So, Fishing It Is, Then


Peter015You’d think that after the resurrection, once Peter and the other disciples really grasped the fact that Jesus was alive, they’d be ecstatic. Coronation plans back on. Messiah, about to plant His kingdom. Disciples, next in the chain of command.

Except, apparently the crucifixion had done a number on their thinking. Maybe the fact that Jesus had not stood up against the Romans but actually, in His dying hours, called on God to forgive them—maybe that fact upended their old plans. This rule of Messiah, if it was even going to be a rule, would have to be different from what they expected.

And if truth be told, Jesus was different from what they expected. I guess death and resurrection can make a person change like that.

Apparently at some point, Peter said he’d had enough. He’d done the evangelist/healer thing, and it hadn’t worked out. Not the way he wanted. So it was time to get back to what he knew best—fishing.

Since he apparently had some natural leadership ability tucked inside him, the other disciples did a “yeah, me too,” and off they all headed for the boats. Except the great return to fishing didn’t go so well, at least at first.

The disciples spent all that first night fishing and caught nothing.

I can imagine what Peter was thinking:

Wouldn’t you know it? First the Great Teacher I followed as the promised Messiah—the Son of God—gets arrested, and instead of defending Him, I deny I know Him. Not once, but three times! Which maybe kept me alive that night, though I’d told Him I was willing to die for Him. Instead I stood helplessly by and watched the Romans execute Him. Their governor said He wasn’t guilty of any crime, but they killed Him anyway.

For three days I couldn’t think of anything except my awful words. I didn’t know what to do, how to go on, because my purpose in life no longer existed.

When the women came back from the tombs with a crazy story about the rock rolled to the side, men in white, grave clothes in place, and no body, that Jesus is alive, I thought they were nuts.

John and I went to check out their story. Sure enough, just like they told us—no body. None of it made sense.

Until that day Jesus stood in front of us. He didn’t knock or open the door and walk into the room. He was just there. I couldn’t believe my own eyes, but it was Him. He had the nail-print scars from His crucifixion, and . . . He knew Scripture. Like old, He started teaching what the Law and the Prophets actually said about Him. Not what people thought the Scriptures said, but what they actually said and meant.

For a few days, I thought things would be like they had been before—except, I could hardly look Him in the face. I’d let Him down. After I’d claimed I’d follow to death, I’d sworn I didn’t know Him.

But now Jesus was back. Except, not like before. He pretty much came and went in a blink of an eye, when and wherever He chose. No following Him now.

I couldn’t hang around doing nothing, so fishing seemed like a good idea. After all, I’m a good fisherman. Or used to be. All night we stayed out and fished. In the end, we caught nothing. Figures.

How gracious and kind of Jesus to come to Peter when he had to be at his lowest point. By His omniscience He directed the men where to find a catch—or perhaps it was by His omnipotence that supplied the fish for them to catch. At any rate, He’d done that once before, and John immediately recognized Him. As they brought in the fish, Jesus sat before a fire cooking breakfast. They joined Him and ate. I wonder what the conversation around that meal was like. At some point, Jesus singled Peter out for some one-on-one time.

He asked Peter three times, do you love Me: Do you love Me more than these, do you love Me with self-sacrificing love, do you love me with brotherly affection? The declension grieved Peter, but he had at least learned one lesson—no more was he going to inflate his devotion to Jesus. He faced the truth that of himself all he could claim was a fond affection for this man He knew to be the Son of God.

Yet Jesus persisted in telling Him to shepherd His sheep and feed His lambs. He brought it home and said as He had three years earlier, Follow Me (see Matthew 4:18-20). This time, though, Peter knew what Jesus was asking and what it would cost him.

It all may have seemed like an impossible task. The one thing Peter didn’t yet know was that God would fill him with His Holy Spirit, and in His power he’d be able to do what heretofore he’d been incapable of doing. He was just beginning to learn about this gracious Christ he served.

This post is an edited version of one that appeared here in April, 2013.

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He Is Alive!


Sunday we’ll celebrate Easter. Those adventurous enough to awake in the waning hours of night and find their way to a Sunrise service actually commemorate the moment of discovery.

