Easter might seem quite a long way away now but there were times during both the Good Friday evening meeting and the Sunday morning Easter day celebration and baptism service when I was quite aware of the awesome honour of knowing Christ.
To be singing his praise from the reality of knowing him struck me forcibly. To be in the building amongst God’s people was such a privilege, when I could have been anywhere else and not know Jesus, being ‘without God and without hope in the world’ as the Bible describes life without Christ. How much we have to be thankful for when we know the Saviour.
Life has considerable challenges. I can say as well as anyone else that at times you have to dig deep into the grace of God and live a very dependant day to day walk with Jesus. But in the midst of that, what would it be like to live life in this world without Christ? What resources are there for people to draw on in an increasingly mad and bad world?!!
| The two natures of Christ
I thought quite a bit this Easter in preparing for the preaching, about the two natures of Christ in one person. The mystery of his humanity and his divinity: never blurred or mixed but always clear and distinct. Never less than God so he is sinful like me and therefore cannot save me. Never more than a man and therefore unlike me, so he cannot represent me and be a second Adam. These things are hard to even find words to convey but we must try. We must not let Christ be ‘warped’ by art, media, popular culture, or 21st century folklore.
There are some challenges in the resurrection story but they must be approached whilst holding these two important truths side by side. Jesus was fully man and fully God.
A physical resurrection
When Jesus rose, it was a physical bodily resurrection of a human being from the dead. He was not living on in their hearts as a memory. Nor was he a ghost or some sort of spiritual non-physical being. He appeared to Thomas as flesh and blood, raised from the dead. That was what he still was and what he still is, the ‘firstborn’ of many brothers. We have a man in heaven today. This man has beaten death and taken humanity into heaven. He truly is the man who conquered death.
The Bible does not say that when he came to ‘doubting’ Thomas that he walked through the wall into the room, like some sort of ghost or non-physical being. It says he ‘appeared’ to them. There is a mystery in how he did this of course and it is to be acknowledged that his resurrection body was not as it was. He was modelling what we will be when we are with him for we shall be like him. But we must not take away from the fact they touched him and ate with him. We must not blur the lines of his humanity and his divinity so as to create some different non-human being.
Our hope of the resurrection of the dead is founded upon the fact a man has done it!! The man Christ Jesus. The man who was and is God himself become flesh and clothed in humanity – becoming what he previously was not, like us in every way except sin. He has risen from the dead and our bodies will likewise be raised physically from the dead at the last day. This is the biblical hope of the Christian message, not going to heaven when you die, but being raised to life bodily in a remade, renewed new heavens and new earth.
I found this helpful quote from the old Chalcedon confession about the two natures in Christ, God and man.
‘We believe that neither in the state of humiliation nor in that of exaltation are the two natures ever confused or blended, so that one partakes of the qualities of the other. We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is to be acknowledged ‘in two natures inconfusedly and unchangeably, as well as indivisibly and inseperably’ – Chalcedon confession
Easter somehow makes me feel more understood as a man by God who walked in my shoes and knows how I feel. Jesus in Marks gospel died with a ‘why?’ on his lips. We can know what it is to have many questions in life ‘Why?’ it helps me that Jesus knows what that feels like and can walk with me through it.
I felt a ‘sense of occasion’ about our Good Friday refection meeting. It was the first time we have done such a meeting. Encouraging numbers but more than that I felt the reality of the Cross so poignant amongst us. I felt God was showing me that there will come many days of many people in our midst touched by the Cross in the future. I pray with all my heart this is so and that we never loose our utter delight and dependency on Jesus.