What is Easter All About?

Posted: April 14, 2012 in General

Dr. Stanley E. Porter of McMaster Divinity College has begun a new blog. His recent post about “What is Easter All About?” looks very interesting and inspiring. Next week he is going to write about—”an exposé of the strengths and weaknesses, linguistic and otherwise, of commentaries on Romans”.

[Dr. Stanley E. Porter serves as President and Dean, as well as Professor of New Testament, at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario. He has taught for over twenty-five years at four major undergraduate- and graduate-level institutions in three countries (Canada, USA, and UK) on two continents. He has been associated with three seminaries, as well as mentoring in Ph.D. programs. He has also been an academic administrator for over sixteen years. Porter is an award-winning author and has a world-wide reputation for his work in Greek language and linguistics, as well as New Testament studies and other areas such as hermeneutics, papyrology, and rhetoric. His publications include eighteen authored books and over 250 authored journal articles, chapters, and related writings. His edited volumes has surpassed seventy, and continues to grow. Porter has a vision for McMaster Divinity College to become a first-choice seminary of academic excellence and exemplary leadership training.]

Read his Easter Message here…

I pray that you had a spiritually vital and personally refreshing Easter Sunday. After all, this is the highpoint of the Christian calendar, and, I would argue, the defining moment of history. Whatever happened before that first Easter day, once that day’s events occurred, human history, and humanity’s relationship to God, has never been the same since.

It is easy to get caught up in the ethereal transcendence of Easter—the dead body put in the grave on Friday, the women visiting the tomb on Sunday morning, their unexpected confrontation with an empty tomb, their fright and joy. There is a lot to contemplate here, as we realize the atonement for human sin effected by this divine act in human form, the physical and bodily resurrection of Jesus.

On Easter Sunday, many of us participated in tremendous experiences of worship of our risen Saviour—filled with contemplation of Scripture, the singing of praise to God through a variety of psalms, hymns and sacred songs. In my church, we even worshipped along with a beautiful rendition of an aria from Handel’s Messiah, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” That’s unusual for my church!

Easter was not such a positive experience for everyone, however. Yesterday I visited a close friend in the hospital. He had emergency surgery on Easter Sunday—that’s right, you can imagine how critical it was if they called in the surgical team on Easter Sunday—but that is not all. He had emergency surgery the previous Sunday as well, and this followed on from his scheduled surgery the preceding Tuesday. My heart is breaking for my friend, as he endures these recurring physical problems. He obviously did not celebrate Easter Sunday in the joyful way some of the rest of us did.

So, where is God in this? Such a situation forces me to realize that the resurrection was not God’s final word to humanity regarding suffering, even though we often try to make it the definitive act from which all is easy from now on. It may have betokened the finality of death, but we are still forced to live in a world of human fallenness. We have a glimmer of another reality, and the promise of a different future, but we still exist in the present and in this world, forced to live today with all of its challenges, disappointments, and even defeats.

I think that we evangelicals often overlook the Friday before Easter, when the two belong together. As a result, we view Easter as a day of simple and even simplistic triumph. There is no doubt that it was a day of great triumph, but one that involved incredible suffering and does not, nor should not, allow us to side-step its deep truths about the price paid for life.

I am reminded of one of Winston Churchill’s most poignant statements uttered in 1942, after some glimmers of hope in the war against Germany: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I think that this statement helps us to understand the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection, more than its finality, marked the decisive moment in God’s dealing with humanity, but its end has not yet arrived.

Next week—an exposé of the strengths and weaknesses, linguistic and otherwise, of commentaries on Romans. Be prepared for some shocking news.

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