On Recovering our Resurrection Center

by Eugene Peterson

 

We live the Christian life out of a rich tradition of formation-by-resurrection.  Jesus’ resurrection provides the energy and conditions by which we “walk before the Lord in the land of the living” – the great Psalm phrase (116:9).  The resurrection of Jesus creates and then makes available the reality in which we are formed as new creatures in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  The do-it-yourself, self-help culture of North America has so thoroughly permeated our imaginations that we ordinarily don’t give attention to the biggest thing of all – resurrection.  And the reason we don’t is because resurrection is not something we can use or control or manipulate or improve on.  It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the world has had very little success in commercializing Easter – turning it into a commodity – as it has Christmas?  If we can’t in our phrase, “get a handle on it” or use it, we soon loose interest.  But resurrection is not available for our use.  It’s exclusively God’s operation.

What I want to do is rediscover our resurrection center and embrace the formation traditions that develop out of it. I’m going to deal in turn with the three aspects of Jesus’ resurrection that define and energize us as we enter the practice of resurrection lives.  I will then set this resurrection life lived out of the reality and conditions of Jesus’ resurrection in contrast to what I consider the common cultural habits and assumptions that are either oblivious to or make detours around resurrection.  I will name this “the deconstruction of resurrection.”  Finally, I will suggest something of what is involved in cultivating the practice of resurrection: living appropriately and responsively in a world in which Christ is risen  (13-14).

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life

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A Prayer for Easter Sunday

from Heavenward by Scotty Smith      

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.1 Cor. 15:13-26

Exalted and resurrected Lord Jesus, we praise, bless and worship you, this glorious Easter morning! You lived in our place and you died in our place; and have risen from the dead as our triumphant Lord, loving Savior and reigning King! The same joy that filled Paul’s heart as he wrote these words, is now our joy.

Because you are alive, Lord Jesus, preaching the gospel is not useless; it’s essential. Faith in you is not futile but fertile. We’re no longer encased in our sins; we’re fully wrapped in your righteousness. Those who have “gone to sleep” in you are not slumbering in the void; they are savoring your resurrection glory.

We are less to be pitied than anybody and more to be grateful than everybody. Because you have been raised from the dead, everything changes, Lord Jesus. You are the firstfruits and guarantee of a whole new order—the “new creation” dominion of redemption and restoration. The decay in our earthly bodies will give way to the delights of our resurrection bodies.

The kingdom of this world has already become, and will be fully manifest, as the kingdom of our God and of you, his Christ. You are already reigning, and you will reign forever and ever. You are working all things together after your will; and you are working in all things for our good. All evil dominions, wicked authorities, and malevolent powers have already been defeated by you, and one Day will be completely eradicated by you. Hallelujah, many times over!

Lord Jesus, your death is the death of death, and your resurrection is the resurrection of all things. Oh, the wonder, the glory, the grace! In light of this great hope, free us from the pettiness and emptiness of living for ourselves. By your compelling love, propel us into a life of living for your glory, in your story, with your joy.

We are free. We are loved. We are yours! Hallelujah, what a Savior; Hallelujah, what a salvation. So very Amen, we shout and pray, in your most glorious and exalted name!

Do not be afraid

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. (Matt 28:5)

by J.C. Ryle

These words were spoken with a deep meaning. They were meant to cheer the hearts of believers in every age, in the prospect of the resurrection. They were intended to remind us, that true Christians have no cause for alarm, whatever may come on the world. The Lord shall appear in the clouds of heaven, and the earth be burned up. The graves shall give up the dead that are in them, and the last day come. The judgment shall be set, and the books shall be opened. The angels shall sift the wheat from the chaff, and divide between the good fish and the bad. But in all this there is nothing that need make believers afraid. Clothed in the righteousness of Christ, they shall be found without spot and blameless. Safe in the one true ark, they shall not be hurt when the flood of God’s wrath breaks on the earth. Then shall the words of the Lord receive their complete fulfillment—”when these things begin to come to pass, lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.” Then shall the wicked and unbelieving see how true was that word, “blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

Expository Thoughts on the Book of Matthew

A Prayer about Weary Friends and a Caring Jesus

by Scotty Smith

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28–30)

Merciful Jesus, though I slept well, I begin today restless with concern. I’ve got a few friends dangerously depleted, spiritually numb, and close to giving up.

