He is risen! The Lord is risen! This is the simple but glorious gospel of Easter. This rising was a moment in a single redemptive process. “He is risen” was spoken by an angel and addressed to women seeking Jesus in a Palestinian garden at dawn. The words suggest other words spoken by another angel at an earlier time, words addressed to shepherds tending their flocks in a Palestinian field at night. “Be not afraid,” the angel had said to the shepherds at Christmas, for behold, the Christ of God has descended, descended to redeem humanity. He is now here, and you will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. “Be not afraid” the angel said to the women on Easter, for behold, the Christ of God has risen, risen to redeem. He is not here, and you will not find him wrapped in new linen or lying in a tomb. You can only see where he once lay.
Both of these angelic words describe acts of God, acts occurring in a single drama, a divine, cosmic drama, a drama that not merely depicts but actually accomplishes the redemption of God’s own. In Bethlehem kings worshiped a babe held by a manger. In the garden, women worshiped a king unheld by a tomb. But it was the same person they worshiped: Jesus was his name, the Savior of the world. There was a hushed and fearful joy in both acts of worship. But whatever joy there was at the scene of Christ’s incarnation was borrowed from the resurrection.
The incarnation was not by itself alone a happy thing. It was a fearful emptying. It marked the descent of God, his unspeakable humiliation, his residence under the awful curse of his own retributive righteousness. It placed on Christ the sins of humanity. It made him a man of sorrows, smitten with grief and sorely afflicted. It marred and disfigured him. It pierced and bled him, and hurled him into the heat of a criminal’s death and into the damp of a grave secured by an enemy guard. It brought him down to the nadir of existence, to the deepest depths of shame.
The resurrection was different. Though part with the incarnation of one whole, it completely reversed the direction of God’s movement. It marked a return from the depths. God’s redemptive movement in history describes a parabola. The deepest point of his descent–the cold, dark grave– was also the first point of his return. The resurrection marked the ascent of the victor, carrying triumphantly the spoils of death and the grave, leaving them without sting or power. In it God moved toward the completion of the full circle. The Son moved upward toward the glory he had before the foundations of the world were laid. And in this movement, he redeemed all that he passed through–humanness, suffering, alienation, death.
From this we learn and are assured that God, with a love all unmotivated and deeper than we can measure, determined not to destroy but to save those whom he had created for himself but who by pride and disobedience had invoked God’s holy wrath and became heirs of eternal death. This determination was completed and actualized when God, in the person of his Son, became the man Christ Jesus and laid himself under the curse that rested on humanity, enduring even a shameful cross. The resurrection revealed the glory of the cross. It disclosed Golgotha as the point where God met and turned the challenge of sin, where he suffered and endured the power of death, so that now neither of them has any power left to destroy those for whom Christ died.
The resurrection is the evidence, the surety, that death has died, that hate has been routed, that Satan’s power has been broken. It proclaims that a place is cleared within this world where unfettered communion between God and humanity can be established and where sinners can in faith again be partakers of the righteousness of God, free from all accusations of the law and free from its every curse.
Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of a blessed immortality for all who are in Christ through embracing him in faith. It achieves what was God’s intention from the beginning, the formation of a race of beings living in fellowship with God through everlasting time. The believer, therefore, has a Hope. The future is secure. The believer can face death unafraid and, indeed, in the actual hour of death, with eager anticipation, for death is now the gateway to eternal bliss.
Wherefore, let it be believed and joyously proclaimed: Christ is risen!