Often, and with far too much frequency have you heard me read these solemn words from the Book Job:
“I know that my redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger. For none of us liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself. For if we live, we live unto the Lord; and if we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
Those words are so very familiar. Actually, they are from the burial office. Yet, though they be based upon the complaint of Job, they stand also as the quintessential statement of what we celebrate on this day known as Easter. For it is on this holy day we celebrate the truiumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over death and the grave. Most of us know that much about Easter. But what so too few of us fully grasp is why we celebrate His victory. We celebrate His victory because it is our victory too. The message of Easter is all about how we have come to know of a certainty that our hope is in Him. To describe this, Saint Paul uses some shocking language—for Saint Paul tells us how we, dead and buried with Jesus are raised with Jesus that we may know the fullness of life. Therefore we stand at this moment and we proclaim “Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.” Therefore we have the courage to assert in the words of the Kontakion, “even at the grave we make our song, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”
It is popular in certain theologies and in certain mindsets to proclaim “Jesus died for our sins.” While in their attempt to do theology by cliché, there is a certain truth proclaimed in this saying, it is also a limited vision. To be sure, Jesus died for our sins, but a very narrow understanding of such a statement might seem ridiculous: For example, Jesus did not die solely to be punished because of something that you might do tomorrow evening, like succumbing to temptation and eating that left over piece of cheesecake in the refrigerator. That type of theology trivializes the sacrifice of our Lord and the effect of His saving grace. More than dying for the atonement of your particular sins, he died for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole world, and more than that, He died that we might be given the gift of life and so that we might receive it abundantly.
The message of the resurrection is far more about abundant life as a gift given to each of us in the power of the Holy Spirit by the love of God than it is about us weaseling out of our well deserved punishment for our sins.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen.