We asked the members of the TGCA Council to tell us what they have been thinking about, or wanting to remind others of, as Easter approaches in this strangest of years. Here’s what they sent back
In the death and resurrection of Jesus, the new age of God’s Kingdom has begun. And we who trust him as our Lord and Saviour, have died with him and been raised with him. So “ If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col 3:1). To seek the things that are above is to seek Christ! Because that is where Christ is—at the right hand of his Father.
Jesus said, the Gentiles are characterised by what they seek—namely food, drink, and clothes (Mt 6:31-32). Doesn’t this characterise our age with endless cooking shows on TV; the incalculable amount we drink; the amount of money we spend on fashion (let alone on toilet paper!) If we are not captivated by Christ and our union with him, these are the earthly things we will end up chasing. Is that the case for us?
Remembering the events of the first Easter ought to make us seek Christ. And if Christ is seated at the right hand of God in reigning supremacy, then seeking the things that are above is to seek his reign!
Remembering the events of the first Easter ought to make us seek Christ. And if Christ is seated at the right hand of God in reigning supremacy, then seeking the things that are above is to seek his reign! Indeed in the rest of Colossians 3 we learn that such “seeking” will lead us to the murder our earthly habits. Ultimately it will enable us to acquire a heavenly character that will suit us us to live in accordance with Jesus’ reign.
May Christ and his reign captivate our hearts because of the first Easter for his immeasurable glory!
There is something quite ironic yet so appropriate about celebrating Easter at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Where is your God?” the cynics are saying. “If he’s there, why isn’t he doing something?”
But Easter surely takes us to the very heart of what God has done for our sick and sinful world.
The cross confronts us with our true condition:
- our weakness and mortality as frail human beings
- our wretchedness of body, mind and soul
- our hopelessness and inability to save ourselves
- our utter dependence on the mercy of God
In despair we cry out: “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24).
Then we look at the crown of thorns, and the pierced hands and feet. We hear the dying cries. We see the blood of the incarnate God. And an answer comes: “Thanks be to God, who delivers (us) through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
Yes. God is there. Easter guarantees it. And he is still “saving completely those who come to God through him” (Hebrews 7:25).
On my mind this Easter is simply the fact that the Lord Jesus, who died for us, called us to take up our cross and follow him.
The fact that the Lord who calls us is a dying-rising Lord, gloriously equips us to die and rise daily. This has been impressed on me in multiple ways over the past few weeks—most powerfully by a massively helpful sermon from Marcus Reeves (Crossroads Church, Canberra—the shutdown does bring opportunities, as well as restrictions!)
Despite our eagerness to grow and plant and strategise, Easter is a powerful and timely reminder that the heart of Christian discipleship is a call to die … so that we might rise. Marcus quoted the conclusion of C.S, Lewis’ book Mere Christianity:
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
I’m praying that this Easter (and through this crisis) God himself will produce in us a new, resurrection-fuelled, cross-shaped radical commitment to Jesus Christ: at home; at work (if and when we can go back); at church (online or in person) and with our (literal) neighbours—as we continue to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.
This Easter I am reflecting again on the statement made by Peter Hitchens on the Q&A Festival of Dangerous Ideas panel in 2013. The panel was asked what to share what dangerous idea they know has the most potential to change the world for the better. One panelist, suggested population control; another suggested freedom. Hitchens replied with the idea that Jesus is the Son of God and that he rose from the dead. Asked to elaborate, he went on to talk about the resurrection and how it alters the whole of human behaviour:
- how it changes all our responsibilities;
- how it turns the universe from being a meaningless chaos into a designed place;
- how it shows us that there is justice and hope and we have a duty to seek that justice and work towards that hope.
It alters us all whether we accept or reject it.
I remember being challenged by the clarity and insight of the response (apparently on the spot); its bravery in a relatively hostile environment; and its truth. It made me wonder whether I had become too familiar with the resurrection and had domesticated its impact on my own life through that familiarity. I wondered, also, if I had lost sight of the revolutionary impact of the resurrection beyond my own experience. That statement, and these thoughts, resurface every year as I ponder Easter Sunday. There is more to be said, especially about Jesus being the Son of God and the fact that God is known in Him; the thought that Jesus and the resurrection show we are not alone in the universe. What an awesome responsibility it is to know such a dangerous and world-changing idea. And much more besides!
