{reflection}

{ lenten reflections : resurrection and defeat }

Sunday was Easter—or as I prefer to call it, Resurrection Day! It is the eighth and final day of Holy Week, and it marks the end of the season of Lent. Why is it significant? Because it commemorates the Sunday almost two thousand years ago on which Jesus, the Son of God and promised Messiah, rose from the dead back to life, conquering forever the power of sin and death and hell for all those who confess with their mouths that He is Lord and believe in their hearts that God sent Him to the cross to pay the debt for their sin and raised Him from the dead three days later to secure their justification and salvation, their reconciliation with Him, and their adoption into His family as His own precious children and coheirs with His Son, Jesus.

It is significant for reasons my feeble words fail miserably to capture and communicate. It was much easier to write reflections for every other day of Holy Week than it has been for me to come up with anything coherent to say in reflection on the meaning of that momentous moment in time. But I will try. Because JESUS IS ALIVE, and that is worth all the trying that is in me!


It was the first day of the week—Sunday—almost two thousand years ago, and the sun had risen yet again, reminding Jesus’s disciples and followers that the earth was still spinning (though they didn’t actually know that yet) and life was going to keep going even though their Jesus was gone. I have grieved deeply for loved ones who have passed on, even knowing I would see them again, but those ancient folks didn’t know they would see Jesus again; they didn’t yet have the reassurance that I have now. I imagine their inner worlds were dark, numb, emotionless or even tempestuous from all the emotion. Whatever the case, I guarantee you their inner worlds were not spring sunshine and flowers and rainbows and glitter, and waking up to a shining sun and the world going on as though everything were normal probably created a cataclysmic contradiction in their hearts and minds. The day before, they had spent their Sabbath contemplating the fact that Jesus was dead—like, really and completely dead. He was all the way dead, and He was buried in a tomb, and that was probably too much for their minds and hearts to comprehend. That tomb was occupied by their Lord’s body, and they didn’t even get the chance to prepare Him properly and give Him the mourning that He deserved. Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest, and they probably spent it exhausting themselves from grief and mental gymnastics.

Sabbath ended at sundown, but that meant it was night and no time to be venturing out. So, more excruciating and perhaps sleepless hours passed until they could finally give Jesus’s dead body the treatment it deserved. Matthew 28 tells us that some of the women among His followers ventured out to the tomb very early Sunday morning, and when they got there, they found the stone rolled away from the entrance, angels as bright as lightening talking to them in voices that shook the earth, and Jesus’s body gone. The angels told them He had risen from the dead and gone ahead of them all into Galilee and they were to deliver that message to the rest of the disciples. Then they turned around and there was Jesus standing before them, greeting them.

“Good morning!”

Really?! It is laughable just how ridiculous that greeting must have seemed in the moment. But it was a true greeting: the sun had risen, the Son had arisen, and that morning was the most good of all mornings that ever had or ever would exist because it turned out that

JESUS WAS ALIVE!

Of course, the chief priests bribed the guards who had seen and heard the angels—we are told they actually fainted from the experience—to circulate the rumor that Jesus’s disciples had stolen His body and were lying in their declarations about His resurrection and life. In fact, that rumor is still passed around today by those who are incredulous about the idea that God even exists, let alone that He came to earth as a human being, died on a cross for our sin (if sin is in fact really a thing), and then rose from the dead: “It’s all made up! It’s the most elaborate con ever enacted upon the human race, and you’re still falling for it!”

Except it wasn’t a con. It was the real deal. And it still is.

On Saturday, Jesus’s followers were contemplating life without Jesus and what that meant about Him and them and the world and all the things He had promised them. But on Sunday they were celebrating the fact that He was back (!), that He had been telling the truth about who He was and what He would do, and that their faith in Him had not been misguided or foolish or gullible. They had sensed how He enlivened their hearts over the course of His three years of ministry, and they had chosen to listen to that life reviving inside of them, and now He was proving to them that they had believed rightly.

Why does that matter?

Because Jesus rising from the dead on Sunday made waking up on Monday totally worth it.

And we are living in the Monday of cosmic history.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to work a four-day week, then the best day to have off is Tuesday. Think about it! On Sunday you are bemoaning the fact that Monday is coming and you have to go back to work, but then you wake up on Monday and remember that even though you have to go to work, Tuesday is almost here! You still have to go back to work on Wednesday, but it’s hump day and you’re half way to the weekend! Thursday’s hope is that the next day is Friday, and Friday is a day of rejoicing around the world because when five o’clock comes, the weekend begins and it’s two whole days of freedom! So, having Tuesday off makes Monday bearable.

But no matter who you are, what you do, or what your schedule looks like, Monday is always Monday, and you still need to know that it’s worth it to get out of bed in the morning and trudge into yet another week of the rat-race of life. It’s so easy to look at life and all the drudgery and striving and effort and suffering and struggle and wonder what the point is and what it’s all worth. Are we doing it all, surviving it all, trying to find a way to thrive in it all just for a couple of days of so-called freedom that are short-lived and flanked on both sides by more drudgery, striving, effort, suffering, and struggle? I don’t know about y’all, but Mondays are hard because I have to wake up and find some way to answer those questions with a yes in order to make myself get out of bed and rinse and repeat all over again for yet another week of my life.

What is it all for? What is the point? Aren’t we all gonna end up in a grave one day, and if that’s the case then what good is all this living doing?