One can no longer fight the strong undertow of rage she faces every single day in her home. She’d rather drown than continue to fight the cruel current. Another brother lives in a swirling vortex of shame, either unable or unwilling to believe you won’t crush him if he comes to you. Then there’s the married couple who’ve lost sight of the issues and are simply trying to out-mean each other. They seem oblivious to the ways their bitterness and bickering are impacting their children.

Jesus, I am weary and burdened for my friends, and I do bring them to you right now. Out of the strength of your gentleness and the power of your humility, give me what I need to love them well. Show me how to pray and wrestle in the Holy Spirit for them. I take on your yoke because it unites me to you. I simply cannot do this alone.

Free me to be comfortable with not being able to fix anything. None of this is about my competency; it’s about their crises and your glory. Indeed, more than anything, I want you to receive much glory in each of these three very broken stories.

Write stories of redemption for your name’s sake. Bring your resurrection power to bear in each of these three situations, I pray. The things that are impossible with me, as a mere man, are more than possible with you. Keep me restless for my friends, Jesus, but keep me fully resting in you. I pray in your gentle, humble-hearted name. Amen.

 

Smith, Scotty (2011-09-01). Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith (p. 103). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Significance of the Resurrection – Jesus Arose Where He Died

BY  ON his blog

ohn 11 25 Jesus rose again resurrection and lifeEaster is all about the resurrection, the rising again of Jesus on the third day after His Crucifixion.

Death is an all encompassing word, powerful by definition, feared by most, yet totally incapacitated by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Blood of Christ revives our spirit, restores our inheritance, and renews our life. In Christ our rebirth is a great resuscitation that overcomes and redefines death; opening the pathway to an eternity with our Redeemer.

Physical death is but one way we face demise in our lives. We face bereavement from a variety of sources, in our marriages, in our friendships, and in our relationships.

Every year we celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the grave, undoubtedly the single greatest event in all of recorded history. The resurrection of Christ was the metamorphosis of God’s design for all of humanity, birthed in Adam and delivered on the cross – salvation.

Sad to say, His great sacrifice has become nothing more than a celebration of colored eggs and chocolate bunnies to many in this world. The truth behind the resurrection, which is the holiest of celebrations, occurred over 2000 years ago when humanity’s fate stood in the balance. It is a celebration of life, and an eternal rescue from certain death by Christ Jesus. He arose. Jesus was crucified and buried, but victoriously on the 3rd day after the crucifixion, He arose from the dead – the greatest second act in all of history.

Jesus died in Jerusalem, and when He was resurrected, He rose again in Jerusalem. The effectiveness of His resurrection would not have such an effect on the world if He had appeared in Rome, or in Athens where no one knew him. If He rose again in Persia or Greece, His disciples and those that had seen Him crucified; hearing Him say it was finished, would have kept thinking it was all over.

But Jesus arose in Jerusalem;

where they saw Him go down;

where they thought He was defeated;

where the enemy thought he had won.

When He arose, the minds of those who had been witnesses of the crucifixion were changed as they saw the Risen Christ. They knew then that all was not lost, and He was not finished. They realized then that it was not over, as they witnessed the mercy of God, redeeming the world through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. As the Son of God stood before them, they realized what had been accomplished—salvation. They knew then the victory was His. Redemption was done. Jesus arose where he died.

If in your life, you feel as though you have died, or some part of your existence is dead, the message of the resurrection of Christ can resurrect you. If all your failures are in full view, do not run and hide – let God resurrect you where you are.

Is there a bad situation in your life, and do you think you are finished?  Is there something you are going through right now and you believe that it’s all over for you? Do you just want to escape from it and run away?

Let God resurrect you where you are. Let those around you who think that you are finished, those that say it is over for you; let them see that God is not done with you. Let God resurrect you where you are, that Christ might be glorified.

