EASTER: When creations future came bursting into the present

Posted on Apr 6, 2015 in Theology blog | 0 comments

By Roland Wrinkle

Is Easter about Lent? Yes. Is Easter about the crucifixion of the Son of God? Yes. Is Easter about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Yes. Is Easter about our Savior rescuing us from the death and destruction of our own sins by forgiving them—all of them? Yes. Is Easter about God’s Man actually dying and then being resurrected from the dead? Yes. Easter is surely about all of this. But (and here’s my point ), Easter is about something more also—something additional, something the bible is always leading us to and pointing towards, something we don’t talk about much—although the bible certainly does. And that is this: Easter is the dawn of God’s new creation.

The Christian hope is for the “new heaven and new earth” promised in Isaiah 65:17, preached by Peter in 2 Peter 3:13, referred to by Paul as “koinos,” set as the cornerstone of Christianity in 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 and vivified and glorified in Revelation 21 by John of Patmos as the culmination of history, when heaven comes down to and merges with earth, when the Creator’s project—begun in Genesis 1 and 2 and grotesquely distorted in Genesis 3 when humans, formed and designed to reflect the image of God, rebelled—gets back on track. This is the Good News. This is the Gospel. And it all was launched when Jesus of Nazareth was executed, died and was then resurrected from the dead. Easter is the beginning of New Creation. We are Messiah people, that is, we are new creation people—new creation people because we are agents, appointed by God, of this new creation. That is how I took Bill’s point several weeks ago that our role is not to do good in the world, but to change the world. I will be turned upside down so that the world can be turned right side up.

But none of this makes sense because, while Jesus was resurrected, we agents of the new creation keep dying and staying dead. That is why the beating heart of Paul’s theology (Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15) is that Jesus’ resurrection was the first fruits of our own future resurrection—physical, in glorified bodies and exalted to the Kingdom of God as deputies of this new creation. (Paul puts this hope so powerfully that, if this stuff is not true, then all of the bible collapses into a rubble of infantile fantasy—or, as Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, put it, “only a promise to the ear to be broken to the hope, a teasing illusion like a munificent bequest in a pauper’s will.”) But Paul convinces us with the conviction of the apostle he surely was that it is all true.

What bothers me though, is that I don’t believe (and I have frequently been wrong) we take new creation and our own bodily resurrection seriously. My Easter message last year was that, instead of answering “He has risen” with “He has risen indeed,” we should proclaim, “And therefore so shall we!” I suspect that the Child of the Enlightenment in all of us rejects this as too fantastical, too illogical, too escapist, too silly. The problem with that way of thinking is that this is all expressly, unequivocally and unavoidably biblical! Brian Blount speaks for me: “What is more scandalous than basing one’s entire faith superstructure on a man who died with seditious criminals on a Roman cross? How about basing one’s entire faith superstructure on the belief that this man literally got up from the dead…and is planning to return, to raise everybody else from the dead?” Well, my friends, that’s exactly what highly-educated, well-read, ridiculously-rationalistic, logical me believes. Why? “Because the bible tells me so.”

My friends, the meaning of Easter is that Jesus launched the new creation. The Easter stories in the gospels don’t say, “He has risen and therefore our souls are ticketed to heaven,” but rather, “He has risen and therefore new creation has begun now and we will be resurrected (in at least a similar way) to continue in our agency as bringers, harbingers and heralders of this new creation and, therefore we all have a job to do. And that job is simple: CHANGE THE WORLD TO MAKE IT COMFORM TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD! It’s Easter folks. It’s the first day of new creation.  Let’s get started.

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