Sometimes I think it’s hard to grasp how significant Easter really is to every part of our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the lovely traditions of the holiday – a new dress or outfit, a joyful church service, a wonderful family dinner with honey-glazed ham and an energetic Easter egg hunt afterwards with a visit from the Easter Bunny.
I’m a girl of traditions and am quite thankful for these fun aspects that bring my family together. But I also know that there have been years when Easter came and went, and I was the same girl at the end of the day. I didn’t let Easter change anything. I missed the significance deep within my heart.
My husband and I are in a Life Group at our church, meeting each Sunday afternoon with three other young couples for a time of community and accountability. A few weeks ago, we watched a Nooma video called You that caused some stirrings in my heart.
In the video, Rob Bell shared about the culture surrounding the early church and how they grasp that the resurrection and redemption that Christ brought change everything about their lives in that first century society.
At that time, it was commonplace for people to profess allegiance to Greek or Roman gods who claimed to be born of virgins, ascended into heaven or be raised from the dead. The Roman Emperor Caesar at this time even claimed to have been sent to earth by the gods to bring about a universal reign of peace and prosperity, which he attempted to claim through military might.
So when the first Christians shared that they were following Jesus, who was born of a virgin, resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven, it seemed typical in that society. And though it seemed they had a similar story, their message spread like a wildfire and the numbers joining the church grew daily. Why?
“These first Christians believed that Jesus’ resurrection had implications for the entire universe. Their tradition had taught them that the world is broken and desperately in need of repair and that at some point in the future, God was going to put it all back together. For them, this future restoration had nothing to do with leaving this world; it was all about the restoration, the renewing and the reclaiming of this world,” Bell said.
That’s why we see such a movement and impact on society by the early church, noted in Acts 2:42. Their belief in Jesus wasn’t just head knowledge. It was intentional action that touched EVERY crevice of their lives and the lives of others.
Because of Christ’s resurrection, not only did they have assurance of eternal life, but they also knew that the gospel changed life for them right at that moment. The gospel was about “serving the world, especially those on the underside of the empire,” Bell said.
Why the gospel?
In that day, gospel was a secular term. Whenever Caesar succeeded in one of his conquests, he would send out heralds to share his good news. These men were called the Greek equivalent for “evangelicals.” These men were sharing Caesar’s gospel.
But for early Christians, the gospel had nothing to do with military conquests but everything about societal and heart change. They used the term “gospel” and brought new meaning to it, describing “this new world that Jesus and his followers were making right under the nose of the empire.”
Also, in that time, Caesar used the term “ecclesia” (the Greek equivalent of “church”) to mean complete cities or villages that worshipped him as the son of the gods.
“These first Christians took this empire term “ecclesia” and they used it to describe their gatherings, the one where they confessed Jesus is Lord. Obviously the way they were living and the things they believed raised all sorts of questions for those around them,” Bell said.
The early Christ followers were trying to reclaim their culture by living differently, intentionally. The Christ followers lived life with people around them in their cities, but they intentionally invited people to eat with them, to celebrate and suffer with them. Their days were filled with feeding the hungry, bringing dignity to the poor and loving the lonely.
When society saw this intentional community, this left many questioning who they thought was Lord – Caesar or Jesus?
“To them (the early followers), the gospel was an invitation to a whole new way of life. And they lived this way because they had this profoundly mystical understanding of what they were doing with their lives… They believed the church was a living, breathing display of a whole new world God was brining about right here, right now.”
The believers in the early church not only had powerful convictions, they had mighty actions that backed their beliefs. They believed the gospel could and would change the world now and they acted accordingly.
As I sat watching this video, soaking in the picture of the generous, abundantly loving early church, the Lord spoke sweet words to my heart, “This is what Easter is about. It’s about not only believing that Jesus is alive today, but that the power of the resurrection brings redemption right now and in the life to come.”
At that moment, I think I realized why past Easters have come and gone without me paying much attention – I had forgotten that the gospel changes life now and I wasn’t letting that redemption be lived out in my life each day or flow to others around me.
Just like the early church, we still live in an angry, messed up world that needs to know there is hope, that there is a way to bring restoration to the brokenness that exists.
When Christ followers live displaying compassion and generosity, by extending grace to others, others start believing that God hasn’t given up on the world.
“That’s the gospel… the gospel is the good news that God has not given up on the world. That the tomb is empty and a giant resurrection rescue is underway and that you and I can be a part of it,” Bell said.
When your life is lived in a way where Christ’s redemption flows to every part of your being, you become a beacon of light for others who need the same hope you now have, the same redemption that has flowed through you. You become the gospel, an example of the good news!
“Broken, flawed vulnerable people like you and me are invited to be the hands and feet of a Jesus who loves us just the way we are but loves us way to much to let us stay that way,” he said.
Signs of Christ’s resurrection and redemption are all around us. Do you see them? Do you notice these redemptive signs and movements in your own heart, your own life?
This Easter, let’s celebrate the redemption Christ poured on us when He conquered sin and death. Let’s live in such a way that the good news of Easter, that extreme love and grace is played out before those around us each day where they are left asking, “Will I follow my way? Or will I follow Christ?”
I, like many of you, have been watching the cable television mini-series on Sunday evenings “The Bible.” Personally, I think it has been fairly well done. Putting thousands of years of Biblical history and action into ten hours of television has to be an enormous challenge. I watched with interest how the director portrayed the request of the people of Israel for a king like the other nations around them had, rather than to adhere to the pleas of Samuel to allow God to be their one and only King. Full Story »
Since becoming a mom, my whole perspective about Easter has changed. My two-year-old daughter is like a walking/talking embodiment of my heart. Each day I become more amazed at how much my love continues to grow for her. Full Story »