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At the close of last year, we remembered the events of September 11, 2001. Many could recall where they were, what they were doing, when the Twin Towers in New York were leveled in a terrorist attack. Many commemorated those who died, those who fought for survivors, those who rescued the injured. And part of the overflow of those times of remembrance is the realization that we live in a Post-911 world.

We could want things to be different. We might not recall the details of that terrible day. We may not wish to remember the suffering and the loss. Even the heroic efforts, tinged with sadness and tragedy, might begin to fade in our minds. But we cannot undo those events. Our world has been forever shaped by 911. We live in a Post-911 world and that cannot be changed.

What has changed in the world because of 911? At the head of the list is the altered conditions of flying. No longer can friends say good-by at the gates or greet you when you deplane. What you can and cannot carry on is scrutinized. X-rays, body scanners, pat-downs all become normal for flyers. In airport terminals, bus depots, train stations, and busy street corners, unattended packages are grounds for extreme suspicion, even near-panic. Unattended anythings warrant suspicion. The government has increased its reach into our lives, arguing that the ramp up in surveillance is for our good and our national safety.

I have no desire to evaluate the positive or negative impact of such changes. I am only noting that we live in a Post-911 world and that our lives have been changed because of that event–and there is no going back. We can imagine what life would be like without that event, we can try to live like it never happened, we can attempt to minimize the impact of that event on our daily life, but we cannot erase what happened or how it has forever altered the world in which we live.

Even more so, we live in a world that has been forever altered by an event that happened one Sunday morning a few thousand years ago. Obviously, I am referring to Easter. But just as it has become easy to settle into the kind of life we have to life Post-911 without really recognizing what happened that changed our world and how the world was changed, I think it is easy to slip into living in a Post-Resurrection world without recognizing what happened that changed our world and how the world was changed by that event.

What has changed because of that remarkable Sunday? Access to God was forever altered by the Resurrection. The power of death was dealt a death-blow in the rising of the Son. An entirely new kind of life became available to the believing through the events of that first Easter. Centuries-old divine promises were confirmed, long-awaited hope was fulfilled, glory anticipated through the ages was revealed, clarity was brought to the outworking of God’s forever plan. We can imagine what life would be like without that event, we can try to live like it never happened, we can attempt to minimize the impact of that event on our daily life, but we cannot erase what happened or how it has forever altered the world in which we live.

The trajectory of your life–particularly if you are a follower of Jesus–was pre-written in the resurrection. Your destiny was secured, your status with the living God was anchored, your slavery to sin was overthrown, your alienation from holiness was undone. All in the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

We remember Easter. That is good. But what is even better is for the reality that we live in a Post-Resurrection world to come home to us. We should press beyond merely recalling those events of the past, beyond remembering what happened. We should live in the ever-overwhelming recognition that our lives, our world, the universe, eternity have been forever altered by Easter.

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In Jesus’ exchange with his friends in the upper room before his betrayal and death, three times he underscored what he wanted them to understand by introducing a remark by saying, “Truly, truly” (or “Amen, Amen;” a Hebraic expression that serves as something of a verbal underscore of what follows). The three times Jesus uses this expression are John 14:12; 16:20 and 16:23. (See the post “Are We Sure About That?” and previous posts on the John 14:12.)

The second time Jesus uses this introductory phrase, he is talking about his impending death.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned to joy.” (John 16:20)

In anticipating his crucifixion, Jesus makes a few clear assertions:

The world–those who are not part of his fellowship of friends–are going to rejoice over the event.

His followers will weep and lament and grieve–they will taste real sorrow.

His followers will not remain in grief–they will end up with real joy.

One of the intriguing things about what Jesus says here is that the same root word is is used to speak of the rejoicing of the world at his death and the joy of the disciples that will be theirs. There will be evident joy, expressed delight–first for the world in Jesus’ death and then, subsequently, for the followers of Jesus.

If you were at the cross, watching as Jesus’ life flowed out in blood, you would have seen. The religious leaders were making light of Jesus’ crucifixion. They jeered him, abused him, were glad that this trouble-maker was going to be finally put to rest. The soldiers at the foot of the cross were gambling for the belongings of the condemned. It would have been evident that both Romans and Jews were glad to be rid of Jesus–their joy in seeing him removed from the picture would have been clear.

Yes, the followers of Jesus experienced sorrow and grief at his death. Watching from a distance, their eyes would have been filled with tears and their hearts filled with anguish. But that was not going to last. As certain as was their sorrow, as certain the world’s rejoicing, so certain would be their heart-felt and evident joy.

Jesus explains this, drawing on the illustration of a woman giving birth. The pain of the childbirth brings anguish. But such anguish is short-lived and not-remembered, overwhelmed in the joy of the birth of the child. Applying this metaphor, Jesus says, “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (14:22).

The joy the mother has in the birth of her child is an evident, expressive joy. The joy the disciples will have in seeing the risen Savior will be an evident, expressive joy.

