Eastertide — Week 1

Easter is not an event that we celebrate one day of the year. It’s a season. “Eastertide” lasts fifty days—from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. (But really, Christians have fifty-two Easters every year. The reason we gather on the first day of each week is to celebrate what happened on the first day of the week after Jesus’ death.) So, we begin Eastertide by focusing on that great and marvelous mystery that we call the resurrection.

 

Monday, April 22

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Consider: Paul’s description of himself in 1 Corinthians 15:8 has been translated in various ways. The NIV uses the phrase, “one abnormally born,” while the NASB reads, “one untimely born” (15:8). Paul seemed to be saying that even though he did not see Jesus in the flesh, and was not one of the twelve disciples, he nevertheless viewed himself as an apostle.

In the decades following Christ’s time on earth, those who had seen him, walked with him and ministered with him were called apostles. But Paul also took that designation as can be seen in the opening words of his letters.

Perhaps Paul’s “untimely born” comment simply meant that his birth placed him in the wrong place at the wrong time to be considered an apostle by others. Perhaps it was that his new birth took place too late for him to interact with the Nazarene as Peter and Andrew had. Regardless, Paul knew that he had seen Jesus. He knew he had a personal encounter with the risen Christ.

“…he was raised on the third day…and…he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time…then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…” (1 Corinthians 15:4-8)

“He appeared to me also”—what a powerful statement! I love Paul’s attitude. We do not hear him lament that he did not get to go to the empty tomb. We do not hear him wish that he had been behind the closed doors when Jesus appeared to the disciples. Rather, we hear him rejoice at his encounter with the risen Christ. And to him, that encounter was no less meaningful than the experiences of those who saw Jesus in the flesh.

In the days to come, we’ll remember those people who saw Jesus after his horrendous crucifixion. And we may be tempted to think that those are the people who could really embrace the resurrection. But, like Paul, we who were born too late, are not really late at all. With Paul, each one of us can proclaim, with joy and amazement, that “he appeared to me also.”

Pray: Thank the Lord that his presence is not dependent on time or place. He is with you right now. Praise him that today you can see and know our risen Lord!

 

Tuesday, April 23

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-22

Consider: At the outset of Paul’s teaching on the resurrection, he gives us a remarkable fact. Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time” (15: 6). Apparently, Jesus did some preaching after his resurrection.

Somehow, through biblically themed movies or other stories about Christ’s passion, we tend to get the impression that after his resurrection, Jesus was only seen by his disciples, and that they only saw him for a few moments. But the picture we get from the New Testament is much different. Jesus was seen by hundreds of people. They saw him, heard him, touched him and believed him.

Later in Paul’s life, he found himself on trial before King Agrippa. At that hearing Paul shared his story. He told about how he persecuted the Nazarenes until he encountered Christ on the Damascus Road. And then Paul discussed that thing that he was called to proclaim—the resurrection.

“At this point Festus (one of the rulers at the hearing with the king) interrupted Paul’s defense. ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ he shouted. ‘Your great learning is driving you insane.’ (Acts 26:24)

This was not the only time that Paul’s sanity was questioned. When you go around proclaiming that a dead man came to life, people don’t want to take you seriously. But Paul knew that evidence had leaked out. He knew that hundreds had seen Jesus. I love his response…

“I am not insane, most excellent Festus. What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner.” (Acts 26:25-26)

There was a lot of spin going on after Jesus’ resurrection. The chief priests and elders paid a hefty sum of money to the soldiers who were at the tomb. They bribed them to say that the disciples had come during the night and stolen Jesus’ body (Matthew 28:12-13). The Gnostics would later say that the resurrection was not a real, physical event because Jesus was not truly a man. Others claimed that Jesus never actually died. He was simply wounded on the cross and later gained back his strength and health. But throughout all the spin, Paul was convinced that even unbelievers were grappling with this thing, “because it was not done in a corner.”

All of us—believers and unbelievers—are confronted with the resurrection. But it’s not simply a matter of whether we believe it happened. The resurrection presents a host of questions. How does it shape our view of God and creation? What does it say about death? What does it mean day by day, as each one of us live through joy and sorrow, courage and fear, loss and gain?

Of course, answers do not come fast or easy. Our lives are given to us by Christ’s resurrection, so we spend our lives discovering his life in us and our lives in him.

Pray: Thank the Lord for the resurrection that resonated down through history. Praise him that history—including your own history—is still being written by that amazing event.

 

Wednesday, April 24

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Consider: There are so many questions that swirl around the resurrection—that is, the resurrection that is yet to come. Different images are used throughout the Bible. We all want to know what heaven is and what life will be like after we die.

The Bible speaks about a restored creation—a new earth and new bodies. Paul talked about those new bodies. He called them “heavenly bodies” or a “spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:40, 44).

