And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
ISAIAH 25:7-9 (ESV)
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
COLOSSIANS 1:13-14 (ESV)
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
ROMANS 6:8-11 (ESV)
You know, we’ve spent centuries trying to find the perfect words to describe exactly what happened, and nothing seems to fit.
We’ve tried using sports analogies to summarize it. Maybe it’s a comeback narrative, we think. But could it really be a comeback win when God called his shot way back in the Old Testament, generations before the Spirit came to Mary?
We’ve tried seeing if dramatic narratives could work. Maybe it’s really like a twist ending, the kind M. Night Shyamalan or Jordan Peele might create. But that isn’t quite right either. After all, God kept spoiling the ending with promises made long before that night it all started in a Bethlehem barn.
War analogies are another favorite of ours. The victorious hero wages battle against a foe and triumphs in bloody victory when defeat seemed assured. Maybe that’s a little closer. But what kind of war has ever been won by dying on a battlefield?
When it comes down to it, when we’re confronted with the awesome creativity and power of God’s salvation, our words seem as empty as the tomb Jesus left behind. How could we begin to describe what happened? Nothing really seems to fit because there is nothing really like it. Resurrection stands alone.
The more Easters I celebrate, the more I think that’s kind of the point. It’s the grandest tale ever told, but it really floats on the simplest of terms. Darkness. Light. Despair. Hope. Death. Life. Sorrow. Joy. We could color these with vivid pictures and creative analogies. And there’s certainly a place for this in the Church and its art. But we can’t truly add anything to these words. Men, women, adults, children – we can all see what was at stake before and after Jesus. In the clearest understanding, we know that this darkness, this sorrow, this hopelessness was ours. It covered us. It filled us. Before Jesus.
We’ve come to the end of these forty days together, and we’ve spent mornings of prayer and devotion reflecting on how often we turn to fading lights, false hopes, and fleeting joys to treat this pervasive death. Temptations abound, threatening to steal our trust and deviate our paths. But we know these things cannot sustain, though they promise much. Eventually, we are confronted with the reality of resurrection. What can’t be explained away or discarded, what breaks the limits of our understanding, comes to us straight for the heart, cuts deep, and speaks with clarity to command our attention. Though the words to describe all of this might elude us, the choice we have in it is clear. It’s simple. We have either darkness or light. Despair or hope. Death or life. Sorrow or joy.
Everything before the glorious Gospel must bend or break. Either it bows down, or it blows away. In this, the Gospel is totally unlike any other story or any other narrative. Maybe this is why it’s so difficult to wrap our heads around it all. It isn’t so much that we describe the Gospel, but that it describes us.
From the humility of his birth to the scandal of grace borne on the cross, Jesus wrote what no other author could, paid the debt that no other deposit could, and spoke the life that no other voice could. The story we are living is Jesus’ to tell. And told it, he did.
This is the Good News. More than a tale told of a comeback win or a surprising twist or a battle scene, the Gospel tells us that we are Jesus’ prize, the goal of his work, and the joy of his victory. We are not forgotten or cast aside or left to die but are given life and joy and hope in abundance. What God promised, He fulfilled, and the savior has come that we might be set free forever.
There has never been a story like the one Jesus wrote for you. And what he has written, none can take away. “The Lord has spoken.” It is finished. The tomb is empty. The grave is overcome. Rejoice!
Jesus thank you for the gift of new life that I could never have earned or secured on my own. You heard my cry. You knew my despair. And you met every need and mended every wound in my heart. You carried every tear and every pain on your cross, and on the other side of resurrection, I know you carried my joy there too. Thank you that your love for me never wavered, that it pressed on unto death. I’m here because of you. You are my joy and my strength. Help me to proclaim that loudly today. AMEN.
You who were once dead to sin are now alive in Jesus. He knows every tear you’ve shed and came that you might have his joy in abundance. So celebrate that life today. Find a place, find a people, find a song. You are whom God spoke about in Isaiah 25. Make the words of that passage your own: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him… let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”