A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Sunday Reflections

For the season of Lent/1st Week of Easter, my Thursday morning bible study has been focusing on the book, "Christians at the Cross," by New Testament bible scholar, Tom Wright. This week, we look at Easter Sunday.

The scripture texts for Easter Sunday are Isaiah 65:17-25; Acts 10:34-43; & John 20:1-18.

Here are the highlights from today's study:
  • Christians tend to short-change the Season of Easter (the Great Fifty Days.) Instead of celebrating Easter throughout Eastertide, we tend to only make a big fuss about it on Easter Sunday as if Easter is only a one day celebration on the church's liturgical calendar.
  • We Christians tend to get things wrong because we often think that the only point about Easter is that we now get to go to heaven someday. The reason this is a popular understanding of Christians is because we don't connect the bass part (the story of the Old Testament) with the story of Jesus's resurrection.
  • Tom Wright gives a very helpful analogy on what Easter really is. It's like having to drive your car through a tunnel in order to arrive at a certain city. The city isn't in the tunnel. We arrive at the city by going "through" the tunnel. Heaven is like the tunnel. It's not the final destination for we Easter people. The final destination is Isaiah's future hope of "news heavens and a new earth."
  • On Good Friday, Jesus tells the thief on the cross that "today you will be with me in paradise." The word, "paradise" has the particular meaning of a resting place along the way and not the final place of destination. Heaven/paradise is like the tunnel in the analogy.
  • So what's the final destination if it's not heaven? We need to go back to the bass part, the Isaiah 65 passage for Easter Sunday which we tend to screen out. Here, the prophet looks forward to a day of "new heavens and a new earth." This long awaited biblical hope does not envision a time when this earth will be destroyed. Quite the opposite! This hope looks to a day when this earth will be remade and renewed. This is when God will finally remove all corruption and evil in the world, but not the world itself! Big distinction.
  • So how does Jesus' resurrection relate to this future hope of new heavens and a new earth? The resurrection is an advanced sign-post of that future reality! A little of God's future appears to us in the present.
  • For a 1st century Jew, resurrection meant that one day in the future, all of God's people would be given new bodies and the earth would be made new. What they didn't expect would be for this to happen to someone before that time, but it obviously did with Jesus and our Easter accounts.
  • Easter is the beginning of God's new creation project in which we are called to be part of the remaking of the world through the power of Jesus' resurrection at work in our lives. Until that day when all things will be made new, we are called to join Jesus' in letting the world know through big and small ways that God's remaking of the earth has already begun.

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