Jesus rose from the grave that Sunday almost two thousand years ago to declare to us—to prove to us in the flesh—that there is life after death through Him and that because that’s true, all the striving and struggle of living on this earth is most definitely worth it.

You can trudge through a swamp for only so long before you start wondering if there really is an end to it after all, and if you start believing that maybe there isn’t any solid ground on the other side, you’ll eventually stop the trudging. Because why? Why do all that trudging if it’s getting you nowhere and achieving nothing? But if you’re trudging along with your friend, and your friend leaves you suddenly and then one day returns to tell you that He has seen the solid ground on the other side, it is more amazing than you can imagine, and he knows the way to get there and you need to trust him—well, you’re gonna believe your friend and go where he tells you to go and keep on trudging with him by your side helping you, because you know where you’re headed, you know it’s better than where you’re at, and you know it’s worth the trudging!

Jesus’s resurrection reminds us that we are headed somewhere and that all that we are trudging through in this life exists for a reason that is definitely worthwhile if it means we end up there! And Jesus’s resurrection is the proof that He knows the way there and back again; not only that, but He is capable of getting there and back again ALIVE! Which means He can preserve our lives for that place as well! Death and the grave are no longer the final answer we have to accept. He has offered us another option: LIFE FOREVER! And it is a life of light and peace and rest and joy and fun and communion and love. It is a life full of all the wonderful things we long for, finally completely free of all the suffering we long to leave behind!

Jesus’s resurrection on Sunday defeated forever the power of death that reigned on Friday. He rose from the dead and crushed death under his feet, and then He invited all of us to join Him one day in doing the same. It defeated the hopelessness of Saturday. The grave no longer has the power to take anything from us, not even our life! Oh sure, it may swallow our bodies—for a time—but it doesn’t get to claim our spirits anymore! Death is no longer the period in our stories! The law of sin and death has been fulfilled and silenced by the law-keeper, and those who trust in Him are given the right to live forever enjoying His reward with Him!

I don’t know about you, but that makes waking up on Monday really exciting—well, it makes my spiritual Monday really exciting anyway! But the truth is, it makes my regular Monday much more hopeful, too. I may still have to participate in the rat-race of life, but now I know that my struggles on this earth are light and momentary in comparison to the joys and freedom and rest I will get to enjoy for the rest of eternity with Jesus in His Kingdom, and I know that these light and momentary struggles are preparing me to appreciate and enjoy that wonderful reward to its fullest.

I imagine, and Scripture attests to the fact, that the disciples and the rest of Jesus’s followers had a new spring in their step once they realized He really was alive again, and it was a spring that no one nor nothing could take away from them ever again. It didn’t matter how many times they were stoned or beaten or imprisoned or run out of town by a mob or shipwrecked or starved—nothing, not even death, had the right to steal their joy from them any longer because their Jesus was alive and He had put death to death for good. And that made waking up on Monday and every day after that truly worth it! It gave them, and it gives us, a reason for everything, and isn’t that what we are really striving for in this life after all? A reason to be? A purpose for living?

I had the privilege of serving on the worship team at my church on Sunday. We sang a song that was new for us: “Praise the King” by Corey Voss. The lyrics stuck in my heart and mind like white on rice and have been playing on repeat ever since. They remind me of all the things that Jesus’s resurrection has filled with reason and purpose. What is that reason? JESUS!! He is alive, death is defeated, and I have hope and joy that nothing nor no one can steal from me ever again! If I lose my joy or my hope, it is because I give it away, not because anyone or anything has the right to claim it and take it from me. He is the reason I keep going each day, and He has promised that there is solid ground on the other side of this swampy life and that it is worth the trudging I have to do to get there. And because He is alive, I can rest assured that I never trudge alone; He goes with me and leads me on the right path, ensuring my arrival when the time is right.

Don’t ever forget that Hope came back to life on Sunday so that we can have a reason to wake up on Monday and keep trudging. There is so much more to live for than what we see around us. Don’t miss it! Jesus rose from the dead and declared once and for all that Life had come to bring light to the world, that all who believed might be saved. Death does not have to be the end of your story, and Jesus rose from the grave to make sure you knew that! Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Excuse me, now. I have some roaring to do, because JESUS IS ALIVE, and that is a fact worth shouting about!

There’s a reason why the curse of sin is broken
There’s a reason why the darkness runs from light
There’s a reason why we stand here now forgiven
Jesus is alive

There’s a reason why we are not overtaken
There’s a reason why we sing on through the night
There’s a reason why our hope remains eternal
Jesus is alive

Praise the King, He is risen
Praise the King, He’s alive
Praise the King, death’s defeated
Hallelujah He’s alive
Hallelujah He’s alive

There’s a reason why our hearts can be courageous
There’s a reason why the dead are made alive
There’s a reason why we share His resurrection
Jesus is alive (Oh He’s alive)

Praise the King, He is risen
Praise the King, He’s alive
Praise the King, death’s defeated
Hallelujah He’s alive
Hallelujah He’s alive

The grave could not ignore it
When all of heaven’s roaring
Hell, where is your victory
Death where is your sting
The world could not ignore it
When all the saints are roaring
Hell, where is your victory
Death where is your sting

Praise the King, He is risen
Praise the King, He’s alive
Praise the King, death’s defeated
Hallelujah He’s alive
Hallelujah He’s alive

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