Let Christ Easter In Us

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.

The Lord is Risen, indeed. Alleluia.

So we proclaim in word and song, drama, graphic arts, colored eggs, Easter finery, festive meals, jelly beans, and chocolate.

But what does it mean? How is Christ alive for us in this year of our Lord 2023.

Certainly it has to mean more than simply remembering events that occurred nearly 20 centuries ago. The image is of a tomb carved out of rock with a large stone rolled to the side of the entrance. Within is a flat rock, large enough to lay out a human body, with some folded linen at one end. 

But, in itself, an empty tomb means nothing. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew says that guards had been assigned to watch the tomb. When the guards reported to the chief priests that the stone was rolled away and the body missing, the priests paid the soldiers to say, “Jesus’ disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.”

In addition to the empty tomb, there were Jesus sightings.

The earliest Gospel, Mark, has no resurrection appearance, but Matthew had two women see Jesus near the tomb and then he appeared to the eleven disciples in Galilee. Luke has a story about two of Jesus’ followers meeting him on the road to Emmaus, but they didn’t recognize him until they had dinner together that evening.

Luke also reported an appearance to Simon and to the “eleven and their companions” in an upper room. The Gospel of John had Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, two appearances in the Upper Room a week apart, and then a final time on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. 

But what does it mean? What do we do with the resurrection once we proclaim it and make it Christian doctrine and put it in a Creed? Does the resurrection have legs that can carry it past today out into Easter Monday and beyond? 

Certainly, for many of our contemporaries it has no meaning at all. I think of those adults at the Greene last week who, during an Easter Egg hunt, pushed little children out of the way and actually stole eggs out of their hands. For others, the Resurrection of Jesus is an important story that reflects hope for life in heaven beyond this life—but it has no particular meaning in the present . . . in our everyday world.

Is there any way that Christ is alive today in the 21st century?

There’s another resurrection appearance described in The Book of The Acts of the Apostles. It was Jesus who appeared to Saul of Tarsus as he was on the road to Damascus. Saul had been a Pharisee, a zealot in persecuting the followers of Jesus. In fact, he was headed to Damascus to arrest the “people of the Way” as the Christians were then called, probably 5 or 6 years after the first Easter. This was not a bodily appearance as in the gospel accounts. It was a vision, a bright light, and the voice of Jesus calling to Saul.[1]

Some years later, Saul, then known as Paul, wrote about the experience. In fact, it’s the earliest written resurrection story, penned 30-35 years before the earliest Gospel account. In his Letter to the Galatians St. Paul wrote:

When God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles.[2]

Pauline scholar Larry Welborn points out that the phrase “reveal his Son to me” is mis-translated in most English versions. What it really says in the original Greek is “reveal his Son in me.” 

If the resurrection is an event revealed to me, it’s external, objective. But if the risen Christ is in me, then it’s internal, subjective. It becomes personal. 

One of the ways that Jesus is risen is that he lives in us. 

Bishop N.T. Wright has written extensively on the resurrection of Jesus and on the implications.  In addressing its core meaning, he observes that the meaning of Easter is not “Christ has been raised, therefore we shall be raised,” but rather “Christ has been raised, therefore the kingdom of God has begun, and therefore we’ve got a job to do.” [3]  

Use that lens and go back to look at all the resurrection appearances in the Gospels. In every one of them, people are instructed to do something: “Go tell, go proclaim, go baptize, go make disciples, go teach, go feed, go love.”

John puts it succinctly when he has Jesus say to his followers in the upper room on Easter evening, “As the Father has sent me, so now I send you.”[4]

The other day at the Maundy Thursday worship, we remembered the time when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. The traditional words used as we receive the bread can be misleading. We say, “The body of Christ,” as if it’s somehow contained in that piece of symbolic bread. But we, the Baptized, are the body of Christ. Perhaps it’d be better to say as we receive the bread, “You are the Body of Christ.” It’s truly the body of Christ only when it reminds us that we are to be Christ for the world. 

This is how resurrection happens today—when Jesus is alive in his people, the Church. As Wendell Berry put it when he ended a poem with the simple line, “Practice Resurrection.”[5]

Let Jesus Easter in you as you stand in the dark and dying and dead places of this world. Let him Easter in you as you tell, proclaim, make disciples, forgive, teach, feed, visit, touch, and love in his name. Let him Easter in you.


[1] Acts 9:3-7

[2] Galatians 1:15-16

[3] The Resurrection of Jesus : John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in Dialogue, Robert B. Stewart, ed., Augsburg Fortress Press, 2006.

[4] John 20:21

[5] Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front. 

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