Grieving women, determined to provide Jesus with a proper burial, made their way to the tomb where they’d seen His body laid. They brought with them the necessary spices to preserve His corpse, but the tomb had been closed with a stone too big for them to maneuver.

According to Mark’s account this difficulty hadn’t dawned on them before they set out. Otherwise they could have asked a couple of the disciples to accompany them. Interestingly, they didn’t decide to turn back once they realized they couldn’t get into the tomb with that boulder blocking the entrance. Perhaps they kept going instead of searching for a few strong men because they knew a Roman guard had been stationed there. Were they hoping to find mercy from their persecutors?

No telling what kept them going, but their persistence paid off. When they got to the tomb, the stone was already rolled aside. That’s when they first heard the truth: Jesus isn’t in the tomb because He’s alive. Not, mysteriously missing. Alive!

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:4-7)

I love this announcement. It carries a subtle rebuke—as if the angels are saying, Hel-lo! Weren’t you paying attention? He told you He’d be out of here in three days. And you’re still looking for Him in this tomb? Why? Why would you do that?

The_Empty_Tomb004I can only imagine the confusion those women felt. The shock at not finding His body, the questioning—yes they remembered His words; could it be true? Had He meant literally “rise from the dead”? The flicker of hope fanning ever brighter. And at last they went to report what they’d seen to the disciples.

Two at least, Peter and John, went to see for themselves. But seeing, they still didn’t totally get it. They recognized that the women had told the truth—the tomb was open and there was no body, even though the grave wrappings were still in place. It was as if His body had evaporated. Today we might think it looked as if His body had been transported elsewhere, leaving the grave wrappings undisturbed.

All they knew was that there was no explanation—apart from the one Jesus had given them repeatedly and with increased frequency: He had risen from the dead. He was alive.

The Living Christ makes Christianity unique among all other religions. And wonderfully, the Bible tells us His resurrection is emblematic of our own resurrection to new life: “and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18b).

Paul clarified this in his first letter to the church in Corinth. Apparently some people were teaching that there was no resurrection. Paul said Christ’s resurrection proved this to be false:

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Cor. 15:20-23)

So, yes, come Easter morning, celebrate because Jesus has risen; He has risen indeed! He is alive!

This post first appeared here in March 2013.

Published in: on March 31, 2018 at 4:08 pm  Comments Off on He Is Alive!  
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The Need For The Cross


As we approach Easter, I’m well aware of the fact that many people will simply ignore the day. Some (at least those in the northern hemisphere) will also celebrate it as a “spring is here” day, commemorating the new life in nature demonstrated by buds on trees, green replacing the colorless world of winter, baby birds pushing out of eggs.

But the resurrection of Jesus? No need for such “myths,” many will say.

The resurrection, of course, hinges on the cross. Jesus had to die first before He could be raised incorruptible.

In fact His death was not an act of martyrdom. It wasn’t the tragedy that spawned a movement.

Rather, Jesus did something no one else could do. The nails that crashed into His hands and feet, essentially nailed the “certificate of debt” owed to God by every sinner, to that cross.

The blood Jesus spilled that day was that of a Perfect and Unblemished Lamb—chosen to make redemption possible. His blood did exactly what the blood of the Passover lamb did: it covered those “under the blood” so that the angel of judgment would pass over that place.

Jesus paints His own blood over the doorposts of our heart, so that we who believe He did what He did and promised what He promised, will be redeemed in the exact same way.

Because Jesus went to the cross, anyone of any race or gender or culture or age can now receive remission of that debt we could not pay—the wages of sin which is death itself.

Some people think that God unfairly judges, that “nice” people or “good” people should go free. But that’s like saying the nice rapist should go free or the good business man or great basketball player who abuses his wife should go free.

Because the truth is, we all fall short of God’s standard.

Some people think God is terrible for “sending millions of people to hell.” But the truth is, those “millions” who make themselves God’s enemies, don’t want an eternity with Him.

Some people claim God is cruel for allowing suffering. But again, He has only given way to what people who oppose Him want or have earned:

“Your ways and your deeds
Have brought these things to you.
This is your evil. How bitter!
How it has touched your heart!” (Jeremiah 4:18).

Which brings us back to the debt of sin and the cross that cancels it.

