Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once he all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
- Charles Wesley, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”
A Good and Glorious Morning!
Christians around the world today are greeting one another antiphonally with the universal Easter declaration:
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
It is a triumphant statement of faith and hope, rooted in the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Given the fragmented state of the church, it is heartening to know that we still have one thing in common that we all agree on. The resurrection has to be that one thing because it is the very foundation of Christianity. Take away the resurrection, and Christianity collapses. Keep the resurrection, and Christianity has something of eternal value to offer the world.
Resurrection faith means that the suffering of the righteous must come to an end, and that the grave will never get the last word. The crucified body of Christ has become the glorified body of Christ, for “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). The shock of the New Testament is that Jesus shares his resurrection healing with his people. We benefit not only from his sacrificial death on the cross but from his mighty victory over the grave as well.
Resurrection faith means that hope eclipses despair, and purpose will always win out over futility, for the one who is seated on the throne has said, “Behold, I am making everything new” (Rev 21:5). Life is often hard for many, but as the old Gospel song says, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow. . . . And life is worth the living just because he lives.”
Resurrection faith means salvation for those who believe: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Rom 10:9-10).
Over the next several posts, we will explore the importance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in a series called “Risen Indeed.” Today—Resurrection Sunday 2012—we will simply develop this one observation:
1. The resurrection of Jesus is the literary highlight of each of the four gospels.
Each of the gospels moves intentionally toward the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In terms of space allocation, the attention given to Jesus’ final week of ministry before the crucifixion, along with the 40-day period after the resurrection, occupies a significant portion of the four gospel accounts:
Matthew—8 of 28 chapters (29%)
Mark—6 of 16 chapters (38%)
Luke—5½ of 24 chapters (23%)
John—8¾ of 21 chapters (42%)
All told, 28+ of the 89 chapters in the gospels (32%) are devoted to the period of time between the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his ascension back to the Father. Yet this period is less than 1% of Jesus’ entire 3½ years of public ministry.
Such space allocation suggests that while the birth, life, teachings, and miracles of Jesus are important to the authors, it is the passion of Christ (i.e., his final acts, sayings, trials, sufferings, and death) and the resurrection of Christ (i.e., his empty tomb, post-resurrection appearances, and ascension) that are centrally important to their purpose for writing.
Martin Kähler, a late 19th-century German New Testament scholar, stated that the four gospels are “passion narratives with extended introductions.” While perhaps somewhat overstated, this assessment does strike at the ultimate goal of Jesus’ earthly career.
In other words, the Gospels are all about Jesus. And Jesus is all about the resurrection.
Have a blessed and hope-filled Easter!
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”