts in Triumph

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:

See the Conqueror Mounts in Triumph
Music (melody) | Music (SATB) | Audio (tune only)
Text: Christopher Wordsworth 1862
Tune: Henry Smart 1868
REX GLORIAE

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