Resurrection Sunday

It's Easter Time!

Photo by  Aaron Brunhofer  on  Unsplash

What are you celebrating?

When I see bright-colored eggs and chocolate bunnies in pastel-colored displays, I know it must be near Easter. Unless you understand the calendar timing of Easter Sunday, you probably have to check online like I do to find when Easter falls each year.

Easter isn't a big marketing holiday but stores do their best to feature lots of eggs, egg-coloring dyes, baskets, and chocolate and marshmallow bunnies and chicks. And don't forget the food! Ham is a favorite along with some scalloped potatoes or au gratin perhaps, and if you're traditional, some hot-cross buns.

But what are we celebrating with all of this? Is there a difference between Easter and Resurrection Sunday? Well, yes and no. And what about all those other traditional days people observe like Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday?

How are all of these things related or are they? Exactly! I think there's a lot of confusion about what is being celebrated and, of course, lots of back and forth about how Christians should celebrate Easter Sunday.

Some background on Easter

Easter Sunday is a big celebration for Christian churches. Not only is it an important celebration, it's one of those Sundays when a lot of people who don't normally go to church attend a service, especially if it's a sunrise service.

Our church holds an Easter sunrise service at the beach each year and it's a beautiful and well-attended celebration. I'm partial to sunrise services because it connects so well with the story of the Lord Jesus' resurrection in all four of the gospels.

Back to the question of whether there's a difference between Easter and Resurrection Sunday? There is but some background on other more traditional observances of the church needs to be considered first.

Ash Wednesday and Lent

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season that runs for forty days up to Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus' fasting in the wilderness for forty days and His temptation by the devil at the end of the fasting (Matt 4:1-11).

It's observed as a time to give up some pleasure or part of daily life routine as a sacrifice. It was not observed by the early church but developed and set as a church observance in 325 BC. It's observed mostly by Catholic churches and many traditional Protestant churches.

Paschal Triduum

Palm Sunday combined with the final days before Easter Sunday are considered Holy or Passion Week. The Paschal Triduum includes three important days. Which ones? It depends on who you ask or what you accept as the three most important days.

The title is drawn from Pascha, the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Pesach for the Passover. The Passover or Seder Supper is based on the first Passover in Exodus 12, which was fulfilled by the Lord's atoning death on the cross.

Which three days? Traditionally it's been Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday but others, including me, opt for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday.

Palm Sunday

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Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey as He was hailed by crowds of people crying out, "Hosanna (Oh Save!) to the Son of David!" (Matt 21:1-11). It is the beginning of Holy Week that concludes with Easter Sunday.

Although the early church didn't observe it, the church in Jerusalem started to observe it about the late third or early fourth century. When Jesus entered Jerusalem that day it was a fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy (Zech 9:9; Matt 21:4-5).

Sadly, many in the crowd who waved palm branches and shouted out "Hosanna!" to hail whom they believed to be the Messiah later yelled out, "Crucify Him!" (Matt 27:15-26). It illustrates how quickly emotions and opinions can change people's minds regardless of the truth.

Maundy Thursday

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Maundy Thursday commemorates the last night Jesus spent with His closest followers as told in John chapters 13 through 17. It begins with Jesus washing the disciples' feet, which included His betrayer Judas (John 13:1-17), on the night He ate the Passover feast with them (Luke 22:14-23).

The word Maundy is taken from the Latin word for command in acknowledgment of the Lord's new commandment to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34-35). This is something that needs to be remembered and practiced far more often than once a year!

Good Friday

I remember participating in Good Friday services as one of a group of pastors in the community where we shared on one of the last seven sayings of Jesus on the cross. It was a good reminder of how we are one Body—one Church unified by Jesus and His work of redemption on the cross.

My first time in the Philippines was on Good Friday where the whole country virtually comes to a  standstill to observe this solemn day with processions and prayers. As believers, we need to reflect on the atoning death of Jesus—the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Not just for His sacrifice but the purpose of His sacrifice.

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When Jesus was lifted up on the cross on Golgotha (John 19:17-18), He fulfilled the Passover once and for all (Heb 9:12, 26; 10:10, 12). This is why it is Good Friday! It may have originally been God's Friday but morphed into Good—like God's spell (story) became Gospel.

The very purpose of Jesus dying on the cross was to provide a way for all humanity to be reconciled with God the Father. God came to earth Himself as the Son of God to offer Himself for all people.

All of Jesus' earthly ministry and presence was focused on this day followed by His resurrection—His death and resurrection cannot and should not be separated in our understanding of God's work of redemption. And so, it is Good Friday but remember—as an old hymn declares—Sunday is coming!

