After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was an earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became as dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” – Matthew 28:1-7, NRSV
We Christians are Easter people! We are reminded of that fact weekly as we gather for worship, not on the day of God’s Sabbath rest, but on the morning of our Lord’s Day of resurrection. The meaning of Easter is as profound and mysterious as life itself. Life is, after all, what the resurrection is all about. I share with you the following reflections on the meaning of Easter with the hope and prayer that they will help us to more fully comprehend the significance of Christ’s resurrection. First, from John Calvin’s commentary on the above text from the Gospel of Matthew:
We come now to the closing scene of our redemption. The source of our firm assurance that we are reconciled with God results from Christ having come forth from hell as the conqueror of death, in order to show that he has the power to grant newness of life. Paul therefore rightly says that there is no gospel and that our hope of salvation is in vain unless we believe that Christ has obtained righteousness for us and opened the way for our entrance into heaven. In short, it was then that our adoption was ratified, when Christ, by rising from the dead by the power of the Spirit, proved that he is the Son of God.
Did you notice the strong words Calvin used: firm assurance, reconciled, conqueror, power, newness, hope, salvation, obtained, opened, ratified, death, life, and proved? No wonder Calvin calls the resurrection of Jesus “the central doctrine of our faith.”
We find similar emphasis on the importance of Christ’s resurrection In our Presbyterian Book of Confession (the first part of our PC(USA) Constitution), such as in the following quote from the Confession of 1967: Life in Christ is life eternal. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s sign that he will consummate his work of creation and reconciliation beyond death and bring to fulfillment the new life begun in Christ. Perhaps the contemporary Gospel song by Bill and Gloria Gaither best sums up the power and promise of Jesus’ resurrection for our daily lives, and the tough challenges we often face:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future, life is worth the living just because He lives.
I look forward to seeing all of you in worship and other activities this Easter Sunday and throughout Eastertide. May God renew your faith this Easter and make us all bold to believe, declare, live and share the glorious News: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Your Interim Pastor and Friend in Christ,