“Seven Stanzas at Easter”

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

—John Updike, “Seven Stanzas at Easter” from Telephone Poles and Other Poems

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Resurrection Perspective

It was not that the disciples of Jesus were more stupid than other human beings and therefore “just didn’t get it.” It was that neither they nor we can “get it” until we know how the story ends. The birth, ministry, and death of Jesus must be understood in light of the resurrection or the understanding will be greatly diminished. It is no accident that the observance of Christian time, the day and the week and the year, is grounded in and organized around the resurrection celebration.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 27-28

Easter Joy

O GOD OF MY EXODUS,
Great was the joy of Israel’s sons
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.
Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives forever.
He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.
Show me herein the proof that His vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that His wrongful throne is levelled.
Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in Him I rose,
in His life I live, in His victory I triumph,
in His ascension I shall be glorified.
Adorable Redeemer,
Thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to highest heaven.
Thou, who as man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.
Once, no shame more deep than Thine,
no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.
Thou art in the triumph car leading captive Thine enemies behind Thee.
What more could be done than Thou hast done!
Thy death is my life, Thy resurrection my peace,
Thy ascension my hope, Thy prayers my comfort.

—from The Valley of Vision

What Has God Done?

What has God done in raising Jesus from the dead? Here are a few biblical answers.

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, death will never have any dominion over Him again. (Romans 6:9: Acts 13:34)

Because of the resurrection, Jesus intercedes for us in heaven before God. (Romans 8:34)

Jesus’ resurrection was the beginning and guarantee of our resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:20; 2 Corinthians 4:14)

We were raised with Jesus so that our true life is hidden now in Him. (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1-4)

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are born again to a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3:)

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we now enjoy His personal fellowship with us always. (Matthew 28:20)

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, He has a name above every name and every knee will bow to Him. (Philippians 2:9-10)

The resurrection of Jesus means that Jesus kept His word. (Matthew 17:22)

The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures and the promises of God. (1 Corinthians 15:4; Acts 13:32-33)

Because Jesus was raised, He has received the promise of the Spirit and poured out the Spirit on us. (Acts 2:33)

Because Jesus is raised, He can still heal the way He did on earth. (Acts 4:10)

Because of the resurrection, He gives repentance and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31)

Because Jesus was raised, He is now appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42: Acts 17:31)

God secured our justification by raising Jesus from the dead. (Romans 4:25)

The risen Christ takes the place for us that the law once had so that we can bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, He now has the glory for which we were made. Our ultimate destiny is to see Him as He is. (1 Peter 1:21: John 17:5, 24)

—John Piper

“Easter”

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined(1) thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts(2) vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

(1) calcined. reduced to lime or other substance. (Oxford English Dictionary.) In this case reduced to our lowest commonest denominator, dust, of which we all are made.
(2) three parts. Most chords have only 3 different notes which are repeated, multiplied, at different octaves in different voices or instruments.

—George Herbert, from The Temple (1633)

(also set to music by Ralph Vaughan WIlliams as the first two of his Five Mystical Songs)

Resurrection!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart’s greatest celebration. It is the highest note in our songs of triumph, and the loudest echo in our shouts of praise. It takes us to the depths of our heart’s true joys, and causes our hope to climb to new heights. It brings wings to our faith and courage to our souls. It is victory’s banner, and freedom’s proclamation. It is the great Yes to all the promises of God.

At the manger we celebrate why Jesus came for us, at the cross we celebrate what He did  or us, and at the empty tomb we celebrate all that He has for us.

—Roy Lessin