If someone says God is “unfair” for giving laws He knew we wouldn’t keep, they’re missing one important ingredient: holiness. God is perfect, without spot, righteous. A different standard simply would be other than perfect, not holy, marred. Fellowship with a perfect God is not possible for imperfect people.

Unless God makes it possible.

The cross did just that.

Couldn’t God have just changed the rules, waved away the requirement for sin?

Well, that leaves out an important ingredient too: justice.

God is as just as He is holy. When His law is broken, when the debt is owed, He requires payment.

So Jesus paid at the cross.

It’s kind of funny. Of all the objections I’ve heard about Christianity and God’s plan of salvation, I don’t think I’ve ever heard an objection to God loving humanity so much He was willing to die.

Sure, I’ve heard that God the Father was committing child abuse by sending His Son to die. But that’s all wrong. His will was to save the world. He didn’t send a “second god” or a “lesser god” or a human iteration of Himself to die. Jesus is God and Jesus went to the cross even though He could have commanded legions of angels to come rescue Him. He didn’t because “of the joy set before Him.” That joy was each and every person who would love Him back.

The cross is the greatest symbol of God’s love. There Jesus showed God’s love, cancelled the debt of sin, washed away sin, provided a way of escape from the result of sin, and reconciled all who believe in Him to God.

In short, without the cross, there would be no Easter.

Easter Isn’t A One Day Event


The_Resurrection014I know stating that Easter isn’t a one day event will be self-evident to some and nonsense to others. I guess it goes back to what a person believes Easter commemorates. There are some, of course, who think it marks the cycle of life and the coming of spring after the cold winter. Others think it’s about candy and the Easter bunny. Some think it’s a call to attend church for the year, to get a spiritual boost.

A smaller number of people think Easter celebrates the day Jesus rose from the dead. Those people might have some question, along with the others, about this idea of Easter being something other than one day that marks a notable happening.

But Easter is much more. True, there was a moment in time when a group of mourning ladies made their way to a Judean tomb with the intention of adding spices to the body of the man they had hoped was the Messiah of God. What they discovered was an empty tomb and a angel saying they shouldn’t be looking for the living among the dead.

And there it is. Easter marks the fact that Jesus lives. He didn’t just come out of the tomb on that first day of the week, then die again. He, in fact, conquered the grave—defeated it, gained total victory over it. Death could not, would never, touch Jesus again.

What He accomplished as a sinless sacrifice for the world God loves, was not a one-day exploit. He didn’t die as the Passover lambs did. His sacrifice was complete—the once-for-all kind, the just for the unjust. And His resurrection was the first fruits of God’s harvest. Just as Jesus came out of the grave with a new body that will not die—a new body that was remarkably familiar because it bore the scares of His crucifixion and allowed Him to eat at will, but also one that was remarkably different because He could pass through doors and disappear in a blink—so too, those who believe on His name will one day receive our glorified bodies.

So that first Easter was the start of Jesus’s life after death. While we are to remember Jesus’s sacrifice by taking communion—the bread to remember His body, broken for sinners; the wine to remember His blood shed to cleanse us from all sin—Jesus most definitely did not stay dead.

There’s an old church tradition among Christians on Easter. When someone says, He is risen, the congregation, or even individuals, respond, He is risen indeed. I like that affirmation, but I think a more accurate response would be, You got that right! He is alive and lives inside me!

Because, that’s the capper. Not only did Jesus get that new, glorified body, He has put His Spirit inside each one of His followers. That’s why one of the irrefutable evidences of the resurrection is the host of believers who have new life because Jesus Himself imparted His life to us.

It really is a thought TOO BIG. How can one man’s sacrifice cover the sins of all who believe? How can He live in me here in SoCal and also live in the lives of precious fellow believers living in Sri Lanka? Or Ukraine. Or Morocco? Or Tanzania. Or Peru. Or Alaska. Or South Korea.

Jesus lives and lives in the hearts of believers because . . . God. It’s really that simple. God can do the impossible. He is smarter, more capable, wiser, more powerful, unstoppable, irrepressible, more noble, truthful, good than we can ever imagine. What CAN’T He do?

So it was His good pleasure to find an answer to the problem of sin by taking on the sin of the world, paying the penalty for that sin, and then declaring from the cross, It is finished. The sacrifice was done, His new life, however, was days away from beginning.

