Last night Passover began. While Jews remember their exodus from the bondage of Egypt, we Jesus-followers remember our exodus from the bondage of sin. The Bible gives us this season. It helps keep our minds renewed, our faith-culture strong, and our gospel free from becoming an overly-familiar cliché.
In other words, this season calls us to look with fresh vision and renewed wonder at the story of Jesus the Messiah.
The story of Jesus is the most important story in human history. It is our story.
It proclaims that Jesus has conquered our greatest and most vicious enemies.
Jesus did not come to establish a superficial kingdom by gathering an army and marching against Rome. (One Day a similar march will in fact occur. But first things first.)
That would not have been a real victory. It would only have scratched the devil’s skin and left us in eternal bondage. We needed Jesus to achieve a victory over the powers of sin deeply entrenched in the human heart, and over the invisible forces of evil that inspire universal wickedness.
We needed Jesus to renew the human race and reboot human history.
Only he could do this. No other human (or god) could legitimately even go tosuch a battle and engage these forces, let alone defeat them.
Young Yeshua entered human history as the chief Man. Born of a virgin and victorious over temptation, he qualified to suffer our death. As the Son of Man, the ultimate, representative human, he faced the deepest rebellion and most profound sorrows in the human heart. Paul tells us that he “descended into the lowest parts of the earth.”
This took unfathomable love, humility, and courage. No man could overcome these invisible beasts from the outside. It had to be done from the inside.
So like Jonah’s fish, Jesus allowed the monster to consume him.
That is what makes his victory so complete, so utterly definitive.
Jesus rose… from the dead. Death has been defeated from the inside out. That means – in the most comprehensive way possible before God, humans, angels, demons, and all of creation – Jesus is King.
That is the gospel of the kingdom. And when we believe it, we freely receive his new life.
What grace is this! What a gift! That is the glory of Jesus’ resurrection.
Citizens of such a kingdom and recipients of such a gift should really celebrate. Here are five ways to do that:
First, praise the Lord.
The song of God’s gift should fill our mouths and our hearts.
Take some time this weekend to find – or compose – songs that articulate this great gospel and its great hero. Gather together and sing with hearts full of gratitude and awe at all things Genesis and Exodus in Christ Jesus. There is no higher praise.
O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. (Psa 98:1-3)
Second, walk in newness of life.
It is one thing to sing about the resurrection. It is quite another to give it living testimony through a life victorious over sin. But that is the great obligation of the new covenant (yes, I said obligation – see Rom 6:12).
Celebrate the resurrection by reading and re-reading Rom 6. Do what it says – it is a very practical exhortation. Get together with some spiritual comrades and confess your sins to one another. Pray for one another. Stab every habitual sin in the heart with the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Then encourage one another daily to replace such sin with the power of new, divine life.
Our risen Jesus is worthy of such honor.
Third, attach hope to any situation.
The gospel summarized above means God can enter even the darkest and most hopeless situation with you, and come out on the other side with renewed vigor. We honor the resurrection of Jesus Christ when we exercise our right to hope.
Our God brings new life out of any death.
Confess such truth over the grave you face. Jesus already walks with you through the valley of the shadow of death. But in due course, when you step together over the valley’s border, you will rise to a new place of divine life. Jesus is the risen King. Trust him now. In him, we always have hope.
Fourth, celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus gave his church a renewed Passover meal (Matt 26:17-30). But what is so important and powerful about sharing an actual meal centered on the Lord?
Jesus rose from the dead, not only to save individuals, but to create a spiritual family. A sacred, joyful meal creates and sustains real family fellowship around a common salvation (1 Cor 10:17). It is a (spiritual) family meal. It is also the most poignant occasion to hear from one another in the Spirit (1 Cor 11:17-14:40). That is the kind of celebration that honors the Lord’s resurrection (1 Cor 11:26).
Such a meal also gives vivid memorial to the new covenant. The meal’s focus on the courses of bread and cup helps us to remember what Jesus did for us. But it also helps us to feel the reality of his gift of new life. We feast on a meal. We eat the bread and drink the wine. They get ingested into our systems. Messiah is in us – in our individual bodies, and in our church bodies. That is the spirit of the new covenant.
The renewed Passover, the Lord’s Supper, recalls this glorious truth in vivid, physical ways, and in the context of a family meal.
Fifth, work hard in the Lord’s service.
Take some time to read 1 Cor 15. Jesus’ resurrection means that we will also be resurrected. And it means we will inherit an eternal kingdom. God will put away all of his enemies, revive creation, and become “all in all.”
Paul calls this reality “hope” (Rom 8:20). Such a hope for our future reward should inspire us to devote ourselves to the Lord’s work, now (1 Cor 15:58; see also 7:29-31).
Some teachers today strongly de-emphasize the future resurrection. They say we should not focus on the future. We should focus rather on the present work of the kingdom. This sounds good on the surface, especially in response to (or in reaction to) the old escapist mentality.
But it is unbiblical.
Of course we should bring God’s kingdom to earth today, the way Jesus and the apostles did. But according to the NT, we cannot do that the way they did without putting healthy emphasis on the Lord’s return and the age to come.
The NT frequently proclaims the Lord’s return and our resurrection as motivation for holiness and devoted service in the present time. We should embrace that.
Jesus’ resurrection teaches us to live for the coming age, now.
We do not need traditional church ministry positions to serve the Lord. We can serve his eternal interests anywhere. But we do need frequent encouragement to do so.
Remember, then, that we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection by anticipating his return and our resurrection. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”