As Easter approaches, I find myself reflecting on what might be called humanity’s biggest problem: death. And looking at the daily news these days does little to distract me. Let’s face it – the last 12 months have been extremely challenging for us all.
No matter the scale of advances in healthcare and technology, death continually stares us square in the face.
Towards the end of 2020, I developed symptoms highly suggestive of COVID-19. For two weeks, I was very ill, alternating between fevers and coughing spasms. While my experience was pretty challenging and uncomfortable, I know that globally countless people are mourning the deaths of loved ones: I’m one of the lucky ones.
We Are Fragile Jars of Clay
With the magnitude and breadth of COVID-19’s reach, it has fast eclipsed other deadly threats such as war, malnutrition, and HIV/AIDs, to mention only a few. No matter the scale of advances in healthcare and technology, death continually stares us square in the face. As Paul puts it, human life is akin to fragile “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Easter comes at an opportune time to remind us that there is hope for human beings.
Questions like: ‘Is there hope for humankind?’ and ‘Where shall we turn for salvation?’ therefore lie on the tips of many tongues. And like an oasis in the desert that brings relief to a thirsty traveler, Easter comes at an opportune time to remind us that there is hope for human beings.
So Why Does Easter Give Us Hope?
Yet, staggeringly, Easter is about the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Easter presents to us the divine plan to save humanity from God’s righteous wrath and to unite humankind back to himself.
Let’s walk through this from the start. After all, you don’t truly appreciate an oasis unless you’ve struggled through the burning sands to get there.
We Have A Devastating Problem
God intended and willed his creation to be good, because he is good; holy, because God is holy. He desired man to revere, obey, and serve him with a complete devotion (Genesis 1:31; Leviticus 11:44-45; I Timothy 4:4). Instead, human beings displaced themselves through disobedience and plummeted into an abyss of hopelessness. This disaster was brought on by something far worse than COVID-19: sin.
Sin severed man’s relationship with God and others, leaving him bereft and condemned to eternal death
In choosing to worship other gods, and refusing to worship the one true God, man veered away from his Creator and created purpose. He turned his back on God, forfeiting God’s law for lawlessness. As a result, sin became his master and death was his wage (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 1:26-27; 6:23; John 8:44). This death was not merely in his flesh but also of the soul (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5). Sin severed man’s relationship with God and others, leaving him bereft and condemned to eternal death.
But We Have Not Been Abandoned
In his masterpiece, On The Incarnation, Athanasius (a great Christian theologian in 4th century Egypt) helps us see the consequences of disobeying the law of God. He writes, “By the law, death thereafter prevailed against us, and it was impossible to escape the law since God had established this on account of the transgressions.” In other words, death was a fitting punishment for our disobedience against the perfect and holy God.
God made a promise and provision to redeem and restore his creation
But Athanasius then asks a rhetorical question: “What would we say of a good God who obliterates his creation because of corruption?” Since human beings, who were dead in their sin, could not rescue themselves from God’s wrath, God made a promise and provision to redeem and restore his creation. He promised to circumcise the hearts of men so that they could love him with all their hearts. He fulfilled this promise in his Word, who at the fullness of time donned a human body to satisfy God’s wrath against humankind (Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 30:6; John 1:1-3, 14; Romans 5:6-8).
God did not abandon his creation to corruption because he is gracious. Man’s disobedience had led to his disunity from the divine. Yet, by law and through grace, man’s relationship with God is restored through the death of God’s Son. In Christ alone, ‘the full penalty for sin was paid’ by hanging on a tree (Galatians 3:13). God’s justice was satisfied when Christ Jesus’ blood was shed by the hands of those he came to save. What a way of love! The writers of old referred to this as an “economy of redemption.”
The Great Hope: Life Conquers Death
But he who is life cannot succumb to death. Christ defeated death and in his victory we hope. In Christ we live, move, and have our being. Death does not have the last word. The Nicene Creed reads, “Christ Jesus crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father.”
He who is life cannot succumb to death. Christ defeated death and in his victory we hope
Therefore Paul regards the death and resurrection of Christ as of first importance. Without grasping the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus there is no hope and salvation for humanity. Without it, Paul writes, our faith and preaching is in vain (I Corinthians 15:3, 14).
The Right Way To Think About Easter
Easter is centred on the Son of God’s death and resurrection. But it is also a poignant reminder of our need for salvation, which we can find in Christ alone.
How then should you and I think about Easter?
1. Recognise That You Are A New Creation
When we sinned, we lost our created identity. Like lost sheep, we strayed. Yet because of a loving and caring Shepherd, only in him and by his grace, have we found our way back to the flock. Thus we must remember that as Christians we have been made new in Christ Jesus. He restored us into communion with him when he chose to dwell among us, as one of us. Consider this as you celebrate Easter.
The old is gone, and the new has come. As a new creation, we ought to live in obedience to Christ our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:17).
2. Rejoice In God’s Saving Grace
If it had not been for Christ, we would all be no more. How do I know? Because the consequence of sin is death. And we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:22-24). So as a family, a fellowship, gather around the fireplace or dining table this Easter weekend and think intentionally about the wrath of God and what it means.
Gather around the fireplace or dining table and think intentionally about the wrath of God
Only then will you truly understand the beauty and majesty of the grace of God and Christ’s cross. This Easter, remind yourself that you could not and will never be able to save yourself from the wrath of God. But through faith we were saved – by God’s grace, through his Son Jesus Christ – and not because of our works.
3. Be Released From The Fear Of Death
Even though the world continues to grapple with physical death and the pain and sorrow that inevitably follows, our hope should remain steady in Christ. For he both conquered death and experienced it. The Son of God condescended to taste death on behalf of all (Hebrews 2:9). He suffered for our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), by destroying the one who had the power of death, that is the devil (Hebrews 2:14-15). He satisfied his law and wrath toward us, giving us life and hope in the death and resurrection. Therefore, our hope should be fortified and seen through the lens of eternity. Easter releases us from fear of death.
Believe, If You Desire Everlasting Life
The night is eclipsed by the morning star,
By the one who wore a crown of thorns.
We draw near, who once were far,
Away from the bosom of our Father.
In sin, we wallowed and emptied ourselves,
Until there was nothing left but muffled echoes.
We sauntered along with seared consciences,
Unaware that death held us in its tentacular throes.
The author of life waded through the murkiness of death,
His nail-scarred hands plucked us out of that hollow embrace.
He tore the veil that separated us from His estate,
And simply said, “Believe, if you desire everlasting life!”