On this Resurrection Day, let your heart shout with joy in our begin again-God. It is only God who can make all our failures regenerative. It is He, who is the God of risings again, and it is He who never tires of fresh starts. We stand assured in Christ Jesus, serving a God of starting over, a God of genesis and re-genesis. He will take all your life’s sour fruits, bear them in His blood and leave them dead and decomposing. God will freshen your world with spiritual dew, and hydrate your withered human heart with His renewing spirit. Even as God raised Jesus from the dead, He will restore you, and give you life anew.

Lamentations 3:58 – You, Lord, took up my case; You redeemed my life.

Failure as defined in Christ is nothing more than a prerequisite for victory. The second act of a person’s life can be far greater than the original. We see ourselves as failures; falling short. Many times God saves our best for the last. He knew that we would fail. In our failing, God knew that we would think we were finished; that it would be over, but He is never done with us.

The resurrection of Christ redeems us and teaches us that God will restore us; He will turn our helplessness unto the Hope of Hopes, our mourning unto His Mercies, our cries to His Compassion, our failings unto His Faithfulness, and our grief toward His Goodness. This is the power and message of His resurrection.

ohn 11 25 Jesus rose again Christ resurrection and life

Resurrection: Critical Scholars & Peter

by  at Thomistic Bent blog

Luke, in his account of the resurrection of Jesus, says the following:

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.  And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”  And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 23:55-24:12, ESV)

From this, we can draw a couple of conclusions. We can note that the passage does not make the male disciples look very good. Earlier the account, the men run away in fear, hiding from the Jewish leaders and the guards. Peter is even made to look a cowardly fool, afraid of a young servant girl. Here, Peter is not even the one who finds the empty tomb first. Instead, Peter is home, while the women go to the tomb.

If the story of the resurrection is a fabrication from start to finish, created by the early church leaders to wield power over the masses, then we do not have a very good start. Peter runs from a servant girl, then at the point of the most important part of the story, he is found at home, missing the whole thing. If I were writing something to make myself look good, I would be the hero who is at the center of the story. I would not create a story finding myself sleeping late, then going away unsure of what exactly has happened.

Next, we find the first reaction of the men being that they thought the story was an “idle tale.” So their first reaction was that of disbelief. Given that the previous 23 chapters of the story had Jesus telling them several times what would happen, it would seem that a story that was entirely invented to make Peter look good would not have the hero get the information from the women and then doubt it. The idea of Luke being religious propaganda is soundly contradicted, for it does not increase faith to have the hero doubt the main point of the story.

In summary, we have an account that gives the first reports to women, whom many men considered weak, then has the male leaders hiding and disbelieving the story. No religious propaganda would be written like this.

Instead, the account reads just like a true historical account of what actually happened. It reports what happened, warts and all. We therefore have more indications that the gospels are accurate historical accounts that report what the eyewitnesses actually experienced.

For a related set of historical indications, see the following video from Gary Habermas, who explores the critical scholarship that relates to the gospel accounts of the resurrection. (note what he says at the beginning, that he is reporting on the views by trained scholars, not untrained writers. He names a few skeptical scholars at various points, and uses their views throughout this account).

 

To hear a strong lecture o the resurrection Listen to Gary Habermas speak (56 minutes)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2pV5XxZQDLs

Where did Jesus go on Saturday?

by Mark Driscoll at the Resurgence blog

Where did Jesus go after he died on Friday and before he rose from death on Sunday?

One of the primary passages that speaks to Jesus’ whereabouts after his death and before his resurrection is 1 Peter 3:18–19, which reads (italics mine):

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.

The phrase in verse 19, “in which,” is debated by some, but it seems to refer to the Spirit mentioned at the end of verse 18. Jesus went “in” or “by means of” the Spirit (in his resurrected state, as I’ll argue below).

Beyond this we are left with a lot of questions, ones that have been discussed endlessly since early in the church’s history. For us, though, the most pressing issues on which everything else hangs are where and when Christ went and preached, and the identity of the “spirits in prison” to whom he preached.