People have often misconstrued Paul’s words — “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” — to mean that we will ultimately be disembodied spirits living in a mysterious, non-physical realm. No, Christianity doesn’t teach the escape of the soul to a hidden place. We believe in the resurrection of the dead.

And Paul’s words, along with those of the other New Testament writers, affirm that Jesus will return. He’s not snatching us away to heaven. He’s coming back to again bring heaven to earth, for, heaven is the presence of Christ.

Paul is very specific that Christ’s resurrection makes our resurrection a reality…

“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Because resurrection has taken place, and because it will take place, we always have hope.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Pray: Thank the Lord that, because of the resurrection that has taken place and the resurrection that is yet to come, you never have to live a moment of your life without hope.

 

Thursday, April 25

Read: John 20:19-21

Consider: It is difficult for us to imagine the emotional journey taken by Jesus’ disciples in the final days and hours of Christ’s life. If any of us had witnessed a crucifixion—even the crucifixion of a complete stranger—we would have been deeply traumatized. But these men had seen their leader, mentor and brother—their hope—mercilessly tortured and executed.

It seems natural, then, that Jesus’ first words to them following his resurrection were…

“Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)

I think that sometimes we look for peace, freedom, joy and hope as if they were individual “things” to be grasped. There are times of great stress in our lives when we yearn for peace. There are times when we crave freedom and joy. But to isolate them as distinct needs is the wrong approach. I believe they come in a bundle. Perhaps a better way to say it is that they are inseparable.

Jesus gave them words of peace as his presence gave them hope. They could be freed from fear because he was with them. And all of this was the result of his love for them. We should not look for hope and peace as though they were commodities that Jesus dispenses. We should simply look to him.

“He himself is our peace…” (Ephesians 2:14)

“…Christ Jesus our hope…” (1 Timothy 1:1)

“…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

“God is love.” (1 John 4:16)

All we really need to find is the risen Lord.

Pray: “Lord, it is so easy for me to grasp at peace or joy rather than practicing your presence throughout my day. Teach me how to live in a constant awareness that you are with me. As I experience you, I will thank you for what you bring — ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness’ (Galatians 5:22). But I will remember this day that, though you bring beautiful gifts, you are the gift.”

 

Friday, April 26

Read: John 20:19-22

Consider: There was something strange and beautiful that took place when Jesus appeared to his disciples behind those closed doors. He “breathed on them” and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20:22).

That Greek verb that John used — “breathed on them” — is found only once in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. (That translation is called the Septuagint and is the translation of the Old Testament that Jesus’ disciples knew.) We find it in Genesis 2:7 where…

“…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Remember, Christ was not only present at creation, he was one with the Father, making him the Creator. Here is what John and Paul said about Christ the Creator…

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

And so, Christ breathed into Adam—that is, he breathed into humankind—the Spirit of God. I believe this is the meaning of being created in the image of God. And then, after his resurrection, he did again, this time to his disciples who were cowering in fear, behind locked doors.

By this act Jesus shows us that resurrection is a second creation—the new creation. We are a new creation in Christ and someday we will see all of creation raised up when he proclaims…

“I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)

Pray: “Lord, your word says that ‘if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). I thank you that today I can walk in newness of life. The resurrection—the new creation—is a reality in me and I plan to live this day in the light of that reality.”

 

Saturday, April 27

Read: Luke 24:36-48

Consider: Christianity is not based on a concept. Many religions are. They have a central teaching that is not connected to time or space. For example, the ancient Greek philosophers (who worshipped multiple gods) spoke about the ascendancy of the mind or the spirit. They saw the body as being something to be transcended. These are conceptual religious teachings.

But the faith of Christianity is not based on an idea. Our faith is based on an event. The life, death and resurrection of God-in-the-flesh, Jesus Christ, is the basis of who we are, what we do, and how we live. That is why we work so hard to remember.

We celebrate Advent and Christmas every year so that we can remember that God became a man.

We live the reality of Lent, Good Friday and Easter every year so that we can remember that Christ suffered, died and rose again.

We break the bread and take the cup to remember that Christ’s body was broken, and his blood was shed on our behalf.

We baptize believers to remember that we are buried and raised with him.

That is why Christians can join hands even though we may disagree over many concepts and ideas. We can transcend theological and political differences. We can span the gulf between cultures and races. We can do this because our trust is not in our own wisdom or our ability to comprehend abstract philosophies. We don’t manufacture an intricate belief system and try to align others to it. Rather, “we preach Christ crucified” and resurrected (1 Corinthians 1:23).

That is why it was so important to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to simply tell us what had happened. They didn’t tell us their opinions on the origins of the universe. They led us to the maker of the universe who made a way for us to know him and live in him. They are like Andrew, one of the first disciples. When Andrew met Jesus, he ran to his brother, Simon, and said, “We have found the Christ” (John 1:41).

Pray: Thank the Lord that you heard the Jesus story. For it is in following him that we find God and discover life.