It is going to be a simple and pretty quiet day this year as we gather virtually and maintain our distance from one another. It will be barely noticeable to most of our world. But there it is: a dangerous idea, a world changing idea. And I will ask myself the question again that I ask every year … do you believe/trust this? And I will bet my life on the answer. “Yes, I do.”
I am one of that unfashionable group who think the true ending of Mark’s Gospel is Missing in Action. I find it hard to believe the last words Mark had to say about the resurrection of Jesus was that the women “said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid,” (Mark 16:8). On literary and textual grounds, I think the last page or so of Mark’s masterpiece was lost by some gormless idiot who, in the new creation, will sheepishly apologise to the rest of the team. We’ll all accept the apology, read the last page with interest, and then move on to the adventures God has for us there. No hard feelings. Could have happened to the best of us. Further up and further in.
Still, I do confess to kind of liking the way Mark’s Gospel ends, even if it came about by historical misadventure. By the end of Mark, what do the followers of Jesus have? Precisely what we have—a word about Jesus: “He has risen! He is not here.” And they feel what we so often feel. Afraid.
This Easter will be like no other. To not gather with God’s people. To not enter into that holy rhythm of Holy Week with our local church communities. To not greet each other on resurrection Sunday. So strange. So sad. It may even, like the ending of Mark’s Gospel, be a little disappointing.
I confess I started the time of COVID-19 seeing an opportunity for productivity. Books would be written. Projects completed. Running times improved. I’ve only recently made peace with the fact that this is a crisis. Faithfully bumbling through might be what faithfulness looks like in this season.
Easter Sunday might be disappointing too. For every dazzling version of online church we see on our Facebook feed, there are a dozen other pastors going to bed Sunday night cringing about the tech-glitches; mortified at watching themselves preach; earnestly praying that, somehow, the fragile communities we call church will still be there on the other side of all this.
We don’t know when this ends. Or how. Or what the consequences will be. We might be afraid. But Christ is risen. He has gone ahead of us. And, trembling and bewildered, we have a chance this Sunday to hold our feeble fists in the air at the powers of darkness, and with weary voices, through also-ran, tech-challenged online services, repeat the shout of heaven: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!”
We don’t know when this ends. Or how. But Christ is risen. He has gone ahead of us. And we have a chance this Sunday to hold our feeble fists in the air, and with weary voices, repeat the shout of heaven: ‘Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!’
Jesus was murdered – an inescapably historical event. We could mourn the tragedy. We could protest the injustice. But for me, Jesus’ death is so much more than an unjust tragedy. As his death looms large for Jesus, he goes off to pray, asking his Father to take the cup from him (Mark 14:36). His Father says, ‘No—I will not take the cup from you.’
It was not that God the Father couldn’t remove the cup (all things are possible to God), but that he wouldn’t. Those of us who are fathers know that when our children ask for something good – a cuddle, a rescue, a helping hand,we won’t refuse. But the perfect Father refuses this request of his beloved Son. It can only be because there is no other way: there is no other way to save us; there is no other way other than for the Son to go through our hell, our death.
So Easter speaks clearly about our absolute pressing need for Jesus to die for us.
I was chatting to two uni students, explaining something about what I knew about Jesus, including his death for us. One said “I’m happy for you, but I’m fine. I don’t need any of your religion in my life.” I said “I appreciate your honesty, but that makes Jesus look pretty stupid.” She was puzzled. I explained, “He died for you—he was convinced you needed it. But you seem to be saying, ‘he shouldn’t have bothered. His death was a complete waste of time and effort.’ Jesus was convinced you needed it, but you think you don’t. One of you is making a dumb mistake—either you or Jesus. My money is on you.”
Jesus’ death wasn’t a waste. It did what none of us can do for ourselves—rescue us from the ‘cup’—the wrath of God we have coming because of our evil behaviour. It is the most wonderful and necessary event in all of history.