The Easter story is one that is familiar, or at least there is an awareness of it in the Western consciousness. It is celebrated every year and retold, in various stages and various ways, across the world. But like a lot of Christian stories, it has become lost in a fog of half-remembered Sunday school sessions, strange rituals and bizarre traditions. Some of these traditions have been borrowed from other places or imbued with forgotten symbolism.
The story that surrounds Jesus and his death and resurrection is complex, multilayered and, if it is to be believed, dangerous. It is not just the story of one man from a obscure Middle-Eastern town who met a violent and untimely death at the hands of a cruel, oppressive army. It is the story of a nation with thousands of years of heritage. It is the story of God's rescue plan. It is the story of humanity. It is the Grand Narrative. It began at the creation of time and space itself. By the time the serpent had tempted Adam and Eve to eat the fruit and they were meeting the consequences, the victory had already been promised. This promise of victory was one that was retold and reiterated in various forms over the next few millennia. It was something that was a part of Israel's identity. It embodied their hopes and dreams; it informed their fears and failures. As one Christmas carol puts it: "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."
One spring morning about two thousand years ago, all these threads wove together to create the most important event in the history of mankind. The promise to Abraham, the Passover story, the prophets' ancient words, the political struggles of a nation, the desperation of God's people, the acts of sin and rebellion of all humanity: all of this came together on the cross of Jesus' crucifixion.
And yet, an amazing part of it is that this was not the end. The crucifixion and resurrection was the final victory, but it was also a heralding of something to come. Jesus' resurrection meant that he defeated the power of sin (being death) and it ushered in a world that was made whole and innocent again. Jesus, the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings, would heal the world of the scars of sin. Jesus, the King of Kings, would reign over this world. Jesus, the High-Priest, would mediate between us and God. Jesus, the Creator of the world, would recreate the world anew.
This is the present truth. Jesus is the Son of Righteousness, the King of Kings, the High-Priest, the Creator. Jesus' Kingdom is already here. But the resurrection also tells of a coming truth, when Jesus will come again and will once and for all establish His rule over the earth. This is and will be the eternal truth.
Today, Christians are duel citizens: we live both in the present, where Jesus is the things that he claims to be, and we live in eternity. Philippians 3:20-21 says, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."
But our challenge as Christians today is to live as citizens of heaven. We are to live as if Jesus' healing power, His sovereignty, His ability to reunite us with God, His renewing strength are present truths. We are to proclaim it in all we do; we are to bring it about where we can. When asked why we have the hope that we do, we need to answer loudly and sincerely:
Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ will come again!