Sunday, April 8, 2012

Why Easter? Six Reasons for Jesus' Resurrection

"Easter" can be a pretty controversial word.  Even the root of the word is debatable.  Some scholars say it is rooted in the goddess "Ishtar", who had a spring fertility celebration.  Some say that it is rooted in the old English word for "dawn", which is when Jesus' resurrection took place.  We can choose which Easter to celebrate: the fertility celebration filled with eggs and rabbits, or the resurrection of Jesus.

Even when we talk about Jesus' resurrection, there is a lot of debate.  Was he resurrected "historically" or "spiritually"?  Is it just a story that the disciples passed on (which would be impressive, for they were killed for that story)?

No matter how we look at Easter, the point of Jesus' resurrection is often lost in the debates.  Let's get back to the meaning of Jesus' resurrection, as found in the New Testament.  There are a few reasons for Jesus' resurrection, all tied together into one story of justice:

Why was Jesus resurrected from the dead?

1. To grant him justice
Jesus was executed unjustly.  He was declared a blasphemer for presenting himself as the Christ, as greater than the High Priest, and as a threat to the temple.  Jesus truly IS the Christ, he really was greater than the High Priest and he was no threat to the temple.  Jesus, in the midst of execution, presented his case to the highest appeal court possible: The Lord, the highest Judge over the earth.  God the Father took the proper legal requirement: as other judges, he declared his response to the appeal on the third day (e.g. I Kings 12:12).  On that auspicious third day, God declared Jesus innocent of all charges, and he overturned the sentence of the Jewish court.

2. To show God’s rejection of the human court
Jesus, an innocent man, was declared worthy of death by the priests, by the Sanhedrin, by the political ruler (Herod).  Although he was declared innocent by the Romans, he was still handed over by them for execution.  In resurrecting Jesus, God declares that all these entities were unjust and so not worthy of existing.  To kill an innocent man curses the ground, and causes systems of justice to be overturned (Deut. 19:10; II Kings 24:3-4; Psalm 82).  After a fair period of opportunity for these systems to repent of their injustice, God overturned them.  Herod was killed by worms, the priests and Sanhedrin were destroyed.  Only the Romans survived, although their system of empire was radically changed and they no longer were able to expand.

3. To make Jesus Lord of the earth
God’s basic principle of power is this: “The one who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”   (I Sam. 2:4-9; Isaiah 53; Luke 1:51-54; Luke 14:11).  Not only did the rulers show themselves to be evil, but Jesus showed himself to be righteous by allowing himself to be humbled beyond all other beings.  He was with God in heaven, became human and then as an innocent, he allowed himself to be killed as a rebel against God and God’s people.  Because of his extreme humiliation, God declared him through the resurrection, to be Lord of heaven and earth. (Phil. 2:4-11)

4. To establish the Kingdom of God
God had promised that the reign of David’s line would last forever, and God’s kingdom was completely tied into David’s descendants (II Sam 7:12-16).  The problem was finding a descendent of David who was worthy of such rule.  God chose Jesus, the Son of David, as the one who is worthy to rule over humanity.  Jesus was found to be the manifestation of wisdom and justice, judging only those who unjustly judge, and granting mercy to all the weak and innocent and forgiveness to all the repentant.  God established this system as His kingdom by having Jesus resurrected into a “spiritual” body that would never die, thus establishing His rule forever.

5. To help humanity escape judgment
While under systems of injustice, the people of the world enact injustice.  Because we are told to kill, we destroy the innocent and thus have innocent blood on our hands.  We are told to judge the weak, and so we are guilty of harming those we should have compassion for.  We are participants in systems of hatred, unrighteous judgment and destroyers of the weak and poor—all of which will be judged and destroyed by God.  Jesus’ resurrection shows that there is another kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the power of the Holy Spirit that we can join at any time.  This kingdom is not limited by physical space, and so we have the opportunity to immigrate to it in any place, at any time, and if we do, then we escape God’s wrath that is upon the nations.

6. To establish resurrection for God’s people
Jesus was not resurrected as God.  He was not resurrected as a superior spiritual being.  Rather, he was resurrected as an innocent man, living out justice who had been unfairly judged.  Even so, if we wish to be resurrected, we need to live as Jesus did:

Innocent before God.  Although we have sinned, Jesus told us that immigrating into his kingdom and repenting from our sin makes us acceptable before God. (Mark 1:15; Luke 15)

Establishing justice.  We need to provide mercy for the needy, forgiveness for the outcast, and declare the principles of God’s justice to all.  (John 13:13-16)

Persecuted unjustly.  If we live consistently to principles of God’s justice, we will run afoul of the systems of injustice, and so be declared guilty by them although we are innocent.  This doesn’t have to happen through the courts, but we must allow ourselves to be humiliated if we wish to be risen. (Mark 8:34-38)

This is the gospel—good news to the poor, persecuted and outcast.  This is the way of Jesus that we can take on ourselves. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why is Good Friday Good? A Scriptural Guide

Through Jesus’ death…

...God overcame evil rulers—Mark 12:1-11

And Jesus began to speak to them in parables: "A man PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT, AND DUG A VAT UNDER THE WINE PRESS AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others. He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those vine-growers said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!' They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. Have you not even read this Scripture: 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES '?"

...Jesus was vindicated by God through resurrection—Acts 2:22-24

Peter said, "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”

...We have been reconciled with God—Romans 5:6-11

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

...We were delivered from death—Hebrews 2:9-10, 14-15

Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings… Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

...Our Sin was vanquished—  II Corinthians 5:21; Romans 6:1-11

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;  for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

...Satan was defeated—Colossians 2:13-15; Revelation 12:6-12

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them.”

...We are reconciled with each other—Ephesians 2:13-19

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR;  for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household.

Jesus didn't die because suffering is good.  He died so that we might all gain the ultimate benefit.