And that’s what Easter is. Not a one day event but the celebration of Jesus alive—present as friend of sinners, as Living Water infusing His people, as the soon and coming King we await.

Published in: on March 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm  Comments (3)  
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He Is Risen Indeed


The_Empty_Tomb020

No doubt about it—Christ the Lord is risen today. Hallelujah!

Published in: on March 27, 2016 at 12:15 pm  Comments Off on He Is Risen Indeed  
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Good Men Don’t Need A Savior


church2Easter, which is the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is just ahead. Historically people who rarely go to church will make the effort to attend this coming Sunday. Many will hear Scripture read and sermons preached, all illuminating Jesus, alive from the dead.

Some smaller number will tie the resurrection to Jesus’s mission on earth—His sacrifice, His shouldering the burden of sin and dying that those who believe on His name might be saved.

The problem is, in western culture, most people don’t think they need to be saved. Trapped miners need to be saved. Kidnap victims need to be saved. Hostages in a botched bank holdup need to be saved.Puppies that fall into sewer pipes need to be saved. But the average, everyday person, living his life—going to work, coming home, watching a preseason baseball game on TV, having dinner, helping the kids with homework, turning in after the Late Show—the average, everyday person doesn’t need a savior, does he?

Actually, he does.

Because of the nature of time—a second ticking off without us really being aware of it, and us growing older without feeling all that different, until one day we start seeing the gray hair and feeling the stiff joints—because of the invisible eating away of our lives, we don’t realize we are in need of rescue.

Death is winning, though we try to ignore it or pretend it isn’t so. The irrevocable truth remains the same as the day Adam and Eve disobeyed God: the wages of sin is death.

Unless we’re rescued.

But who could save us from the certainty of death? How about Someone who already went through it and came out the other side with a new, glorified body?

Jesus, the resurrected Son of God can save us! Not from physical death—that’s a consequence that remains in place—but from spiritual death. From the grip of sin. From the strictures of the Law. From the accusations of guilt.

He can save us not only from, but to: to the hope of heaven, to a new and glorified body like Jesus’s, to life everlasting without the sadness and sighing we experience here and now.

There’s just one problem. Good men don’t qualify for rescue. Jesus came to rescue sinners.

The real problem, of course, is that there is no such person as a good man. Or a good woman. We are all sinners, but not everyone recognizes that fact. Some admit that they don’t do everything they should or that they did things they should have avoided. Their answer, though, it to simply try harder.

They determine, for example, to learn from their mistakes. And to make up for them. They might decide to donate money to a good cause or volunteer at a community center or even at a church. The problem is, good things cannot wipe out the immoral acts or wrong doing of our past. Or of our future.

The truth is, we were made for relationship—with God and with others. But sin bent that purpose. After they sinned, Adam and Eve hid from God. When He confronted them, Adam blamed Eve, and indirectly blamed God for giving her to him. Eve blamed the serpent.

What they didn’t do was fall on their face and say, I’ve sinned in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your child. They blamed and excused and tried to come off as if they were the injured party, not the one who was wrong.

Not much has changed. Come Sunday, I suspect a good many of the once-a-year churchgoers will walk to their cars after the service still wiggling and squirming out of the clear fact that they are sinners, not good men or good women. Who knows but a good many of the regular attenders will do the same thing. After all, they go to church every Sunday! That has to count for something, doesn’t it?

Well, no, actually it doesn’t. The good that we do can’t undo the wrong. Adam and Eve could have worked all day in the garden to cultivate it—a good thing. They’d be taking care of their environment. Oh, but wait. That’s the job God gave them to do.

But Eve could have accepted Adam’s authority and he could have loved her and clung to her and . . . and that’s also what God had told them to do. Every good thing was already normative behavior. There is no good thing that is above and beyond that can make up for a failing.

And of course we now have our sin nature to deal with as well, so the Bible now categorizes our righteousness, the rightness of our lives morally, as nothing but despicably filthy rags.

So we are left with two choices: confession or continued cover up. We can stop pretending that we’ll ever balance our wrongdoing with our good behavior, admit that we are sinners, and that we need a Savior. Or we can continue to try what has not worked in the past or pretend that the wrong we do isn’t really wrong at all. It’s society or our parents or our spouse or the police or the government or the church or . . . or . . . anybody but me, because I’m good and I don’t need a savior.

The sad thing is, God gives them what they want. They don’t want a savior, then they won’t have a savior. He’s not going to force anyone into His kingdom. He’s all about rescuing those who want out of the kingdom of darkness. Those who sit in the dark and call it light, who look at their evil thoughts and intentions and selfish, prideful actions and say, I’m good—well, there’s no rescue for them.

Published in: on March 22, 2016 at 7:04 pm  Comments (3)  
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Death Is A Vacation


cell phone2Recently a friend told me he’d taken a “stacation,” meaning he wasn’t working but didn’t go anywhere. It’s kind of a strange language invention, a neologism that may or may not catch on, but the term got me to thinking about vacation and its root.

The word came from late Middle English, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, and its root is either Old French or Latin “vacatio(n-), from vacare ‘be unoccupied’ (see vacate).” It’s the translation of those root languages I noticed: unoccupied. So when we go on vacation, our homes are unoccupied.

And then it hit me. The same is true when a person dies. Their house is no longer occupied. Scripture refers to our physical bodies as “earthen vessels”: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Cor. 4:7)

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah referred to we humans as clay vessels. Pots. Our bodies are designed to hold something, then. But they are somewhat fragile, quite common. And temporary. They don’t last. At some point, that which the vessels hold will leave. Our bodies will be vacated because we’re all going on vacation.

But death is not an end. People who think it’s an end apparently think our bodies are not vessels at all, that our bodies are not made to contain something but are something on their own.

Well, they are part of something—the outer layer, if you will, the visible representation, much the way the case of a cell phone houses the internal computer elements that allow for texting and phone calls and hundreds of apps. The case itself is the phone, and when we’re looking for it, we aren’t looking for the internal elements. We’re looking for the physical representation of all that our phone can do.

So the vessel is and it isn’t the thing. It’s not really part of the thing—the case isn’t the source of picture-taking or music or phone conversations or text messages. It actually contains the thing, but the thing needs a place where it can be housed. And if we’re smart, we take care of the case. We protect the screen. We’re careful not to drop it.

Why? Because we think the case is so perfect? So beautiful? No. We care about the case because of what’s inside it.

Sadly, when it comes to us humans, we’ve gotten our thinking skewed. We want to take care of and preserve our vessel because we think that’s all we’ve got. We don’t get that the clay pot is the house, and that one day, we who occupy it will go on vacation.

But just like vacations in the here and now, there will be a coming home which the Bible refers to as resurrection. The cool thing is, while we’re on vacation, our houses will receive a make-over. When we return, the mortal will have taken on immortality, the flawed and frail will be clothed in newness of life.

Imagine going on vacation as those people who were on the show Home Make-over used to do, only to come back to a mansion. Their gorgeous new homes were on the same tract of ground as the old one. They still had the same address, the lot was still the same size, their neighbors still lived on either side of them and across the street. But the new buildings were state of the art, rebuilt models. Beautiful, stocked with brand new appliances and furniture and techno-gadgets.

In much the same way, our resurrected bodies will get the much needed make-over.

We only have Jesus as a model to know what resurrection looks like. No one before or since has gone on vacation and come back home. Oh, sure, we have examples of people who did stacations. They stopped working for a while, but then took up right where they left off, in their same body, without the make-over. Lazarus is probably the most famous example of this.

But Jesus received His new body, His glorified body. He still ate and drank, still had recognizable features (when he wanted) such as the nail prints in his hands. But His new body didn’t have to obey the laws of physics we know. He could vanish from sight, could appear in a locked room, could ascend to Heaven.

That’s the kind of body those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ have to look forward to.

Honestly I don’t know what those who reject Christ or who deny God have to look forward to. We don’t have a model to look at so that we can know with any clarity what they’ll face. What we do know is that they’ll face judgment.

God, being just and fair, won’t cheat anyone out of anything they deserve. In reality, what we all deserve is death and death and death—of our body, soul, and spirit.

What God offers is life and life and life, so that death becomes a vacation. So that we return to new mansions stocked with more good things than we can imagine and which will allow us to do what we’ve always wanted to do. In the center of our desires will be our joy at seeing and knowing and praising our God eternal who we’ll know with more clarity than we’ve ever known Him before.

