On Easter we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the happiest, most joyful, most glorious day of the year to the Christian! For our Lord, who was dead, was raised to life again.
Not only is the Resurrection at the center of Christian theology, it is at the center of Paul’s. I’m sure he couldn’t wait for another opportunity to talk about it to the Thessalonians, who apparently did not understand its full implications.
The Resurrection is a central doctrine, of course, because it teaches us that Jesus Christ defeated His enemies and ours: Satan, sin, and death. It teaches us and gives us hope that God is stronger than His enemies.
By rising from the dead, Jesus Christ, who had become sin for us, purged away those sins, and He was made the Holy One forever. By rising from the dead, the sufferings of Jesus Christ, which He willingly took upon Himself and which were rightfully ours, are finished. By rising from the dead, He broke the bonds of death, and He who is Life itself can never die again.
And by rising from the dead, He executed the most spectacular reverse move in wrestling history, for just at the moment Satan thought He had Jesus pinned, Jesus rose from the dead and crushed Satan’s skull.
On Easter, therefore, we celebrate the great victory of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, in His Resurrection.
But the doctrine of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ doesn’t do us any good if it is not in some way intimately related to us. That’s all good for Jesus, but what in the world does it have to do with me? Therefore, Paul says in verse 14: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” This is our hope: that just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead by the power of God, so will those who are in Him.
How can this be? Remember that Christ dwells in you and you in Him? Remember how He says to you: “This is My Body which is given for you” and “This is My Blood which is shed for you”? Remember that your life is hidden in Christ and you are seated with Him in the heavenly places?
Remember how when you were baptized, you were united to Jesus Christ in His death and His resurrection?
If all of these things are true, then what is true for Christ will also be true for Christians.
By rising from the dead, Jesus Christ, who had become sin for us, purged away our sins, and He has made us His holy ones (saints) forever. Though we still sin, even in this life we see victories over the sin, which we are powerless to stop. And one day, our hearts and bodies will be so changed that we will not desire to sin at all.By rising from the dead, our sufferings, which He willingly took upon Himself, are finished. Though personally I find great comfort and joy in Paul’s encouragements to accept our suffering as a participation in the suffering of Christ, and all of the benefits that come from enduring suffering patiently with Him, I know that there must be more. I know that God did not create our lives to be full of suffering, and I know that this suffering will one day pass. I know that whatever my pain or grief today – whether physical suffering and disability, mental anguish, enmity or conflict with another person, rejection, depression, persecution, financial trouble, worry over children, insecurity, loneliness, brokenness, failure, or grief – that one day all of this will completely and eternally pass away. These bitter, seemingly relentless sources of pain will all be gone for me (and for you!) one day.
By rising from the dead, He broke the bonds of death, and gives His life to those who now also can never die again. Paul’s immediate concern for the Thessalonians was that they had been grieving for those they love who had died and were uncertain about what would happen to them. Because of the absolute certainty of the resurrection to eternal life of those who love the Lord, Paul says that the Thessalonians should comfort one another (verse 18.)
There is no greater pain than death, and there is no greater comfort than the promise of the resurrection to eternal life. This is St. Paul’s main point, and it is just as comforting to us 2000 years later as it was to the Thessalonians of Paul’s day.
Since Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and since I will be raised with Him one day, I know with certainty that I and every faithful Christian will one day be delivered from every form of sin and suffering and death. For one day, we will meet again with the Lord and will always be with Him forevermore.
For this reason we cry out together again:
Christ the Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Prayer: Father, I thank You for Your almighty hand which raised from the dead Your Son Jesus Christ. I thank You that You have not left us without hope but have assured us of our resurrection by the Resurrection of Your only Son. Give me hope and comfort today, as I receive again with faith Your promise of eternal life with You in heaven.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve today to acknowledge all the suffering and grief I have today and to be comforted by the fact of the Resurrection, both the Lord’s and mine. I will spend at least a few minutes reflecting on my pain and then reflecting on the joys of the Resurrection. For each separate pain that I remember, I will allow the Lord to triumph over it by His Resurrection and the life He offers me today.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson