In Easter We Can Know That God Loves Us With His Life

What is the message of Easter?  It is that Jesus of Nazareth conquered death.  It is that “He is risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6).  And in rising bodily from the grave, it is that Jesus was vindicated in everything He said about Himself.  The One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) put to the lie the Pharisee’s mockery that “He saved others, but He can’t save Himself” (Matthew 27:42).  In rising from the dead, Jesus demonstrated that He is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Over the centuries, Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike have provided many arguments for the existence of God.  But the Bible never makes any such attempt.  God’s existence is as much assumed as is our existence; and to question one’s existence would be as silly as to question one’s own existence.  Thus, the first words of the Bible are, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  We are told, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1).  Paul says in Romans:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).

And James tells us, “You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).

There is clearly a great deal more to the Christian faith than merely believing in the existence of God.

On my view, in agreement with St. Paul above, I believe that the existence of God has been made plain.  It is no amazing thing to believe in God; and as Alvin Plantinga has pointed out, such belief is properly basic.

Believing in God is not the “hard part” about being a Christian.  You want to know what is?  Believing that God – the creator of space and time, energy and matter – loves me and cares about meTHAT’S the hard part.

And that’s exactly the part that Easter morning speaks to.

Take a look at Eli Weisel’s Night, written from the vantage point of a Holocaust death camp survivor:

The first night in camp turned Elie’s life completely. It was the first time he learned how people could be so cruel to the others, it was the night that turned his dream to dust, and it was the night he lost the faith in God. From that day on, although many people believed the concentration camp is where the God tests them, judges their characters, and proves that God loved them, Elie doubted the God’s absolute justice. As time went by, Elie became accustomed to all the horrors he had experienced. Unlike the beginning of the book, which he take care the neighbors with all he can do for them, now he cared only the food but no one else. He was numb to the burning body, to the beating and to the hard works. But one day, the last hope was torn away from Elie when he had to witness the hanging of a small boy. “For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes.” (62) A man behind Elie asked, “Where is God? Where is He?….Where is God now?”  A voice inside Elie answered, “Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows…” (62) At this moment, Elie’s world was collapsed, and the God was murdered.

In this account, God hanging on the gallows represents the death of God, in the sense of extinction.  But there is another side to this story.  Because God Himself – in the form of the Son of God who had assumed a human nature so that He could live a perfect human life and die a substitutionary death for the sins of mankind – actually DID hang on a cross.

Our suffering certainly doesn’t prove the death of God when God Himself has entered into our suffering.  Rather, God suffered so that He could ultimately put an end to suffering.

God is not dead.  He did die for us.  But death could not keep Him down.  He rose from the grave.  He conquered death.  And He is now gloriously alive forevermore as the first fruits of resurrection life that one day every believer will experience.

Easter assures us that God did not create planet earth to serve as His fishbowl.  He is not looking dispassionately down at earth.  In the Incarnation of the Son of God, God demonstrated that He not only cared about His creation, but was willing to go to the farthest possible lengths to save His wayward creation and win it back to Himself.

The Incarnation of God is the greatest love story ever told.  The Son of God – God Himself in every way – chose to temporarily set aside key attributes of deity and assume a human nature.  God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27) so that one day He could become a man.

And so God came into the world, born of a humble virgin into a carpenter’s family.  Perfect God became a perfect man; Jesus obeyed His Father perfectly, and never sinned even once, so that He could be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Jesus said of His own purpose, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus said, “No one can take my life from me.  I sacrifice it voluntarily.  For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18, NLT).  And Jesus allowed His life to become a sacrifice in such a terrible, humiliating, painful manner that no decent human being could have been able to even look upon His death, let alone endured it.  He allowed men who were literally filled with demons to unleash their rabid hatred upon Him.  And He demonstrated His compassion, love, and mercy even for those who were torturing Him when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Before He was crucified, Jesus was flogged in a manner that literally stripped Him to the bone, and ripped out chunks of flesh and muscle.  His body was very likely already dying.  A jagged crown of thorns was shoved onto His head as a form of further mockery.  And then He was forced to carry His own instrument of execution as He stumbled agonizingly along the Via Dolorosa (Latin for “the way of grief”) while jeering crowds mocked Him.

“And they crucified Him” (Mark 15:24).

Death by crucifixion was the most extreme Roman penalty.  Crucifixion is without question the most painful and humiliating form of official death penalty ever devised.  The word “excruciating” was Latin, and means, “out of the cross.”  The victim was displayed naked, and his slow death by suffering available for all to see as a warning to any who would dare to threaten the supremacy of Rome.

Here is a medical account of the suffering inflicted by crucifixion:

Jesus is quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood.  The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist.  He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.  Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexibility and movement.  The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is nailed in place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.  The victim is now crucified.  As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain – the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.  As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this wrenching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet.  Again there is the searing agony of the the tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurs.  As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain.  With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward.  Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act.  Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled.  Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath.  Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside.  Spasmodically, He is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.

Jesus’ suffering was not merely physical.  His emotional and spiritual suffering were as unparalleled in human history as was his bodily suffering.  The Son of God had known eternal loving relationship with the Father.  But on the cross, Christ became a sin offering – And in His agony His Father was forced to turn away from Him.  Galatians 3:13 tells us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

Jesus suffered as no human being has ever suffered.  And yet Jesus wasn’t a helpless victim.  We have heard Jesus say prior to His crucifixion that He would sacrifice His life voluntarily (John 10:18).  As the soldiers, priests, and mob came to arrest Him at Gethsemane, Jesus said to His disciples who tried to protect Him, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52).  A legion was 6,000, meaning 72,000 angels would have come to save the Son of God at His bidding.

For the record, ONE angel put one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian warriors to death in one night (2 Kings 19:35).

So why on earth would Jesus have allowed Himself to be so horribly tortured and killed when He could have stopped it?

Because of His love for me.  And for you.

We talk about love all the time.  But we can’t even begin to fathom the depths of Christ’s love for us.

The last recorded word from Jesus on the cross was “Tetelestai.”  It is usually translated, “It is finished.”  But there is so much that we can learn from how that word was used in Roman culture at the time of Christ.  “Tetelestai” was used to stamp “paid” upon a receipt, and it was also the stamp put on a criminal’s charges once he had completed his sentence.  Paid in full.

In His substitutionary death, Christ paid the price for our sins.  All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  But Christ paid the price for us in full.

As I said earlier, “the hard part” of Christianity is believing the incredible concept that the Creator of the entire universe actually loves and cares about me.  There’s your real miracle.  It’s believing that no matter what my temporary situation might look like, I’m NOT alone and unloved; rather, I am loved by a God who literally loves Me with His life!  But there is more.  There is more than we could ever imagine.

What is the meaning of Easter?

It is summed up in Philippians 2:5-11:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

And because Christ was raised from the dead to glory, so also will those who love Him.

1 Corinthians 15: 50-57:

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the meaning of Easter?  On Easter morning, after loving humanity with His life, Christ was raised from the dead.  The Resurrection and the Life conquered death once and for all.  And He paid for our sins so that we could share eternal life in heaven with God. That’s good news indeed to anyone who wants to go to heaven rather than hell, but who isn’t as righteous and sinless and perfect as God.

Before He was taken away to be beaten, flogged and crucified, Christ assured His first followers:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

And Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead is all I need to know to believe that a beautiful room in the very house of the Father awaits me.  What incomprehensible joy awaits those who love Christ!

Christ loved us with His life (past tense); He now loves us with eternal life in Him and with Him.

And so every Easter, Christians from all over the world joyfully greet one another and say, “He is risen!”  “He is risen indeed!”

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13 Responses to “In Easter We Can Know That God Loves Us With His Life”

  1. HL Says:

    I love this post. There is nothing to compare to the love of Jesus for those of us who belong to Him. A line from one of my favorite hymns:
    “The love of Jesus what it is? None but His loved ones know”

    Michael the verse you quote in 1 Corinthians 15, now that’a a change I can believe in!

    Thanks for your continued great work.

  2. Michael Eden Says:

    Thank you so much for your continuing encouragement, HL.

    I’m not familiar with that hymn, but it makes me think of Colossians 3:3: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

    I agree with you, HL: I like Jesus’ “hope and change” much, much better than Obama’s!!!

  3. HL Says:

    The hymn is entitled, ‘Jesus the Very Thought of Thee’, written by Bernard of Clairvaux in the 1100’s.

  4. Michael Eden Says:

    Jesus, the very thought of Thee
    With sweetness fills the breast;
    But sweeter far Thy face to see,
    And in Thy presence rest.

    Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
    Nor can the memory find
    A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
    O Savior of mankind!

    O hope of every contrite heart,
    O joy of all the meek,
    To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
    How good to those who seek!

    But what to those who find? Ah, this
    Nor tongue nor pen can show;
    The love of Jesus, what it is,
    None but His loved ones know.

    Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
    As Thou our prize will be;
    Jesus be Thou our glory now,
    And through eternity.

    O Jesus, King most wonderful
    Thou Conqueror renowned,
    Thou sweetness most ineffable
    In Whom all joys are found!

    When once Thou visitest the heart,
    Then truth begins to shine,
    Then earthly vanities depart,
    Then kindles love divine.

    O Jesus, light of all below,
    Thou fount of living fire,
    Surpassing all the joys we know,
    And all we can desire.

    Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
    Thy wondrous love adore,
    And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
    To seek Thee more and more.

    Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
    Thee may we love alone,
    And ever in our lives express
    The image of Thine own.

    O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
    Of angel worlds above;
    Thy Name is music to the heart,
    Inflaming it with love.

    Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
    Who eat Thee hunger still;
    Who drink of Thee still feel a void
    Which only Thou canst fill.

    O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
    Which unto Thee we send;
    To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
    To Thee our prayers ascend.

    Abide with us, and let Thy light
    Shine, Lord, on every heart;
    Dispel the darkness of our night;
    And joy to all impart.

    Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
    The virgin’s holy Son,
    All might and praise and glory be,
    While endless ages run.

  5. Michael Eden Says:

    Mind you, according to one commenter here, if we seek Jesus and the family of God instead of secular humanism and “the family of man,” we can’t qualify as being “kind” or “inclusive.”

