Thursday, April 18, 2019

Easter: Where Sunset and Sunrise Intersect

Sunset, captured by Amy Tamasy.
With Christmas memories quickly fading, we’re entering a new season of holidays that soon will include Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Independence Day. This Sunday we’ll be observing what I believe is the most important of them all: Easter.

There’s no holiday like it, marking two events upon which the past and future of humanity pivot – the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which we commemorate on Good Friday; and His resurrection, which is what Easter is all about. It’s almost like a moment when sunset and sunrise intersect.

The magnitude of these two days is described in the apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, in which he focuses on the impact not only of Jesus’ death on the cross, but also His resurrection the following Sunday. He declares, “…if Christ is not raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins…. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:17-20).

These were some of the crosses on display 
in Assisi, Italy. The favorite cross 
of St. Francis, however, looks like 
a plain T.
Last year my wife and I joined a group touring many interesting places in Italy, including Rome, the Vatican and Assisi, home of St. Francis. Crosses were in evidence just about everywhere. Many of them displayed the crucified Christ. But the good news is that Jesus is no longer on the cross, nor is He in the tomb where His body was taken after the crucifixion. 

The cross – and the tomb – are empty. And because of that, Christ’s followers also have the assurance that death is not the end, our final destination. As Paul wrote later in the same chapter, “…Death has been swallowed up in victory. ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Recently I heard an interesting statement from a man who had been raised in a religious tradition in which the crucifix is a prominent icon: “Every time I went to pray, the dude never came off the cross. I never knew who Jesus was.” Later this individual had a truly life-changing encounter with Jesus, the living Christ who offers new life to all who receive His gift of forgiveness and salvation. 

This man had realized that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Unlike leaders of other belief systems who died and remained dead – Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, and others – only Christ overcame death and offers eternal life to those who believe in Him:
“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10-11).

Because of this, believers all around the world can celebrate Christ’s resurrection and rejoice in the blessed hope – the confident assurance and earnest expectation – that only He can provide. Just as Paul wrote, we too can rest in this promise: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Happy Easter – happy Resurrection Sunday!

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