It’ll be a great homecoming.

Published in: on November 4, 2015 at 6:31 pm  Comments (3)  
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I’m Not A Big Fan Of Easter


Easter_EggsI know, I know. That’s a terrible admission for a Christian, but it’s true.

I grew up in the “new Easter dress” era. Easter was the time to buy a new dress and wear it that Sunday morning—part of the “new” idea of resurrection, I suppose.

Money was tight in our household, so a new dress was somewhat of an ordeal. Sometimes Mom made each of us girls a dress, but she, though not loving the seamstress role, required what seemed like an inordinate number of disruptions to my play time for measurements and fittings.

Then there were the Easter egg hunts, some with little kids, making me feel like a big kid out of water. And honestly, the whole thing of hiding an egg just to see people search for it seemed a little silly. I’d have tolerated it better if I actually liked cold hard-boiled eggs.

The few times we decorated eggs was fun, but then we were left with a whole basket of those cold hard-boiled eggs. As if colored shells and stickers all over could make them taste any better!

When I grew up and became a teacher, I shucked Easter eggs and the new-dress tradition, but the holiday was still more of a trial than a joy. For one thing, all too often Easter marked the end of Easter break and a return to school.

For another, church was packed with a lot of people who didn’t usually attend, and the sermon was almost always geared toward them. That was fine, important, even, but it didn’t leave me feeling like Easter was really for me.

The_Empty_Tomb004In the end the day simply did not typify what I believed it was supposed to—liberation, restoration, animation.

Liberation—the grave clothes and the grave itself could not contain Christ. So too, guilt and sin, the law and death can no longer enslave the believer.

Restoration—on that first Easter after dying, after lying in the tomb, Christ rejoined His disciples. Imagine! And because He walked from the grave, He made it possible for me to join His family, united with Him, reconciled to God.

Animation—Christ’s lifeless body by a miraculous transformation became a glorious new body, more fully alive than ever. In the same way we believers who were dead in our sins are now alive to God.

I’ve discovered lots of great music celebrating Easter. Keith Green’s “Easter Song” is one piece that captures triumph and joy. I mean really, nothing should temper the hilarity of Resurrection Day.

Christ’s resurrection is proof that we believers will one day be raised incorruptible just as He was. Christ’s resurrection is the verification that death is a defeated enemy. Christ’s resurrection is the evidence that Jesus isn’t just another little god establishing a religious system.

Rather, He is the Lord God Almighty, the great I Am, the Living Water, the Bread of Life. None of those could be true unless He actually walked out of the tomb.

I think Paul encapsulates the significance of the resurrection:

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
– Phil. 3:8-11 [emphasis mine]

But the truth of these verses isn’t really a one-day sort of truth, so I’m kind of back where I started. I’m not really a big fan of Easter—unless Easter is something we celebrate a lot more often than one day a year.

This post originally appeared here, with some minor revision, in March 2011

Defining Easter


A few years ago, I watched an unpopular senator get re-elected, though many thought she’d finally met her match. However, she got ahead of her opponent by defining her for the public through a number of attack ads. By the time the challenger came out with her ads saying what she would do as a senator, few people were listening. They already had her labeled, courtesy of Ms. Unpopular Incumbent.

That political race told me a lot about how the public works in this day and age. We deplore attack ads, but we listen to them. We may not even realize we do, but it shows when people start saying what they believe about this or that candidate—they often parrot material straight from the playbook of one candidate or the other.

In the same way, Christians are allowing non-Christians to define us, to the point that we’re buying into their judgment of us. Worse, we are regurgitating the ideas, as if they have merit, as if they are true.

I heard one a few years ago that really bothered me: “Protestants don’t like to think about Jesus on the cross.” All that blood and death supposedly makes us want to look away. The Catholics, now they embrace this dark side of salvation. By implication, the idea was, So should we.

I admit, I felt a little defensive—mostly because the accusation is scurrilous. In my church we regularly take communion, and usually that has been a time of reflection on Christ’s sacrifice, His broken body, His shed blood. How many times have I sung “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” or “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” or “‘Tis Midnight, And On Olive’s Brow” or “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”?

