The Resurrection and the Abolition of Social Distancing

When the dust settles and life returns to the new normal, it’s almost a shoe-in that the phrase of 2020 will be “social distancing.” A concept unknown to us even six weeks ago has become perhaps the one practice that will have the greatest effect in limiting the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic. For many, this necessary distancing has created a deep and profound sense of longing to be with others. Being isolated in our homes, communicating with the outside world through FaceTime or Zoom, and only going out when necessary (and even then distancing ourselves by six or more feet) have served to create in us a keen awareness of our need for close, immediate relationships.

Social distancing, though a new term, is not a new reality. Ever since Adam and Eve took the first bite from the forbidden tree, a relational distance was introduced. Among the consequences for their disobedience to God was expulsion from the presence of God: “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). Adam and Eve were removed from the garden, away from the immediate presence of God. Social distancing, indeed.

And we still feel this distance today. Down through the years, generation after generation, every person who has ever lived has felt the yearning for restoration with God. The preacher reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “he has put eternity into man’s heart.” As Augustine wrote, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless ’til they find their rest in Thee.”

Isaiah writes, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). There is no religious practice sufficient enough to satiate our restlessness. We can never give enough, do enough, say enough, be good enough. We are powerless to bridge the distance separating us and God created by our disobedience.

Enter grace.

Through Jesus’ death on the cross the penalty for our sin is paid, requiring no additional offering or action on our part (Colossians 2:13–14). Not only that, but Jesus’ resurrection assures us that His death was sufficient to the Father to cover our sins, securing for us everlasting life. If Jesus was still in the grave, then His sacrifice on the cross was insufficient. But Peter reminds us that “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).

So what does all this mean? Through our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we become

a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10).

And our hearts rejoice, for the distance between us and God has been taken away. What joy when our faith will be made sight and we see with our own eyes the vision of John’s Revelation:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1–4).

So let us rejoice with overflowing hearts as we worship together, even in this time of social distancing. On Easter Sunday in our worship service sing boldly, loudly, confidently, and joyfully as you remember Jesus’ resurrection. As ambassadors of our King tell of the excellencies of His grace to those still distanced from God. We are no longer alienated from our God! Jesus has bridged the chasm through His death and resurrection. For God is our God, and we are His people. Hallelujah!

Sharing about Easter with Others

  • “We are just too busy.”
  • “Our house is a mess.”
  • “We can’t afford it.”
  • “They could be serial killers.”
  • “It would be too awkward.”

This list barely touches the surface of thoughts and words our family used to excuse ourselves from opening our home in an act of hospitality. But God, in His great grace and mercy, did not allow us to remain in our sin. He provided us with the body of Christ—the church—to equip and encourage us to take the first step.

Here’s what we’ve learned over the past two years:

  1. God is greatly to be praised. God is worthy and deserving of every ounce of time, money and energy spent on introducing others to Him. Hospitality costs something, but there is no greater joy than serving our Lord.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:3)

  1. God pursued us. We were once regarded as strangers and aliens, and through the greatest act of hospitality mankind has ever known, we were brought near.

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)

  1. God is faithful. God demonstrates Himself to be faithful time and again. We pray before our neighbors walk through our front door, we pray silently through our conversations, and we pray for them as they leave. We pray for more opportunities when we arise and when we close our eyes each evening. We plead that our strangers-turned-friends will come to know our risen Savior.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

  1. God uses the foolish (i.e., us). God uses ordinary, willing people for his extraordinary purposes. We aren’t [both] extroverts. We don’t have a large, elaborate home. We don’t have an unlimited budget. We aren’t expert apologists. Yet, in God’s grace, He uses us.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

After filling the bellies of many strangers-turned-friends, the tune we once sang sounds more like this:

  • “We make time for what is most important to us.”
  • “Our house is still a mess (nobody cares).”
  • “We spend our money on that which is of most value.”
  • “They aren’t serial killers. They are image-bearers.”
  • “Heaven and hell are at stake—that’s anything but awkward.”

 Brothers and sisters, as you recall to mind our Savior Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, pray fervently, pick up a frozen lasagna, extend an invitation and take the first step of inviting a stranger (perhaps soon to be friend?) into your home for His name and His renown. Our Lord is Risen, and this truth changes every last tune of our lives.

