He Is Risen . . . In Us!
By Gary Bonikowsky
Well, it’s Holy Week again and, curiously, I don’t feel any holier than I did last week as I look out upon the lingering snow. The scene is quite a contrast to last year, in which Holy Week found me driving back from Florida. I recall the numerous signs of the imminent approach of Easter, especially in the southern ‘Bible Belt’, as I passed from state to state. They seem to have a penchant for triple crosses down there, perhaps inspiring that old Florida Boys southern gospel classic The Cross in the Middle (should have been mine)… or was it the other way around? Anyway, that’s what it reminded me of (there’s a link to the song below for the curious if you’re unfamiliar with it), and often the middle cross was draped in purple cloth — or something close to it. I even saw a trio of crosses beside the road in a trailer park! God bless that devout soul. God bless the South. God bless America! In these parts we tend to make do with one cross — the Cross of Christ.
But I got to thinking as I motored along how increasingly uncomfortable I’ve become in recent years with Easter celebrations — especially those musical extravaganzas that big churches like to throw, as if the bigger the deal you can make of Easter the more real the Cross and the resurrection are. And that’s not to mention the pageants and parades and whatnots in which Catholics in some parts of the world get themselves worked up into an absolute frenzy — even crucifying and flogging one another — before returning to their largely secular lives.
Good Friday has been particularly troublesome for me, especially in the early days. I never knew quite how to behave. I mean, it was a holiday, but you couldn’t enjoy it too much without feeling guilty. (Are my Baptist roots showing?) Might as well go to church. Well, there was one other option. When the kids were teens, they used to go with their Youth Group and join up with others on a ‘Walk of the Cross’, in which they would drag a large wooden cross with a little wheel on the bottom down the main street of town. But I was neither a youth nor very group oriented and something bothered me about it. I think it may have been the wheel.
Oh, I know these celebrations have their place, and it gets folks who might not otherwise be found there into church for perhaps the first time in their two-stop year. But it’s not like Christmas, where we’re celebrating God’s entrance into, and His remedy for, the human condition in the form of a Redeemer — even if the celebration is nowhere near his actual birth date. I can overlook that and get with the program (at least the spiritual side) to some extent.
But Easter is different. Something was FINISHED there at Calvary. He said it was finished. Somehow to put on our Easter bonnets and try to relive that event year after year, over and over, without moving into the reality of what was accomplished at the Cross on our behalf, seems at the least, almost a repudiation of the power of the most pivotal event in human history, and at worst, an insult to that costly sacrifice. I mean, isn’t that what that beautiful book of Hebrews is all about; Jesus our high priest, becoming that once-and-for-all sacrifice for all humanity for all time, who died and rose — and we in Him — and is now seated at the right hand of God, ever living to make intercession for us? Didn’t he become the end and fulfillment of the annual ritual of the Day of Atonement, which was a mere foreshadowing of his mighty act by which our righteousness was procured for all time?
We did not participate in His birth. But His death and resurrection is another story. We are a vital part of that story. And that story is a vital part of us and who we are in Him. We are what he died and rose to produce. Shouldn’t we, who have entered into the holiest, ‘by a new and living way’ be occupied living it out rather than coming back again and again to celebrate an annual ritual about entering in?
And what of Pentecost, that supreme event in human history and the religious calendar, where the risen and glorified Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, sends forth his Holy Spirit to inhabit the lives of the redeemed, to effect the Vine-branch union, to cause us to be what we were created to be and could not be without? Why, compared to Easter, it goes practically unrecognized. These things trouble me.
But Happy Easter anyway. He is Risen. And, thank God, we are dead and risen in and with Him.
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