Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Celebration of New Life


It is God’s miracle of life, renewal, and resurrection. The seeds that lie dead in the ground spring forth to life. The dry autumn branches become heavy with new blossoms. The air is full of the sounds and smells of new life.

Spring is a green season. It is the one time of year where new beginnings are taking shape; trees and plants are blossoming and growing, new leaves can be spotted on the trees and everything is given a new lease of life for the year ahead. It is the time when nature paints her beautiful canvas with cherry blossoms, and dahlias, and butterflies, and dazzling hyacinths.

In the springtime the children can run and play; or lay in the grass and count the robins perched in the branches of the trees; or even try to find the crickets, chirping in the bushes, nearby. It is a time for lovers, for taking slow sweet walks in the Sunday sun; or hiring a rowboat to go drifting on a pond.

Spring for Chinese is a time for families to come together and renew their bonds of love – for many will not see their families again until the next time that spring comes around. Springtime brings with it an array of fruits, vegetables and other foods that are in season and perfect to cook; and a fine table spread with so many delicious foods that it spoils the imagination!

He is risen!

Easter Sunday – April 8, 2012

Interesting that God chose the spring for the two most important events in human history: the two events that would represent God’s extraordinary efforts to redeem man to Himself. The first is the Jewish festival of Passover; the second is Easter Sunday – commonly called “Resurrection Sunday,” in the United States, and “Domingo de Resurrección,” in Mexico. It is ironic – almost symbolic, in many ways – that we arrive at this point in the writing at precisely this time. – is a time when we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!" (Luke 24:5-6 NKJV)

The Bible says that Jesus died by crucifixion on Friday; and that on Sunday, when His closest friends went to His tomb they found it empty. On several occasions they encountered a person at the tomb who told them unequivocally that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead.

But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
Dwight L. Moody, one of the great evangelists of the nineteenth century, once said: "You can't find directions in the New Testament on how to conduct a funeral because Jesus broke up every funeral He attended." He did this by resurrecting people from the dead (for example, John 11:1-44). He also resurrected Himself from the dead (John 2:19). Understandably, the resurrection is foundational to the very survival and truth of Christianity.

As my friend Ron Rhodes put it: "It should be clear... that the central miracle of NT religion is the resurrection of Christ. Without this miracle the early church would not have come into being... Indeed, we would probably never have heard of Jesus of Nazareth, who would have been forgotten along with hundreds of other obscure preachers...."

Both friends and enemies of Christianity have long recognized that the resurrection of Christ is the foundation stone of the Christian faith. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17).

Paul realized that the most important truths of Christianity stand or fall on the doctrine of Christ's resurrection. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is little more than an interesting museum piece.

Did you know that the timing of the crucifixion and resurrection is significant and meaningful? The resurrection of Jesus is the culmination of all things meaningful, in both faith and fact, in establishing a relationship with God. God used the timing, which occurred just after the “Passover” and during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, to illustrate the ultimate sacrifice He made for sinners. Without this sacrifice and Christ’s death on the cross, Christianity would be an empty religion. Every purpose of Jesus Christ, His atonement for sin, would be unfulfilled and the foundation of Christianity would fall apart.

The Passover commemorates God’s “passing over” the Hebrew people’s homes by the angel of death (Exodus 12:29). By accepting Jesus, we are promised eternal life and we are saved from spiritual death. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins with unleavened bread (made without yeast) and sacrificing an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. Leavening represents the escape from bondage and sin. Jesus is called the Lamb of God through whom the only escape is possible.

Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are God’s provision for the perfect and final sacrifice for man’s sins. God requires no other payment for sins! With this provision, mankind is granted opportunity for new life by the forgiveness of sin and escape from its bondage. It is ours for the mere acceptance of this gift.
This is the key event in the New Testament where it is proclaimed throughout. All four Gospels report the miraculous event. In Matthew 28:6 the angel declared “He is not here: for he is risen!” Mark 16:6 reports “‘Don’t be alarmed,’ [the angel] said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.’”

In Luke 24:46-48, the risen Jesus gave His disciples a greater understanding of the resurrection when He told them: “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Jesus also foretells of His resurrection in John 16, then to one of the doubting witnesses, Thomas, He says the following in John 20:29: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” –

Outside my window a gentle breeze is blowing. Birds are talking to each other in the tree branches, a confirmation of the fact that spring has truly arrived. To most people, going about their Sunday routine, it is just another hot sunny day. For me it is in fact another AMAZING Resurrection Sunday – our Passion Week celebrations don’t often align perfectly with the timing of the Jewish Passover; but this year they do.

As I’ve already said, this alignment doesn’t necessarily mean anything -- theologically – but somehow for me it made visualizing the events on this past week in “real time” just a little more vivid. And I thought about how different from my spring it must have been for those soon-to-be pilgrims, hurriedly finishing their Seder, and then anointing their doorposts in preparation for the Lord’s angel – and for those faithful women who woke up early on that hot spring morning to the news that the Lord was gone: “He is not here, but is risen!"

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