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.

Why Did Jesus Raise?

I hate leaky pipes. Not only because of the mess involved but also because I lack any of the requisite skills to fix the problem. But imagine with me, for a moment, that the next time my pipes break, I try my hand at repairing them. Obviously, taking the pipes apart is out the question, since I have little hope of getting them back together. So suppose I attempted instead to fasten a rag or a sponge around the leak and choose to change it out whenever it got full. Have I fixed the pipes? On the one hand, I’ve managed to prevent the leak from making a mess. On the other hand, I clearly have not solved the problem.

Human beings are not unlike leaky pipes. A leaky pipe is a problem because it fails to fulfill its purpose and function of transporting water, and the result is a mess. Likewise, human beings are born broken. We are born unable and unwilling to fulfill our purpose and function of worshiping God alone, and the result is a world suffused with sin and under the wrath of God.

Now suppose someone attempted to fix the human problem the way I suggested we fix our leaky pipe. Suppose that someone came along and set things up such that whenever someone sinned, the judgment and condemnation for that sin was covered. Have they fixed humans? On the one hand, they’ve managed to prevent judgment from falling on sinful people. On the other hand, they clearly have not solved the problem. For God to truly deal with our sin, not only do we need forgiveness for the sins we commit, we need him to repair our natures in a fundamental way. Enter Easter to the rescue.

Paul writes in Romans 6:4-5:

Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.

Notice two things about this passage. First, in verse four, Paul states that the reason we are united with Jesus in his death is so that we are united in his new life. In other words, the reason that Jesus brings us into a relationship with himself and vanquishes sin on our behalf is so that just as Jesus became a new type of human—freed from the malfunction of sin—we might also become the same type of human. Second, in verse five, Paul reiterates his point by stating that anyone who has been saved from their sins by Jesus’ death will also join him in becoming a new type of person through his resurrection. In other words, because Jesus not only died but rose we have the hope that God will not only forgive our sins but fix our broken sinful human natures.

Use Easter this year as a reminder that not only has Jesus dealt with the consequence of our sins, he has fixed the root of our sin. Jesus has repaired our broken sinful natures. And while we experience only a part of that healing now, we will know the fullness of it in the age to come.

Responding to Objections to the Resurrection

In our last entry, Dr. Cabal gave us a sampling of the massive amount of historical evidence for the Resurrection. As he mentioned at the end of that entry, however, skeptics have their own ways of interpreting this evidence. In this entry, we will consider some of the rival theories to the Resurrection. In the end, we will see that the theory that Jesus rose from the dead offers the best explanation of the available evidence.

Three Rival Theories

While a massive number of theories have arisen to explain the Resurrection over the years, we will limit ourselves to a consideration of three of the most popular theories:

  1. Conspiracy Theory: After Jesus’ death, the disciples stole his body and invented the story that he rose from the dead.
  2. Apparent Death Theory: Jesus only appeared to die on the cross. After three days, he recovered enough to leave the tomb and return to the disciples.
  3. Hallucination Theory: The disciples had a shared hallucination in which Jesus appeared to them.
    Explaining the Evidence

In Dr. Cabal’s entry, we learned of four historical facts any theory of the Resurrection should explain: (i) Jesus died on the cross, (ii) Jesus’ tomb was found empty, (iii) the disciples experience postmortem appearances of Jesus, and (iv) the disciples sincerely believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Now let’s consider how each of the three theories mentioned above fares as an explanation of these facts.