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the official end of the Lenten season. It's also called Black Saturday in the Philippines and other places. It's a reminder of Jesus' burial in the tomb. But thankfully, it's not the end of the story!

Easter—Resurrection Sunday

Although most of us know this day of celebration as Easter, I prefer the use of Resurrection Sunday because it expresses what's most important. It's uncertain how it became known as Easter but an early connection to its origin is to the Saxon goddess of spring, Eastre. 

The important thing is to distinguish the difference between how the world around us observes Easter and why believers celebrate it. Without the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there is no hope of eternal life and there is no true redemption (1 Cor 15:13-17). 

Without the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there is no hope of eternal life and there is no true redemption
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The resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the third day after His death was the primary focus of the gospel for the early church, as seen throughout the book of Acts. It is central to Christian theology. The hope of salvation and eternal life hang on the physical resurrection of Jesus.

It's what the Lord pointed the disciples to before and immediately after His death and resurrection (Matt 16:21; Luke 24:44-47). The resurrection came on the first day of the week (our Sunday) and was the first true Christian holiday observed by the early church and the reason they began to meet on the first day of the week rather than on the last day.

I've written about this many times and in my book. Here are a few links if you're interested—

Easter or Resurrection Sunday?

So, what are you celebrating on Easter? It's easy to react to the idea of a pagan origin to Easter but the resurrection of Christ is biblical and important. It really doesn't matter what you call the day (Rom 14:5-9). What is important is why we celebrate it.

A traditional greeting for Resurrection Sunday is for one person to say, "He is risen!" and for others to reply, "He is risen indeed!" That is the essence of our hope in Jesus.

A simple way to get a true perspective on Holy Week, or Passion Week if you prefer, is to read the account of it all in the Bible. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the power of the story—God's story of redemption through His Son Jesus—trying to sort out the what and why.

Not that understanding isn't important, it is, but understanding often comes as we immerse ourselves in the story itself. When you read—allow yourself to soak in all that is written, even read it aloud, so you can see it with your mind's eye. Reading more dynamic versions of the Bible may help and you can also listen to audio versions of the Bible.

Understanding often comes as we immerse ourselves in the story itself

Here are some reading suggestions so you can do that—

Scripture Readings

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

  • Matthew Chaps 26–27
  • Mark Chaps 14–15
  • Luke Chaps 22–23
  • John Chaps 13–17 and 18–19

Resurrection Sunday

  • Matthew 28
  • Mark 16
  • Luke 24
  • John 20–21
He is risen! He is risen indeed!

 

Are You Ready?

Photo credit: youinsport.com

Photo credit: youinsport.com

Readiness is important when an important task is at hand. In the book of Second Samuel, a messenger named Ahimaaz (A-hee-ma-oz) wanted to bring a message to King David. His father was an important priest named Zadok whom the King trusted.

However, the news to be sent was not good, so King David’s general, Joab, chose to send a different messenger.

In those days, certain messengers were sent based on the content of the message; one was sent when it was good news, another with bad news, and another who could bring either good or bad news. Ahimaaz was a messenger for good news.

An incomplete message

The story unfolds in the eighteenth chapter of 2nd Samuel after King Absalom died in battle. He was David’s rebellious son who stole the hearts of Israel and staged a coup that sent King David running for his life.

Though Absalom had become his enemy, he was King David’s favored son. Joab knew the news of his son’s death would devastate David, so he wanted to send a more neutral messenger, a Cushite. (1)

However, Ahimaaz, because of his devotion to King David, wanted to bring the message. Joab’s response was, ”Why will you run, my son, since you have no news ready?" (2 Sam 18:22 NKJV) Since Ahimaaz insisted on running, Joab gave him permission.

Ahimaaz out runs the Cushite and arrives first, but is told to stand aside because his message is incomplete—it lacked the news most important to David—news about the life of his son, Absalom.

In many ways, Christian believers are more like Ahimaaz than the Cushite. When delivering the message of God’s story of reconciliation (the gospel), it is often incomplete. The part left out of the gospel is the Lord Jesus’ resurrection.

The resurrection

The resurrection is what guarantees forgiveness from sin, and the believer’s hope in eternal life. It also gives insight into the mystery of this earthly, physical body being changed into a new, indestructible body, which enables a person to enter and live in the presence of God.