Because the language is so strange here, it’s not surprising that there have been a lot of different views on what is going on (over 180, last I checked). Though there has been a host of suggestions offered in understanding this passage, I believe we can boil them down to just three categories, which even have variations within them.[i]

I have previously addressed these three different categories at great length. For the sake of brevity, I would like to share with you what I believe is the best explanation of this passage, which answers the question, “Where did Jesus go on Saturday?”

WHERE WAS JESUS AFTER HE DIED?

One view of 1 Peter 3:19, which I adhere to, suggests that Jesus, between his death and resurrection, descended into the place of the dead. This place is often referred to as Hades, which is where the dead are held until they’re judged and thrown into hell, which is the second death (Rev. 20:11–15; cf. Rev. 2:11; 20:6; 21:8).

To say that Jesus descended to the place of the dead is not the same as saying he descended to hell. The idea of Jesus descending to hell between his death and resurrection is rooted the early church doctrine of the “Harrowing of Hell” found in the Apostles’ Creed (though the originality of the phrase has been questioned). Though some that adhere to this view believe that Jesus descended to hell, not everyone who holds to this view believes so (such as Calvin).

For those that disagree, like myself, they look no further than to Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross when he told him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Hell has been called many things, but I don’t believe Paradise is one of them. This is why I don’t believe Jesus descended into hell.

TWO VARIATIONS ON A THEME

One is that Jesus preached to the spirits of the people who disobeyed in the days of Noah. This preaching was either a chance to repent or a proclamation of victory over these wicked people (both are legitimate uses of the word “preach”). While the idea that people after death are given a chance to repent contradicts other Scripture (Luke 16:26; 1 Peter 1:17; Heb. 9:27) the idea that Christ proclaimed victory over these people is still possible. This leads us to the second variation of this view.

Another variation of this view is that Jesus’ proclamation to the “spirits in prison” was to the Old Testament saints, especially those who lived during “days of Noah,” who looked forward to His arrival to die, take away their sins, and open up heaven. John Calvin is a known proponent of this view, as well as many others. There are a few reasons why I see support for this position too.

First, in Luke 16, Jesus describes a holding place for those that die as believers or unbelievers. What we see observe is that the rich man who died ended up in Hades, whereas Lazarus “was carried by the angles to Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22). At this time heaven and hell have not been opened and the people in these different places of holding are waiting for either salvation or damnation. This is the prison I believe Peter is referring to.

Second, we read in Ephesians 4:8–10 that Jesus descended and ascended. It is said of his ascension that “he led a host of captives” with him (quotation from Psa. 68). When Jesus opened heaven by his ascension, he took the Old Testament saints with him.

I believe that when Jesus went and proclaimed to the “spirits in prison” it was a victorious proclamation that those in both Abraham’s side and Hades heard. Those waiting in Abraham’s side heard his message and followed him to heaven, whereas those waiting in Hades heard it as a means of condemnation and now await the final judgment where they’ll be sentenced to hell (Rev. 20:11–15; cf. Rev. 2:11; 20:6; 21:8).

That being said, this view isn’t without its problems either. There are three difficulties with this position. First, the verb in the passage is “went” and not “went down” or “descended”. Also, the text never says where exactly the prison is located. Second, the idea also must account for the same issue as the first view that “spirits” typically refers to supernatural beings, not human spirits. Although this is the case, the grammatical range of pneuma does not exclude the possibility that the verb can refer to human spirits (Acts 7:59; Heb. 12:23). Third, as already mentioned, the surrounding text appears to refer most naturally to a time after the resurrection, not between death and resurrection. Like in the first view, though, none of the problems are completely fatal. On the one hand, it could be argued that a traditional theological doctrine (Christ’s descent into hell) has influenced the reading in some ways here. But, on the other hand, it could be argued the other way, too: the church based its position on texts like this one.

IN THE END

Where and what Jesus did after his death and before his resurrection may never be settled this side of heaven. No position is crystal clear. They all have strengths and weaknesses. In non-essential matters as these, we need to hold them with an open hand and not a clinched fist ready to punch someone in a theological sparring match.

[i] Bandstra, Andrew J., “Making Proclamation to the Spirits in Prison: Another Look at 1 Peter 3:19,” Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 38, Issue 1, 2003. 120–124.