Reading the Bible with an Eye towards Easter

Early on in Jesus’ ministry, it’s clear that the disciples were not expecting him to die. When our Lord asked the disciples about who he was, Peter rightly responded: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). But when our Lord begins to teach his disciples that he, as the Messiah, must suffer, die, and be raised, the same Peter says to him: “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matt. 16:22). The disciples rightly knew that Jesus was the Lord, but they stumbled over the idea that he had to die for us. But should they have?

Scripture is clear: our Lord’s death and resurrection was no accident of history; it was central to God’s eternal plan, as Peter himself later came to see. As Peter proclaimed Christ at Pentecost he taught the people what he also needed to learn: Jesus’ death and resurrection was according to “God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). Peter finally learned what Jesus had taught from the beginning that he, the divine Son, had become human in order to die for our sins and that apart from his death and resurrection we have no salvation. In fact, Peter finally learned what Jesus taught the two downcast men on the way to Emmaus, namely that his death and resurrection were already anticipated in the Old Testament: “‘Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:26-27).

But where exactly do we see Jesus’ death and resurrection taught in the Old Testament? Much could be said, but let’s focus on three areas where we discover how the Old Testament anticipated Jesus’ coming, death, and resurrection for us.

First, we see it in God’s initial promise (Gen. 3:15) immediately after Adam’s act of disobedience. Although Adam’s sin brought spiritual and physical death into the world (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:17-19; Rom. 5:12-21; 6:23), God promises that sin and death will not have the last word. Instead, from the human race, God will provide a “seed of the woman” who will crush Satan’s power and undo what Adam did. Even though this promise is only given in seed-form, as God’s plan unfolds through the Old Testament, the promise is given greater definition of who exactly this person is and what he must do to save us.

Second, as God enters into covenant relationships with his people after Adam, first with Noah, then with Abraham, Israel, and David and his sons, more precision is given as to who the “seed of the woman” will be. This seed will ultimately be a King—a Son—from David’s line (2 Sam. 7:14-16), the true Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). But we also learn how God will save us through his promised Son. As God taught Abraham in Genesis 22, he must provide a lamb to take the place of Isaac. Or, as God taught the nation of Israel, he must provide the Passover lamb to die as a substitute for the firstborn (Ex. 12), and the lambs of the sacrificial system to cover the people’s sin (Lev. 16), and ultimately a greater High Priest who will not only offer a lamb but himself for our sins (Isa. 53; Ps. 110).

Third, in the Prophets, the anticipation of God’s provision of a Savior who must die to pay for our sins in order to reconcile and justify us before God is taught in the promise of the new covenant. All of the Prophets speak of the new covenant, but in Jeremiah 31:34, the glorious truth is taught that God will do something so great that he will remember the people’s sin no more. In the context of the Old Testament where sacrifices for sins were offered daily and yearly, this can only mean that there is coming the true Servant of the Lord who will finally and fully pay for our sin—something the Old Testament sacrificial system could only point forward to (see Isa. 53).

As we come to the New Testament, all that the Old Testament anticipated now is fulfilled in Christ. In Christ, the Father has given us his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to live our life, die our death, and be raised for our justification. In so doing, our Lord fulfills what Moses and the Prophets predicted by securing our eternal salvation by his cross and resurrection (Heb. 7-10). Easter, then, is not recounting accidents of history, but events that God has planned from eternity, and in time, fulfilled in our glorious Redeemer. May Jesus be our only hope and salvation this Easter season.

Easter and My Marriage

In the earliest chapters of Genesis, we see God’s intention for marriage. Genesis 2 ends with God’s work of creation complete, Adam and Eve in a right relationship with God, and with each other. And in the chapter’s final verses, marriage is defined as two becoming one flesh and evidence of absolute trust and innocence: They “were both naked and felt no shame” (Genesis 2:24–25, ESV). But, by the end of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve had exchanged trust and innocence for fear. They had betrayed God and each other. They were “messed up” individually and together their marriage was a mess.