Paul reminded the believers in Corinth about the foundation of all he taught them. He exhorted them to continue to believe in the full truth of this gospel and not listen to teaching contrary to it. If they allowed false teaching to influence them, it would jeopardize the work of God’s grace in their lives.

God's story

Additionally, Paul delivered the gospel they heard and received in person. This may seem incidental but is very relevant. The gospel is not just truth about God passed on by any means available, it is God’s story—the personal testimony of God. It relates how God rescued humanity through His Son, Jesus. God's story is most effective when it’s told person to person.

The believers in Corinth heard the gospel preached to them with apostolic authority. God gave this authority to Paul, His apostle, and messenger, to preach the gospel to the Corinthians. It was God’s story relayed by God’s messenger.

Once they received the gospel as true, they began to live their lives in a different way. The foundation of their lives was a new destiny, one of eternal life in the presence of God. Paul exhorted them to continue, not only to believe but to live according to what they believe, “unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:1, 2).

3 Important truths

Paul reminded them of three things about the resurrection and the gospel (1 Cor 15:1-3)—

  1. It is the most important truth
  2. He personally received the gospel from God
  3. It agreed with the OT Scriptures

First of all, the gospel is the essential foundation for all Christian believers. All other teachings must be considered in light of the gospel. Secondly, Paul passed on what was revealed to him by God. This is what all believers are to do—share with others what God reveals to them.

Lastly, the truth of the gospel is found in the Scriptures given to the chosen people of God, the Jews. The history of God’s first relationships with people is linked with the gospel.

Adam, the first man, had a face-to-face relationship with God prior to sin’s interference. God’s relationship with Abraham was significant because Abraham was considered righteous on the basis of his personal trust in God. Both men and their relationships with God are found in the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Experiencing God's grace

Many of our national staff at Rainbow Village Ministries were staunch Roman Catholic, but they lacked the assurance of eternal life. Entrenched in their religious beliefs and traditions, they refused to consider a personal relationship with God by grace.

Anya (her nickname) was a faithful Roman Catholic who would argue dogmatically against the “Born Again” gospel of grace. (2) But during a women’s retreat hosted by another ministry, Anya came to believe in Jesus in a more personal way—based not on religious conviction, but on God’s grace—His unearned favor. Her testimony for days and weeks later was, “I feel so different inside.”

She experienced a spiritual transformation in her heart that changed her entire life. She continues to live as a born again believer because she experienced God’s favor, acceptance, and resurrection power in her life.

Are you ready?

There are various versions of an urban legend about the vanishing hitchhiker. One of those stories tells of a hitchhiker who announces "the Lord is coming soon!" Then asks, "Are you ready?" When the driver looks to answer him, he's disappeared!

Indeed, we do need to be ready for the Lord's return, whether you're a believer or not.  But there's another readiness all believers need—a readiness to share God's story with others.

This is a major point in my book, The Mystery of the Gospel, Unraveling God's Story. Sadly, many believers are like Ahimaaz, their version of the gospel story is incomplete and they're not ready to share God's story of redemption with others.

The resurrection of Christ is essential to understand and include when sharing God's redemptive story with others. But first, you need to be familiar with it yourself so you can communicate it to others in a simple, clear way.

How about you? Are you ready?

Are you ready to share God's Story with others?

Here are some Bible references to help you—

  • The resurrection story— Luke 24:1-12
  • Why the resurrection is important— 1 Corinthians 15:1-24

(1) Reference— 2 Sam 18:19-33– The context of this story makes this distinction more clear. The Cushite (a foreigner) could bring either good or bad news, whereas Ahimaaz was more known for good news (note verse 27).

(2) “Born again” is the common tag for evangelical believers or those of the Protestant faith within the Philippines, as a distinction from Roman Catholicism. This is a reference to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3 and what many evangelicals tell Catholics they need.

Shame, Blame, and Consequences

unsplash / veerterzy

unsplash / veerterzy

What's the purpose of an investigation? In an objective sense, it's a (hopefully) systematic examination of facts that includes observations and draws a conclusion. When an investigation is done, whoever is conducting it may say they want to "discover the truth... uncover facts, or get to the bottom of this," whatever that might mean.

I tend to be a bit cynical about investigations, especially if there's an agenda. The motivation becomes a search to discover a certain truth. In other words, it becomes a search for who to blame more than seeking some objective truth.

The crazy thing is, we play the blame game a lot, either to place blame, shift it, or dodge it altogether. Why? It comes naturally!

The next episode

Over the past two weeks, I've looked at the beginning of all stories in a simple way. First, we looked at the Creation story, which culminated in the creation of people in God's image.