I wonder. Am I living in this “Truly, truly” truth of Jesus? Seeing as we are living in the post-resurrection world, I wonder if I am genuinely living in the heart-rejoicing, “no one will take your joy away” kind of delight in our risen and living Friend?

 

 

 

 

 

In the popular film “The Princess Bride,” the yet-to-be hero Westley has been rescued from imprisonment and torture by the intrepid Inigo Montoya. Westley appears to be dead. So, Inigo takes him to “Miracle Max” (played by the hilarious Billy Crystal) in hopes of obtaining some help. When they meet up with Max, this wacky provider of things miraculous decides he needs to ask Westley why he should be revived. Max wants to know whether the cause he is about to participate in is truly noble.

Miracle Max: I’ll ask him [referring to Westley, lying seemingly beyond help on the table].

Inigo Montoya: He’s dead. He can’t talk.

Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo. Look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.

I know. It’s a strange lead in to a reflection on life in Christ. But Miracle Max’s reference to someone who is only “mostly dead” does reflect the thinking of many followers of Jesus (and those who have yet to come to faith in him). And the result is we end up neither thinking well about our lives before coming to know Jesus nor do we grasp the magnitude of what happened to us in coming to know him.

Listen to how Paul explains what happens when someone places his or her faith in Jesus in his letter to the Colossians:

You were also raised up with [Jesus] through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, [God] made you alive together with [Jesus]. (Colossians 2:12-13)

What does this mean? Well, among other things Paul is saying that we were dead to God–not just “mostly dead,” which would mean slightly alive to God. Before entering into relationship with Jesus, all people are dead . . . really, truly, spiritually dead to God. I know, you may not have felt dead (or might not feel dead if you have not yet come to faith in Jesus). But that feeling is misleading. The truth is that apart from faith in Christ Jesus, you were, we were, all people are dead.

But then this also means that something far more amazing and glorious and good and delightful happened then we tend to grasp. We were made alive together with Jesus. And not just mostly alive . . . which might mean slightly dead!

Something really happens in the soul when someone believes. Yes, the believing one is forgiven and the offense of sin is dealt with. But something more “organic,” something substantial, happens in the soul. This is not a journey from being mostly dead to becoming mostly alive. Having been fully dead to God, the believing one is made fully alive to God!

Over coffee (and my hot chocolate), I was discussing with a friend how we are to “do” this life with Jesus. We thought together about daily life, marriage, fathering, relationships, worship. We honestly talked about the challenges and the longings for a different, richer, fuller life with Jesus. And I raised the idea that we do, indeed, share in Jesus’ own life. He can and does change us because we are “with him.”

And with words that resonate at times with what goes through my own mind and heart, my friend said, “Well, that’s nice . . . theoretically.” He affirmed that there was some measure of “truth” in what we were talking about regarding our sharing in Jesus’ own life . . . but he honestly and sadly spoke to the fear that seems to arise in many of us.

“Nice words, but it’s not real.”

“Sounds right, but it’s not what I see in my daily life.”

Where is the disconnect between Gospel truth and where we live? Why does it only sound “theoretically good” but practically valueless?

Paul, in writing to the Colossians, speaks about what is really real for every follower of Jesus. He notes:

In [Jesus] you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, [God] made you alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:10-14)

When I read these words, I “get” (to a small degree) the idea of “forgiven for all our transgressions.” I can understand that some kind of divine transaction was made and, as result of the work of the cross, I am set free from the condemnation I would be due for my sins. Kind of a “contractual agreement” between the Father and the Son, implemented by the Spirit, that has us as the beneficiaries of such grace.

But what I don’t always “get” (even in a small degree) is that something more than a functional transaction happened in the cross and comes home to me through faith. What I sometimes miss–both conceptual and tangibly in life–is that I have been alive in Christ Jesus. He died, really, actually, to satisfy God’s justify with regard to my sins. He rose from the dead, really, actually, to impart his own resurrection, heart-altering, empowered life to me.

It’s one thing to realize that because of Jesus I am really forgiven. It is another thing altogether to realize that because of Jesus something has so radically changed in me, by grace, by God’s doing, that it is as mind-blowing as going from being dead (which we were) to being alive (which we are in Christ Jesus).

Can you imagine Lazarus, having been “called out” of the grace by Jesus, stumbling out of that darkness and death and arising from among the tombs, rationalizing about whether he really could or should live? Of course not! He is alive. He was dead. Something changed him. And all he has to do is to live in that newness, to surrender to that really real new life.

If Lazarus had thought it was simply a dream, a delusion, a fleeting and phantom thought, when they came to take the grave-clothes off of him, he might have resisted saying, “Leave me be. I’m just dead. That voice I heard might have theoretically raised someone from the dead . . . but it’s just not for me. Nothing really happened. This dream will pass. Let me just shuffle back into the tomb.”

So what are we telling ourselves? Are we being honest about what is really real?

If we don’t embrace what is true about us because of what Jesus has done, we will find it nigh to impossible to live the life we have been freed to live.

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