Because He Lives
It was 1992 and I was over at Russel’s house. He had a perfect combination: a steep driveway and a big old tree that leaned out over the driveway. A few tries with a rope and a homemade grappling hook and we had looped the rope up over the branch… then we knotted the rope at the bottom and it was good to go.
We tested it out pretty cautiously. Tug on it a few times. Swing on it gently a few times. But before long we were taking turns full on swinging as high as possible. And on the high side of the driveway we were only a few feet above, that was fine. But as we swung out the driveway fell away below us so we were ten or more feet up in the air.
It was so stinkin’ fun. It was glorious.
Are you familiar with the phrase “Single Point of Failure”?
By the time I woke up my Dad was there.
They tell me as I came around towards the steep side of the driveway… the one thing holding me up, the rope… snapped. It wasn’t up to the task, it wasn’t built for this, it wasn’t rock-climbing grade… it was a rope we found in the garage.
It snapped… and I flew. I arced gracefully through the air. Arms behind me, back arched, toes pointed and landed perfectly on the ground. On my face. Specifically, I broke my fall with my right front tooth.
I was out like a light, they called my Dad and he drove over and was there by the time I woke up.
They rushed me to the Dentist and fixed this tooth. Now in the lock-down I can’t even get it fixed. I feel like such a goofball… but I am so it works.
Single Points of Failure.
In Soft Engineering (like real engineering) we try to avoid that wherever possible. You don’t want your whole system going down because one thing didn’t hold up or didn’t work right. You want backups, safety ropes with pads on the driveway, layers of safety so that if something goes wrong, there’s another layer of safety.
But you can’t always do that, can you?
Sometimes it really does all depend on one thing.
This weekend we celebrate “Easter”.
I don’t even love to call it Easter… I call it Resurrection Sunday. (and today, Resurrection Sabbath… because even when he was in the tomb, Jesus rested on the Sabbath :).
This weekend is all about remembering, celebrating, honoring the Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
My favorite Resurrection passage. Because it is so honest. Because it places absolutely everything at stake on the resurrection of Jesus. It is “all in” kind of faith. It is not shy.
It identifies the resurrection of Jesus as a “Single Point of Failure” for our Christian faith. There are many doctrines and things we believe about Jesus… but we understand them all through the Resurrection. Yesterday, on Good Friday, we remember the cross of Jesus, the great sacrifice and triumph of the cross… but we only understand the cross through the Resurrection.
And Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, lays it all out there. If there is no resurrection, our faith falls apart.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
All in kind of faith. Paul puts it all on this: Jesus is alive. Jesus resurrected from the dead. And if he didn’t… well, it’s all in question then.
Reading Scripture Backwards
Reading Scripture Backwards
One of my favorite exercises in Scripture is to kind of “reverse” the statements in Scripture to make sure I really understand them. Why did they have to say “Love is Patient, Love is Kind...” because Love operates in situations and relationships that are frustrating and annoying and the temptation will be to unkindness and impatience.
Here the statements about what would happen if there were no resurrection form almost a double negative., but verse 20 changes all that.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
BUT IN FACT Christ has been raised from the dead.
Here is what happened that week. Jesus, before a crowd of witnesses, through the machinations of the religious leaders of his own people, was sentenced to execution by the Roman governor.
He was mocked. He was whipped. He carried his own cross up a hill and was nailed to it and He hung there. He declared “It is Finished” and he died.
They took his body, they quickly prepared it for burial, and they laid it in the tomb.
The women who examined the tomb, the angel invited them: see the tomb in which he lay. The angel had rolled away the stone for no other reason, Jesus wasn’t knocking to get out, the stone was rolled away so they could see in fact that Jesus wasn’t there.
And the Peter and John, peeking in from the outside, searching around, and then stepping in and “seeing” (perceiving) the full reality.
The gospels read like there is a well worn groove of men and women running to and from the tomb to see that Jesus isn’t there. Not to mention that Jesus keeps showing up, physically, to the 12, to the women, to men on the road to Emmaus, to hundreds of eyewitnesses. Eating and drinking with them to show his physical reality.
