The Second Sunday after Easter: The Day of the Lord

I’ve really been loving the work of the Bible Project over the last few years. They’ve created short explainer videos providing outlines for every book of the Bible, with an eye toward helping viewers connect the smaller stories of folks like Abraham, David, and Esther with the overall biblical narrative.

They also create videos analyzing important biblical themes. Their newest one unpacks the meaning of the idea “The Day of the Lord.”

I highly encourage you to watch this video, particularly in the Easter season, because it clearly connects the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with the victory of God over the forces of evil–Sin, the Devil, Death, and the human institutions that knowingly and unknowingly conspire with them.

Absolutely central to the Cross are the ideas of representation, solidarity, and substitutory atonement. The idea that Christ died for me, in my place, so that I can inherit his Sonship is critical to historic Christianity.

However, if the substitution at the Cross is divorced from the victory of God over evil for the sake of renewing and rescuing the world, then a number of key biblical themes will be distorted.

First, we will misunderstand the nature of God–rather than the Triune God acting in concert, out of love, to redeem the world, we come to view God in a more pagan way, as if one god were taking out his violent bloodlust by consuming his meek, loving son rather than destroying the world.

Second, we will misunderstand the afterlife–rather than understanding that the end-game for the Father is to place all things in this universe under the feet of Christ so that God can be all in all, and so that Creation will be joined together with Heaven as a New Creation, we will think that all that happens after we die is that our souls depart from our bodies to be directed toward cloudy fields of bliss or fiery pits. This will cause us to discount the value of our physical, material world, and the connection between what we do in the present with our bodies and our work and our future glory.

Finally, we will misunderstand our salvation–that we are not merely saved from something, but also saved for something. Salvation is not just a gift to the individual, where I am spared from wrath and just judgment for my sin and selfishness. Salvation is also a corporate calling–it is union with the Body of Christ, and a commission to be Christ’s healing and empowering presence in the world, by the power of the Spirit.

The Resurrection frames our understanding of the Cross–and this video provides good background context. I hope you watch it.

And, as promised, here’s a hymn for the second Sunday after Easter:

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A Hymn for the First Sunday after Easter

Christ is Risen

It’s unfortunate that many of us are out of the practice of celebrating Easter for the full 7 Sundays of the season. Easter is a celebration bigger than any other in the Church Calendar–longer than Advent or Lent, and a cause for more joy even than Christmas.

To help us recover the joy of the Easter season in some small way, I will be posting an Easter hymn every week for reflection. This week, I chose Christ the Lord is Risen Today, by Charles Wesley.

The entire hymn is well worth your time and reflection, but my favorite part of this hymn is the last verse:

Soar we now, where Christ has led, Alleluia!

Following our Exalted Head, Alleluia!

Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia! 

Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is truly risen–this is the most fundamental fact about reality through which every other truth claim must be understood and evaluated. Through death He trampled death, and rescued us from slavery. And because He united to our nature and rose again, we are united to His nature and will one day rise again.

Hallelujah and Happy Easter!

Easter: The Resurrection of Christ

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Hallelujah! Our Savior lives!

In the next 6 weeks of the Easter season, we will be unpacking the explosive implications of the Resurrection. But for today, read and reflect on the Good News that Jesus Christ lives as told by the 4 Gospel accounts.

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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 a great 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 white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like 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.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

–Matthew 28:1-10

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Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.

–Mark 1:1-8

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But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

–Luke 24:1-12

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Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—  for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

–John 20:1-18

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Behold the God-Man

god-manA reflection on the death of Jesus from Gregory of Nazianzus, an early Church Father from the 300’s AD:

He was tempted as Man, but he conquered as God. He hungered, but he fed thousands. He thirsted, but he cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.” He was wearied, but he is the Rest of them that are weary and heavy laden. He was heavy with sleep, but he walked lightly over the sea; he rebuked the winds, and he made Peter light as he began to sink.

He pays tribute, but it is out of a fish—indeed, he is the King of those who demanded it. He is called a Samaritan and a demoniac, but he saves him that came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves; the demons acknowledge Him, and He drives out demons and sinks in the sea legions of foul spirits, and sees the Prince of the demons falling like lightning.

He is stoned, but is not taken. He prays, but he hears prayer. He weeps, but he causes tears to cease. He asks where Lazarus was laid, for he was Man; but he raises Lazarus, for he was God.

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 was 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 every infirmity. He is lifted up and nailed to the Tree, but by the Tree of Life He restores us—indeed he saves even the Robber crucified with Him, and 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 desire.

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. He is buried, but he rises again. He goes down into Hell, but he brings up the souls. He ascends to Heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

–Gregory of Nazianzus, The Third Theological Oration: On the Son 1, 19-20.

Holy Saturday: The Silence of the Tomb

THE SILENT TOMB

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

–Matthew 27:62-66

Good Friday: Jesus’ Burial

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Today is Good Friday–the day of Jesus’ death. You don’t need to read my reflections on this day. You need to get caught up in the story of Scripture itself.

We have broken up the relevant text from Matthew’s Gospel, according to an educated guess as to when during the day the events transpired.

JESUS’ BURIAL–5 PM

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

–Matthew 27:57-61

Good Friday: Jesus Dies

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Today is Good Friday–the day of Jesus’ death. You don’t need to read my reflections on this day. You need to get caught up in the story of Scripture itself.

We have broken up the relevant text from Matthew’s Gospel, according to an educated guess as to when during the day the events transpired.

JESUS DIES–3 PM

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

–Matthew 27:46-56

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