Easter – Surprised by Hope

I recently finished reading N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope, and for my Easter reflection today, I would like to treat you to his summation of the message of Easter. We are called to a great hope indeed, so much more than an immaterial life after death, so much more than the shedding of earthly “toils and snares,” weariness, and tears. We are called to a bodily resurrection in the new heavens and new earth, the foretaste and inauguration of which came in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ is risen! The kingdom is here!

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

~ Colossians 3:1-11 (ESV)

“[A]t the start of Colossians 3, [Paul] focuses on what it actually means to share, here and now, in the resurrection of the Messiah. Paul insists that if you are already raised with Christ–then you have a responsibility to share in the present risen life of Jesus…

Part of the central achievement of the incarnation, which is then celebrated in the resurrection and ascension, is that heaven and earth are now joined together with an unbreakable bond and that we too are by rights citizens of both together. We can, if we choose, screen out the heavenly dimension and live as flatlanders, materialists. If we do that, we will be buying in to a system that will go bad, and will wither and die, because earth gets its vital life from heaven.

But if we focus our attention on the heavenly dimension, all sorts of positive and practical results will follow…. In each case what [Paul’s] talking about is actual current physical reality, shot through now with the life of heaven…. Heaven and earth, I repeat, are made for each other, and at certain points they intersect and interlock. Jesus is the ultimate such point. Christians are meant to be such points, derived from him.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God….

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

~ Ephesians 5:1-2, 11-14 (ESV)

“In other words, it’s time to wake up! Living at the level of the nonheavenly world around you is like being asleep; worse, it’s like that for which sleep is a metaphor–being dead…. Come alive to the real world, the world where Jesus is Lord, the world into which your baptism brings you, the world you claim to belong to when you say in the creed that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead.

The message of Easter, then, is neither that God once did a spectacular miracle but then decided not to do many others nor that there is a blissful life after death to look forward to. The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it. And precisely because the resurrection was and is bodily, albeit with a transformed body, the power of Easter to transform and heal the present world must be put into effect both at the macro level , in applying the gospel to the major problems of the world…and to the intimate details of our daily lives. Christian holiness consists not of trying as hard as we can to be good but of learning to live in the new world created by Easter, the new world we publicly entered in our baptism…. Personal holiness and global holiness belong together. Those who wake up to one may well find themselves called to wake up to the other as well.”

~ Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N.T. Wright (pp. 250-253)

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

~ 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

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