I always enjoy Easter for its atmosphere of wonderful, joyous celebration.
While Christmas might be described as special, Easter is triumphant. We celebrate the astounding miracle of a man, the Son of God, risen from the grave. But like a parade after any victory, Easter’s celebration is more than the festivity following an unexpected triumph.
We also celebrate what Jesus’ victory over death has freed us to do: to work for the kingdom of God.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul expounds on the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. “If Christ has not been raised,” he says, “your faith is futile” (verse 17). In his conclusion, Paul seems to nearly shout, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (verse 54).
But that’s not where he ends. Paul exhorts his readers — because of the resurrection — to go out into the world. “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (verse 58).
I remember the passion and urgency of Jesus’ message after I first became a Christian. At one point, a family member couldn’t understand why I thought all this Jesus stuff was so important. I had gone more than a little overboard, she suspected.
I tried to explain what it was like to meet Jesus. Imagine what it would be like if you were driving home one night, and a flying saucer landed in front of your car. Little green men came walking toward you, pulled you out of your car, and took you for a ride across the universe. After touring the galaxies, they brought you back to your car and told you it was time to head home.
Wouldn’t that just rock your world? Your life would never be the same. In one moment, everything would have changed. From that point on, you would have a radically different perspective on life and where you fit in the world.
That’s what happened to me when I first met Jesus as a young graduate student. I was ready to go out and change the world. The resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference. So confirmed I was in this astounding message that when it came time for my wife Reneé and I to register for wedding gifts, I told her, “As long as there are children starving in the world, I’m not going to register for fine china, crystal, and silver.”
Unfortunately, that passionate and urgent moment too easily fades. Isn’t it ironic that, a short 13 years later, I ended up as CEO of a fine china company?
But Easter is an opportunity to renew the sense of urgency that is the consequence of the resurrection. Consider Eugène Burnand’s painting, “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection.” The wonder and awe on the disciples’ faces is matched by the urgent expectation.
Theologian N.T. Wright argues that only the power of the resurrection of Christ could explain what the disciples proceeded to do, overturning the pagan Roman Empire. “Jesus is risen, therefore God’s new world has begun. Jesus is risen, therefore Israel and the world have been redeemed. Jesus is risen, therefore his followers have a new job to do.”
Wright continues to say that the disciples understood that their new job had “social, political, and cultural” implications. “And what is that new job? To bring the life of heaven to birth in actual, physical, earthly reality.”
That’s, of course, the very mission of World Vision. What a job that is — a daunting task. But we hope and believe that He is risen, indeed!