Christianity is Easter
By Matthew Roberts, 30 Mar 2018
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:14,17)
Christianity is about Easter, from first to last. Although God’s plan of salvation did not begin at Easter, it has always been all about Easter. The whole Old Testament was, according to Jesus, about his suffering, death and resurrection to glory. And the whole New Testament proclaims what this means.
What it means is this: through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has acted to raise from the dead all who will put their faith in Christ. Indeed, he has acted to put to death all that they naturally are and to raise them to new life. To be a Christian is to be a baptised person: someone who has been baptised into Jesus’ death, so that like him we may walk in newness of life.
The biggest danger for us in thinking about this is that we think of it as ‘inspiration’ to try to live a new life, by which we mean that we try to improve things ourselves because of the example we have seen or the story we have heard about Jesus’ new life. This is so far from the significance of Easter that is is unrecognisable as the Christian gospel. The difference between this and real Christianity is like the difference between being inspired by a TV ad to try to be a better driver, and having someone put in our hands the keys of a brand new Rolls-Royce. The first is something we do entirely ourselves; the second is receiving something that we could never in our lifetimes have achieved ourselves.
When Jesus died and rose, he was acting to raise us from the dead. First, to forgive us for our sins, thus removing the sentence of God’s just judgment which we richly deserved. Second, to cause a transformation within us as profound as that between my current ageing rustbucket and a pristine Rolls. That is, he frees us from our false and idolatrous loves for all sorts of things that ultimate harm and destroy us. He delivers us from worshipping and following what has no value. He sets us free from slavery to the passions of our flesh. He frees us from destructive patterns of behaviour and relationships, which harm us and others and bring God's righteous wrath. He opens our eyes to see that he loves us, when previously we believed he hated us. He warms our hearts so that, against all that we naturally are, we love him back.
And so to be a Christian is to be someone who is raised from the dead. ‘therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). To have been made wholly new. And to go on being a Christian is to have Christ, by his Spirit, work out that death-and-resurrection in our hearts week by week, day by day. So we have a certain and eternal hope of bodily resurrection, with no fear of God rejecting us or judging us; and we have the reality here and now of hearts, minds, lives transformed and set free from sin.
And because that is the case, we do not face the trials of life with a vague sense of inspiration to cope with it better. We face them with the certainty that Christ has defeated for us the evil one and all of his ways, and given us real life, real freedom and a certain future. And so the very real pains and sometimes disasters of life are not for us disasters at all. They are for us merely sharing a taste of Jesus’ sufferings, so that when he finally returns to raise his people from the dead, it will be all the sweeter, we will be found all the more like him, and our praise and worship of him, the Father and the Spirit will be all the more deeper and glorious and satisfying.
Christianity is Easter. Easter is Christianity. God sent his Son, to become flesh, to die and rise so that we and all who will trust him will share his risen life. In his death is our death. In his resurrection is our resurrection. We Christians have been made alive as we could have been in no other way. Christ will do the same to all who trust in him. We are God’s children now; and what we shall be we do not even yet know. But we do know (1 John 3:2) that when Jesus appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
May God bless you this Easter.