“Christ is risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death, and having upon those in the tombs life bestowed!”
“This is the night on which Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld!”
“This Jesus God has raised up again – to this we are all witnesses.”
“Because I live you also will live.”
This is our faith! This is Christianity! That Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Man, is risen from the dead. This is our hope. This is our salvation. This is our love. This is our life. This is our joy. We are summoned to share in His Resurrection! It is this that gives us strength, that gives us that which renders courage meaningless and unnecessary, it is this that is our sure and certain victory.
It seems that this – that He rose – is what is most hated by the world. That Jesus died the world can accept. That Jesus is risen from the dead the world hates and would reject. This hatred, this rejection, manifests itself in so many ways, some of them subtle, some of them denial, not so much of the physical fact of the Resurrection, but of all that the Resurrection means, of its essence.
There are many people, who would never think of denying that Jesus rose from the dead, who, yet, when asked what is the Gospel, say, “Jesus died on the cross,” or some variation thereof, and utterly neglect to mention that He rose again.
There are so many who maintain that the problems with people thinking God will and should give them all kinds of perishing luxuries are a result of the “Cross” not being preached enough, instead of seeing that it is the Resurrection we must proclaim! It is impossible to say that Jesus rose from the dead and, at the same time, to maintain that He never died. Whenever we preach that He rose, we preach also that He died. The point is that He died and is alive! It is that which gives strength to hold all fear and pain and death in contempt – that even now, not only is He ascended into Heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, but that in Him we are also seated in Heaven! To be sure, His sufferings show us how much He loves us and are comfort and consolation and strength, but to emphasize His sufferings as if they, in themselves, are the center and end, as if the Resurrection is merely tacked onto the story to make it all right, as if the suffering and death are the main thing, is to nurture fear in the hearts of Christians, not joy. The cross is comfort, consolation, strength, and joy because, and only because, of the Resurrection. To see the cross apart from the glory of the Resurrection is to see a lie from Hell. This suggestion that the cross is the main thing is the root of so many evils – among them atheists who think that the Resurrection cancels out the cross, and thus that Christianity is useless, because they think the suffering and death are the whole point, instead of that the Resurrection – which, of its nature, is inseparable from the cross – is the centerpiece? If, all along, what was proclaimed was the Resurrection, no one would say, “That Jesus rose from the dead defeats your point,” for they would know our point is not “He was tortured and killed,” but “He rose from the dead, defeating death, and giving us His eternal life.” Thus, this denial of the meaning and essence of the Resurrection – sometimes a belief system that makes salvation all about the cross and tries to shove the Resurrection into a side-role, perhaps a ratification, rather than the very center and fountain of all salvation – is far more insidious and poisonous than the straight-out denial that the Resurrection ever happened.
This, too – His triumphant, glorious Resurrection! – is the joy and strength of the martyrs. I think, also, that I have finally figured out why, what I have always known, seems so incomprehensible to so many: that to share in the sufferings of Christ is to share in His glory, that it is royal privilege to suffer with Christ, that to be crucified with Him is to be gifted with an honor and joy which only God can merit for us! To me, the Resurrection glory and light has always loomed over all, shining through all, so that all the torture and death is infused with the light and joy and life and bliss of the Resurrection and of Heaven itself. To those who do not see, first and foremost, the Resurrection, the suffering and death remain horror and shame, unredeemed and unbeatified – that is, not made beautiful – and nothing can change it.
St. Paul writes in Philippians, “I want to know Christ, yes, to know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the participation of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death so that I may somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead.” I always noticed, “it starts and ends with the Resurrection.” I realize now another way of putting it: it starts with the Resurrection. The Apostle knows something of the Resurrection, he has experienced the power of the Resurrection, and he knows that, even though he cannot say how this is so, through the experience of Christ’s sufferings, he will experience more of the Resurrection, and so he rejoices to suffer with Christ!
Have you ever noticed how the fact that Jesus had died did not make the Apostles fearless and confident and joyful? Rather, it cast them into fear and grief and despair. It was only when they experienced the Resurrection and Glorification of Jesus, only when the power of His Resurrection, the Spirit who came because He was Glorified, descended on them that they were made bold and joyful to preach Him and to suffer for Him. So it must be with us. We must know His Resurrection – Christ Crucified must mean to us Christ Risen. Else, rather than knowing that to suffer for Him is joy, we will view it with fear and sorrow.
“If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain.”
“Set your minds on the things above, for you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, you, too, will appear with Him in glory.”
Copyright 2020 Raina Nightingale