Then God showed up, despite their rebellion and failure, and sought them. God handed out just punishment. Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden, life became hard, and the promise of death fulfilled. Yet, despite their disobedience, God promised salvation. God, whose righteousness demands payment for sin, would Himself satisfy the payment so that Adam and Eve, and those of us who follow, could be redeemed. Death would be conquered by those who would accept the provision of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, making atonement for our sin.

Paul’s marriage instruction to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 5:22–33) may seem antiquated to twenty-first century Americans, even to those who are regular churchgoers. But, while the truths of scripture may go out of vogue, we know that God’s truth stands. Paul wrote to a congregation immersed in a culture where immorality was the norm. Words like “submission” and “love” were as radical and counter-cultural then as they are now.

While Ephesians 5 gives us a picture of what a marriage should look like, it is in the earlier chapters of Ephesians that we find encouragement. Ephesians 1 teaches us that God blessed us and chose us before creation, that we are adopted, forgiven, and that our inheritance is guaranteed. Chapter two shows us that, though we were dead in our sins, we were made alive because of God’s love. Then, Paul ends chapter three stating God’s ability to do “immeasurably more” than “we can ask or imagine.” It is God that gives marriage hope.

Because of Christ’s work for us and the Holy Spirit’s work in us, we can be humble, gentle, patient, and united (Ephesians 4:1–3)—not only in our church but in our home. We can put off the old and don the new self with a new attitude characterized by righteousness and holiness (4:20–24). We can use words to build up the other and not tear down (4:29–5:2). We can avoid even the suggestion of immorality (5:3–7).

How often has an unkind word led to silence or to more words that you later regret? How often has sarcasm been used to harm your wife or husband when you have felt hurt yourself? Does your anger bring with it a lethal tongue? We are called to bring kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. Submission can be freely given because a wife knows of a love that is trustworthy, never resorting to controlling power, always sacrificing. Love is freely given because a husband knows a Savior who, though he was the Creator, submitted to the will of his Father to redeem a rebellious creation He loves. Ultimately, we are called upon to imitate God by loving as Christ loved us (5:1–2) all the way to Golgotha and Resurrection Sunday!

Our hope for this life and the reason Easter makes a difference in marriage is not because of who we are, but because of who God is, because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, and because of what the Holy Spirit is doing in us.

Easter in Our Home

Easter egg hunts… resurrection eggs… egg decorating… resurrection rolls… Easter baskets… matching family outfits for the Instagram picture…

I’m a mom and I know the pressure there is to make each Easter one to remember. One year I purchased rather large Easter baskets. I filled them with bunnies and toys from the dollar store. And there was still room. So, I went back to the store for more candy, grabbing the bag with the choices that no one really likes because the gum is already hard and the wrappers stick to the suckers. You know… the “filler” candy. But a full Easter basket was going to make it an Easter to “remember.”

But what will they remember? What about your home’s Easter celebration will your children take with them into their own homes when they’re grown? Our family was challenged a few years ago to live this truth for our children and with our children. We were challenged to pray about whether we were filling our passion week with “fillers” or with the good stuff.

My favorite Easter was 5 years ago. There were no matching outfits and no bows. My favorite Easter outfit was tennis shoes, jeans, and a t-shirt. The only clothing we purchased were t-shirts that benefited a Christian organization that was near to our hearts. Instead of matching dresses, our money fed bellies in Africa. Instead of new sandals, our money helped train women so they could support their families.

Easter can easily become so crowded with activities. Some years, we’ve spent more time cutting out construction paper palm leaves than reading Luke 19 and learning about the Triumphal Entry we used those palm leaves to re-enact. Some years, we’ve spent more time making and eating resurrection rolls than actually talking about the resurrection itself. Good, fun activities, but like the “filler” candy in my children’s Easter basket, ultimately the activities come up short.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8).

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18).

This is the GOOD stuff. This is the BEST stuff. This truth is what we should be sure takes center stage in our homes this Easter season. This Easter will be another of my favorites. Blake and I have already decided that there won’t be new clothes or fancy shoes. We will take the budget I had planned for our Easter outfits and give it to the Great Commission Offering—our churches offering that goes directly to the proclamation of the gospel. It’s these tangible acts of celebration that I hope my children take with them as they grow.

And what about our Instagram picture? Our well-loved “I love my church” t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes will do. They work better for crawling around on the nursery floor anyway.