Well, it is finally here! This long anticipated week has finally arrived! If you are a sports fan, the only time of the year with more anticipation and excitement greater than this week might possibly be Super Bowl week. If you are a basketball fan, March Madness has just finished! (Congratulations to the UConn Huskies and the LSU Tigers!) If you are a golf aficionado, this is Masters Week, one of the highest and most sought after titles in professional golf. If you are in school, for many schools, this is Spring Break week. This week is one for vacations and excitement in many areas of thinking.
But I am not talking about sports. I am not talking about Spring Break. This week is Holy Week. It is the highlight of the Christian year. This week has been anticipated in many Christian movements through the consideration of the Lenten season. During this week, those who follow the Christian tradition often rehearse and recall the movements of Jesus on that first Holy Week so long ago. Church traditions vary, but many celebrate Jesus’ movements through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and conclude with a variety of celebratory events on Resurrection Sunday (Some call it Easter Sunday!).
For those who follow Christ, this holiday marks the conclusion of Jesus’ life and earthly ministry. It moves us through the agony of the cross and celebrates the beauty and wonder of the Savior who died for the sins of the world and rose again on the third day, guaranteeing those who follow Him with the gift of eternal life and the hope of resurrection themselves.
In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews we discover that, in an act of enormous courage and defiance, Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2) and then, significantly, that he is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and ascension—the going down and coming up of the Son of God—open the way not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but also for the lifting of our shame. For these are ingredients in the accepting grace of God and in the invitation to union with God’s Son.
One of the most glorious and amazing aspects of the Resurrection is the reality, not just the thought, of forgiveness. Karl Menninger, in his book Whatever Became of Sin?, describes a very interesting scene in The Loop in downtown Chicago. It seems that every day, during the noon lunch time when there is much pedestrian traffic, there is a strange-looking man standing like a statue on a street corner, wildly looking at the people passing by. Every so often, he will look straight into the eyes of a passer-by, raise his hand, point his finger at the individual and loudly shout for all to hear, “GUILTY!” Then he will slowly lower his arm, turn in a different direction and perform the same action toward another person on the crowded street. Just one word, but it had a profound impact upon those passing by. One of those to whom he pointed was overheard asking one of her associates, “But how did HE know?” Forgiveness is something we all need – and whether we want to admit it or not, we know it!
In John 19:30, we read that Jesus’ cry from the cross is “It is finished.” This is the Greek word tetelestai. This word was used in commerce at the time. It was often written across a bill to indicate that the bill was paid in full. The resurrection is the receipt that God gave humanity that Jesus’ death did, indeed, pay the full price of our sins. (The world’s sins are not enough to keep Christ in the grave! His resurrection is proof that our sins are forgiven!)
When I contemplate this thought of forgiveness, two major considerations jump out of the pages of Scripture. First, forgiveness was costly (the cross), but because of the resurrection, there should not be lingering guilt for sin. If God slew his own son and kept him in the grave, every time we sinned the guilt would be too much! We’d say, “It’s because of sins like this that Jesus is no longer with us!” But the resurrection means that no sin is so heinous that we cannot forgive ourselves. Some of us have done some pretty foul things in our time. The empty tomb means that they’re forgotten and forgiven!
The second thought follows right out of the first. Since, as a follower of Christ, your sins have been forgiven and forgotten, you have no right to withhold forgiveness from someone else. You need to forgive your spouse, your friend, your boss, your neighbor, and even your enemies. If God in Christ has forgiven all people, for me to withhold forgiveness says that I am more righteous than God! And it’s to say that Christ’s death was not adequate. Friends, that’s blasphemy. You’ve got to let it go! You’ve got to forgive that person his pocket change because God has forgiven you your millions!
To sum up: life, relationship, forgiveness, sanctification, the future, sanctity of the body. A whole philosophy, an entire world view, is wrapped up in the resurrection of Christ. Act as if your life depends on the resurrection of Christ—because it does!
He is risen! He is risen! That is the best news any of us can receive for ourselves, and it is the best news we can possibly tell a dying world!
Happy Resurrection Sunday!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for this newspaper and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at [email protected].