We no longer sing those hymns, but the fact that contemporary song writers are not writing about Christ’s suffering doesn’t mean that Protestants don’t or haven’t put an emphasis on what Christ did in dying.

In addition, I’ve heard from our pulpit more than one sermon about Christ’s death, none more powerful than “Death on a Cross” that graphically took us through Christ’s scourging and beating and humiliation and nails and hours writhing in pain, to the spear piercing His side and proving His death. (You can listen to a sermon from the same text in the book of John by the same pastor, this one entitled “Jesus: A Lamb Led to Slaughter”)

I find it ironic, though, that we Christian Protestant Evangelicals should be taken to task for focusing on Christ, the resurrected Lord, seated at the right hand of God. In fact, the cross Protestants display, whenever we do, is barren because Jesus didn’t stay dead. He is, in fact, a risen Savior. But is this a point for which we should be ashamed?

For all Christians Easter is a joyous time, less about mourning Christ’s death, and more about celebrating His resurrection.

The cross is significant, no doubt. The whole idea of communion is to obey Christ by remembering His body broken for us, His blood given for the forgiveness of our sins.

In Colossians Paul says clearly that our “certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us which was hostile to us” was nailed to the cross. Without Christ’s death, we’d still have the insurmountable burden of what we owe.

The cross affected Christ in every facet of human existence. He was forsaken, betrayed, denied, humiliated, rejected, tortured, misunderstood, condemned, doubted, and killed. For me. For you.

Yes, it was bloody. Yes, it was painful, like few have experienced. But focusing on the physical alone is to miss the wider scope of what Jesus did. He bore our sins. The Man who had the nature of His perfect Father, who lived accordingly, took on the stench of His fallen brothers—the sin which separates us from God.

How can that be? A Holy God, bearing sin? An immortal God, dying?

It is by Jesus’s blood, by His precious blood, we are redeemed. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. So we bring to God nothing but our broken and contrite hearts. How can anyone say, Protestants look away from the cross? Perhaps they’ve mistaken our weeping for closed eyes.

This post is a revision of one that appeared here in March 2012.

Published in: on March 31, 2015 at 4:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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Who Spits On Jesus?


The_Empty_Tomb020When I was growing up, it was a popular attention getting device for youth leaders to equate the abuse Jesus received during His trials with the indifference and sinful behavior of contemporary teens. Our lies or lust or gossip were nothing more than us spitting at Jesus.

There’s a certain truth to that line of thinking, though I have to admit, it lost a lot of its power with frequent use. The point is, sin is our way of turning our backs on God. We are choosing to go our own way, not God’s way.

He says follow Him; I say, I’ll go where I want. He says His word is true; I say, I’ll decide what I think is true. He says, love your enemy; I say, I’ll love who I want. And so it goes.

The difference, though, between my sin and those who spit on Jesus is that by faith I understand His sacrifice purchased my redemption. Where once my sin was a barrier between me and God, now His Spirit lives in me.

It’s the difference we see in Peter’s life. Where once he denied knowing Jesus, he began preaching Him openly in front of thousands. Peter said it like this in his first epistle:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, through His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1:3)

The life I now lead is being brought into conformity with Christ. He will transformed the body of my humble state into conformity with His glory by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Phil. 3:21)

The only people spitting on Christ, then, are those who can’t claim this new life. Their lives aren’t being transformed. They have no new birth. They still have their sin separating them from the God who loves them.

In short, Christ’s resurrection was a game changer for all who believe. We have no righteousness of our own, so He clothes us with His righteousness.

Are we still spitting on Jesus? From time to time we try. But God lovingly brings us back, convicts us of sin, transforms our minds, corrects our waywardness, instructs us in the way we should go.

Our response to His work in our lives is the clearest way we have of knowing what kind of relationship we have with Him. Some of us, like small children, throw tantrums, but in the end we come back to our Heavenly Father in submission to Him. Others are quicker to hear His voice and respond.

Still others aren’t part of His family and resist His call and complain about His justice.

The Creator of the universe, the preexistent I Am, the Holy One who is Truth, who is Love, who knows the end from the beginning deserves our falling-on-our-face-at-His-feet worship. To withhold what He deserves is to spit on Jesus.

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 6:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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