Next, I considered how what started as innocence in paradise ended in shame, along with why this happened.

But all of this is only the beginning of God's story of redemption. This post will focus on what comes next—shame, blame, and the consequences of a choice by the first woman and man.

Where are you?

After eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, the man and woman—Adam and Eve (Gen 3:20-21)—realized they were naked, experienced shame, and tried to cover their shame.

God came through the garden paradise and expected to see His most prized creations. But they hid from God. The Lord called out to the man, "Where are you?" So, Adam explained they were hiding because they were naked. They were ashamed.

God's next question zeroed in on their problem. "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"

A very personal relationship

Let's pause in the story to consider the nature of this situation. The relationship between God and the man and woman was personal. They communicated to one another directly.

The man and woman each had a personal independent and free will, yet they knew God for who He was—their Creator and the Creator of all things.

Their freedom was only limited by one command—not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of, as I call it, the FOMO tree.

Once Adam and Eve's distrust of God and their choice to ignore God's command was discovered, a cascade of consequences began. The primary consequence was a change in their relationship with God.

The blame game

As soon as God asks Adam if he ate of the forbidden tree, he blames Eve, "The woman whom you gave to be with me...." (Gen 3:12)

Do you see how quickly the man shifts the blame (responsibility) back onto God and the woman.?

The woman is also quick to blame the serpent, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." Now, what she said was true, but she was quick to deflect blame just as the man did (Gen 3:13).

The serpent didn't have this option and God deals with him first.

The consequences

Before diving into the cascade of consequences, it's important to note that God also suffers a consequence from all of this. His beautiful creation was disrupted and only He could set things right again.

Within the consequences that follow, a prophetic promise of redemption is included.

The serpent

The first consequence is putting a curse on the serpent. From this point on the serpent would have to crawl on its belly and "eat dust" (Gen 3:14). So, apparently, the serpent went from being clever to being cursed—a snake below all other creatures.

Also, there would be an ongoing conflict with the woman's offspring (seed) and the serpent's offspring. The serpent's head would be crushed after he bruised the heel of the woman's offspring (Gen 3:15).

The woman

The woman's three-fold consequence starts with pain, increased pain when giving birth to children. I've watched my wife give birth to our four children and I can confirm that this consequence continues. 

The other consequences go together. Here's what the text says—

Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (Gen 3:16 ESV)

The original language (Hebrew) indicates that it's more like—

"You will want to rule your husband, but he will rule over you." (similar to Gen 4:7)

The man

Because the man gave into the woman and ate the fruit, the very ground he was taken from in creation would now be cursed (Gen 3:17). In a sense, this is where all environmental problems began (Rom 8:19-22).

Now the ground would be infested with thorns and thistles and painful work. He worked in the garden before, but now things would be different. No more paradise watered by God. Now his work would be watered with his own sweat (Gen 3:18-19).

The curse of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree would be death. This is what God commanded the man before the woman existed (Gen 2:17). It's here the continuing cycle of birth and death began—

...for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen 3:19)

God

How did God suffer consequences? He had to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness and shame with the first animal sacrifice (Gen 3:21).

Then the Triune Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—had to banish the man and woman and their offspring from the garden they once ruled.

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” (Gen 3:22 NIV)

God posted a great angel with a flaming sword at the east end the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Not only was God's beautiful paradise spoiled, so also was the very personal relationship He had with Adam and Eve.

The promise of redemption

If the man and woman ate of the tree of life, they and all other generations would be condemned to a life of shame and endless death with no hope of redemption.

The light at the end of the tunnel of the cycle of birth and death is found in the curse of the serpent—

I will put animosity between you and the woman— between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head, and you will crush his heel. (Gen 3:15 TLV)

When Jesus was crucified on the cross, it appeared all had been lost. The Messiah was killed and His followers and others thought that was the end.

The serpent (the devil) deceived Judas Iscariot into betraying Jesus so He would be crucified, but there's more to this prophetic promise. "He will crush your head."

This is what God said to the serpent and it came to pass through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Col 2:13-15).

His glorious resurrection restored hope beyond death and opened the door of redemption for all humanity!

Do you realize when you look for blame or defend and justify yourself?

Have you personally experienced God's redemptive love in your life?


This week is often referred to as Holy Week. We look ahead to Good Friday in remembrance of Jesus' death on the cross and to Easter Sunday—Resurrection Sunday.

Easter is our reminder of God's redemption—our rescue by Him from the sentence of eternal death and the promise of eternal life—through a personal trust relationship with the Lord.