  1. Conspiracy Theory: Advocates of the Conspiracy Theory accept that Jesus died on the Cross. Additionally, they explain the empty tomb—the disciples stole the body—and the postmortem experiences—the disciples made these up. As such, this theory gives some explanation for three of our four historical facts. But what about the disciple’s belief? Here, the theory begins to fall apart. What did the disciples have to gain from propagating the lie that Jesus rose from the dead? According to the historical record, the disciple’s proclamation of Jesus as the risen savior resulted in social ostracization, imprisonment, torture, and even death. Only a madman would continue to propagate a lie under these conditions.
  2. Apparent Death Theory: If Jesus only appeared to die on the cross and returned to the disciples, that certainly explains why the tomb was empty and why the disciples saw him. What this theory fails to account for, however, is the consensus of scholars that Jesus could not have survived the affair on the cross. Additionally, the theory fails to explain why the disciples would have believed a bloody, beaten, and nearly dead Jesus had risen from the dead as a glorified messiah.
  3. Hallucination Theory: By far, this theory explains the least of any under consideration. First, as many scholars have noted, if the disciples had a mass hallucination of Jesus, they would have naturally concluded that Jesus was appearing to them as a spirit, not as a resurrected messiah. Second, if the disciples merely had a hallucination and Jesus’ body was still in the tomb, why didn’t the Jewish or Roman government simply produce the body when they began to propagate the message of his resurrection?

The Resurrection Theory

So far, we have seen that none of the theories considered above offers a full account of the historical evidence regarding Jesus’ resurrection. But what about the theory that Jesus rose from the dead? If Jesus rose bodily from the dead, we have an explanation for Jesus’ death, the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances to the disciples, and the fervency of the disciples’ belief in Jesus as the resurrected messiah. As such, we can say with a high degree of confidence that the Resurrection Theory offers the best explanation of the historical facts regarding Jesus’ death.

How Do We Know that Jesus Rose from the Dead?

If asked how we know Jesus is risen from the dead, the essential Christian answer is: “I know Him personally by His Spirit who lives in me.” We can, however, present historical evidence: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). The following brief summary presents some of the Resurrection evidence which even the majority of non-Christian scholars now recognize as true.

  1. In the last half century, the New Testament documents have become widely accepted as very early, i.e., the first century. Thus the NT gospels are the best and earliest written records of the historical Jesus. One may choose to reject them due to philosophical reasons, but not because they are written far after the events occurred. We also have non-Christian sources from the period which confirm that the early Christians believed, lived and died for what is written in the Gospels.
  2. Scholars overwhelmingly accept that Jesus was really dead when removed from the cross. Abundant evidence from that era confirms the Romans knew how to execute the condemned. A 1968 archaeological discovery reveals their cruel crucifixion proficiency. A first-century ossuary contains the bones of a man (Yehohanan) whose feet had been nailed together but torturously bent to the side. Both legs were gruesomely fractured, almost certainly from a devastating blow to hasten his death.
  3. That Jesus was placed in a tomb later discovered empty is also the scholarly majority view today. Unlike the well-kept tombs of other Jewish holy men still containing their remains, early Christians eventually “lost” the burial cave of Jesus because it was empty. Not until the fourth century did the mother of the emperor Constantine, Helena, search for the empty tomb.
  4. Also widely accepted today is that early disciples experienced postmortem appearances of Jesus. Not only did they believe this occurred on multiple occasions, but the Church confirmed women as the first witnesses of the resurrected One. Because women were not then regarded as reliable witnesses, this early incidental report confirmed the appearances.
  5. And without any doubt, the disciples were dramatically changed after they believed Jesus risen from the dead—inaugurating the most influential movement in history. Their Jewish religious practices were changed (the day of worship moved to resurrection day), and baptism and the Lord’s Supper became their central ordinances that proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection. These Christians were radically willing to die for their resurrected Lord, even though they had nothing to gain in this life.

Of course, Christians should not be surprised that those not personally knowing the Savior produce “counter-theories,” ways to counter the above evidence. But these theories do not handle well the above evidence. And in the end if one’s mind and heart is not closed, it seems so much easier to believe He is Risen. Indeed.

Was the Cross a Backup Plan?

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” —Acts 2:22–24

Every spring, once the red hearts and roses of Valentine’s Day make their way off the shelves, our culture gets ready for Easter. Parents buy bunny-themed candy to put in our kid’s colorful baskets. We buy decorative grass to make the baskets look full after Dad eats some of the candy. We draw colorful eggs and put together cute outfits for the Easter service. Dad makes an emergency trip to the store because he ate the backup candy, too. It seems like everywhere we look, there are bunnies and pastel eggs to remind us of Easter.

In fact, the only thing that seems hard to find are images of the cross. The thought of crucifixion is startling and upsetting compared to the picturesque images that fill our store shelves and our social media feeds. When we look at Christ on the cross, we are forced to look on at pierced hands and broken flesh. It’s hard to look at, even in art. Surely no one would choose this unless it was the last option and all other contingencies had been exhausted.

But this is one of the amazing truths of the crucifixion—Christ chose the cross. The apostle Peter made this clear in his sermon in Acts 2. On the day of Pentecost, less than two months after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Peter stood up in front of the same Jerusalem crowds that had called for his death. Peter indicted them for the part they played. After all, members of God’s chosen people violently murdered God’s anointed one. The same people that should have welcomed Jesus as king had him killed as a criminal. But Peter proclaimed hope, even in the middle of his condemnation. He told them that their actions weren’t just a product of their own evil. They were part of a larger plan.

In fact, Peter tells the crowds that Christ was, “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” It would be enough to say that Christ went to his death with full knowledge of what was coming, but Peter says even more than that. Peter, newly indwelled by the Holy Spirit, in the first public proclamation of the gospel—after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead—says that all that happened was part of God’s definite plan.

The cross of Christ was never the backup plan. It wasn’t an incidental detail in salvation history. The cross is at the very center of everything that God has done since before the foundation of the world. So, as we enter this Easter season and prepare to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, don’t shrink back from the cross. It is gruesome and bloody. But the cross of Christ sits at the very center of God’s design for history, beckoning us to repent and to praise the Son of God who came to die.

How Easter Changes Our Priorities

A Baby Changes Everything

There’s nothing like the birth of a child to completely flip your world upside down. Something about holding that tiny little person changes everything. Things that you wouldn’t give a second thought to moments before (like going to see a movie, spending time outside the home after 7, or sleeping) are now not even in the realm of possibility. Time you once devoted to friends or decompressing is now devoted to your kid. Money you would have put towards buying things for yourself is now spent on toys and baby clothes. All your priorities and decisions are viewed through the lens of the baby.

The Transformation of The Apostle Paul

In Philippians 3:1-11, Paul describes what his life looked like before Christ. From an external observer, he was as righteous as anyone could be, “a Hebrew of Hebrews,” he says. Before his conversion, Paul’s priorities were focused on building and maintaining the facade of being a respectable Pharisee. But then the Damascus Road happened—”But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Why? What changed? How could he throw it all away? The things he once considered important lost their luster when he saw the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The lens through which he viewed his life changed in an instance—”That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

The worth of Christ and the reality of his resurrection power caused Paul to consider his former way of life as worthless in comparison. All the esteem of man wasn’t worth comparing to what he had found in Christ. So he threw his old life away that he might find a new one.

Counting Everything as Loss

Easter did more than slightly adjust the priorities of the Apostle Paul, it turned them on their head. He gave up everything he had been aiming for up to that point. Has Easter done the same for me? Like having your first child transforms how you view your life’s priorities, so should Easter. Everyday choices no longer look so “everyday” in light of the cross and the empty tomb. Should you let your kids take part in all those extracurriculars? Well, maybe so. But maybe not, if it keeps them from attaining the resurrection of the dead. Should you take that promotion? Perhaps, but what if it keeps you from seeing the surpassing worth of Christ? In the light of Easter morning, such mundane choices take on eternal significance. They must.

Daily I ask myself if what I’m focusing on helps or hinders me from seeing Christ for who he is? If it’s not a help but a hindrance, it might be time to count it as a loss. Because there’s no point in all this striving if at the end of our lives we attained what we desired, but what we desired wasn’t Christ.