Thomas, called doubting Thomas, should be called believing Thomas. He said “I believe, Lord help my unbelief...” and in the end Jesus did. He said “touch my scars, my wounds...” Thomas did and believed in the Risen Jesus.
IN FACT Christ has been raised from the dead.
Therefore, we can unroll all these double negatives and see the power, the impact of the cross.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Our preaching is not in vain. It has power and meaning and purpose.
Our preaching has power and purpose.
Your faith is not in vain. It is true. It has power.
Our faith can move mountains! Not because we “faith” so well… but because the one in whom we have faith is the one who made those mountains.
We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
We are not liars. We are not misrepresenting God.
We are witnesses. We swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and the Truth is that He is the Truth, the Way and the Life and He is alive!!!
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
Your faith is not futile. We think of sin being defeated at the cross, Jesus took our sins to the cross, absolutely, the cross is absolutely critical to our forgiveness of sins, Jesus took those sins upon himself and bore them unto death. But if Jesus is still dead… death still wins. Our guilt was carried by Jesus at the cross, our penalty, death, the wages of sin, was defeated in the empty tomb, in the resurrection of Jesus.
What’s more, it is the Jesus’ resurrection that proves, that validates, that authenticates Jesus’ claim to be the righteous holy lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
We are forever free from sin and death because Jesus died and rose again.
It just keeps getting better.
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
This is near. Death has always been near and we have lost loved ones who we long to see again. We don’t know what the future holds, whether this pandemic is as dangerous as some models predict or if death rates may be slowing and contained… but we know this. Until He comes upon the clouds… all of us are headed for death.
But BECAUSE HE LIVES… those who have “fallen asleep” (died) in Christ have not perished. Indeed they are alive in Him, following Him in resurrection, they will get new perfect bodies to live and glorify God forever on a new perfect heaven on earth… and you will too.
We are immortal!
Because he did in fact raise from the dead we will be gathered together with all the saints and won’t that be joyful reunion.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But because He lives, we are not to be pitied. What’s the opposite of pity? Admiration… or even envy. Yes, be jealous… because I am immortal, and beautiful, and glorious, and destined, and chosen...
and you can be too.
Because He lives.
Because He Lives, I Can Face Corona
Because He Lives, I Can Face Corona
Dylan, my young eight year old has been up late with nightmares multiple times this week. He is scared of the Corona virus, he is worried that he is going to die, that his parents are going to die, his grandparents.
I don’t want my 8 year old to be worried about death. 8 year olds should be discovering magic bunnies, not worried about death.
And my answer can’t be “Corona isn’t dangerous.” I know he isn’t high risk, it is mostly about keeping others safe, some of the models now have very low fatality percentages as testing gets better.
But that isn’t where I direct his hope… because that isn’t really where my hope is. Those models are changing every day, they are discovering new things, that isn’t a trustworthy hope.
Don’t worry, buddy, we are taking every precaution. And we are, of course we are.
Our hope is not built on doctors, nurses and hospitals, though we are thankful, we pray for all on the front lines of this epidemic.
Our hope is not in our government, in our immune system, or in our rock solid disaster recovery plan. Our hope is not in our emergency food supply or water supply… our hope is not in social distancing.
Though we can and do and will practice all precautions.
Though we certainly have been pushing at the boundaries in order to love and serve people radically in this time of need.
My hope is in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom to come. That’s my one Great Hope. The Great Bet of my life. My Hope unshakable, unchangeable, confident expectation of the future!
What will it look like?
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because He lives… death has no victory. Death has no sting. Not in the sense that we don’t grieve or suffer loss for a time… but we know that separation is temporary.
Because, in fact, He lives everything changes: we preach in power, our faith moves mountains, we are witnesses to God, we are immortal, to be admired and even envied… because He lives.
*Sing: Because He Lives*
Whenever we gather, we remember His death until He comes. The Resurrection of Jesus transforms the cross from Tragedy into Triumph. Is it macabre to dwell on the death, the brutal execution, of our Savior.
It would be. But Because He Lives, the cross is a symbol of absolute Triumph over sin and death.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
We proclaim, we celebrate His death, His triumph. Because He Lives. And Because He is coming again soon in absolute and total Victory.