  6. HL Says:

    Thank you dear Michael. What a delight to read this hymn in it’s entirety!
    God bless you!

    The deceived cannot honestly debate us on substance so they visciously attack us with slanderous lies.

    Obama is one of the cruelest men I have ever observed and that is a fact. He consistently, willfully chooses evil and then tries to tell us he didn’t.

  7. Michael Eden Says:

    Some passages that very aptly come to mind when I think of your words about Obama:

    You love evil more than good, Falsehood more than speaking what is right. — Psalm 52:3

    But he who sins against Me injures himself; all those who hate Me love death — Proverbs 8:36

    Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! — Isaiah 5:20

    You who hate good and love evil, Who tear off their skin from them And their flesh from their bones — Micah 3:2

    In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe to keep them from seeing the light of the glorious gospel of the Messiah, who is the image of God. — 2 Cor 4:4

    I think of what Obama has done in his health care destruction act, and I think of this:

    LEE EDWARDS, CHAIRMAN, VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: In 1959 to 1961 was the so-called “great leap forward” which was actually a gigantic leap backwards in which he tried to collectivize and communize agriculture.

    And they came to him after the first year and they said, “Chairman, five million people have died of famine.” He said, “No matter, keep going.” In the second year, they came back and they said, “Ten million Chinese have died.” He said, “No matter, continue.” The third year, 20 million Chinese have died. And he said finally, “Well, perhaps this is not the best idea that I’ve ever had.”

    JUNG CHANG, FATHER SUFFERED UNDER MAO ZEDONG’S COMMUNIST REGIME: When I was in China, we were told Mao was like our god. When we wanted to say, “What I say is absolutely true,” we would say, “I swear to Chairman Mao.”

    CHANG: When he was told that, you know, his people were dying of starvation, Mao said, “Educate the peasants to eat less. Thus they can benefit – they can fertilize the land.”

    It is only a matter of time – and I believe that “time” will be measured in a few years – before ObamaCare stands revealed as the disaster it is. And I truly believe Obama will have the same attitude: “No matter. Keep going.”

    God bless you and preserve you through these times, HL.

  8. HL Says:

    Thank you for your prayer Michael, I need it. I’ve had a gut wrenching correspondence with a family member in CA. They are uber Liberal and are using the Obama tactic of diminishing our informed factual concerns by telling us, ‘this had to be done and it is better for the country….you’ll see.’
    To us a un-Constitutional, Intolerable Act was committed with the passage of Obamacare. A direct, personal assault on our liberties. I am finding it hard to bear when Liberals keep telling me I’ve believed myths about the HCR bill when I know I am in the truth.
    I want to be faithful to the Truth no matter what.
    Again, thanks for the prayer.

  9. Michael Eden Says:

    I know how it is to suffer liberals in your family.

    Fortunately, in my family, the conservatives outweigh the liberals.

    I generally try to avoid getting into politics with the family Democrats, under the view that blood should be thicker than politics. But I don’t back down when I’m forced into a discussion. Rather, I keep myself well-informed, and when there’s an argument, I try to stay calm and on the facts. As I present fact after fact, it is invariably my Democrat family member who thinks it’s better to change the subject.

    In any event, when I love a family member, I try not to be the one that raises discussions that will divide us.

    The argument that your relative is using is basically: We need “change.” ObamaCare is “change.” Therefore we need ObamaCare. Of course, if you substitute the word “nuclear holocaust” for “ObamaCare,” it would be just as valid of a conclusion.

    I believe liberalism is a consequence of a perverted worldview. And I believe the devil is behind it. The devil has “blinded the minds” of so many people (2 Cor 4:4), and then people “in their wickedness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).

    I am trying to be less angry, and more at peace, HL. I often fail, but that is my intent. One day the Lord will take us out of here, and we will be with Him forever. In that spirit, and with that understanding, I want to take the, “In a trillion years, who’s going to care?” attitude.

    I’ll keep remembering you in my prayers, HL. I can’t thank you enough for your prayers for my mother.

  10. HL Says:

    I employ the same policies you do with Liberal relatives. This one was a direct, out of the blue attack. Truth and facts simply do not matter to this relative who is an attorney. They are like Obama in that they think they are the smartest person in the room and know better than anyone what needs to be done. Their condescending attitude coupled with ‘diarrhea of the mouth’ literally wears me out!
    I honestly just have to stop all correspondence to get them to stop, It grieves my heart.

    I agree with your belief about Liberals and I know the devil is behind it!

  11. Michael Eden Says:

    What do you call a million attorneys at the bottom of the ocean?

    A good start.

    Attorneys are one of the largest contributors to Democrats, and among the most reliably liberal.

    Thomas Jefferson realized the danger that this class of people represented to the Constitution and to the nation:

    “This member of the Government was at first considered as the most harmless and helpless of all its organs. But it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is, ad libitum, by sapping and mining slyly and without alarm the foundations of the Constitution, can do what open force would not dare to attempt.” —Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825. ME 16:114“The Constitution . . . meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.” —Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1804. ME 11:51

    “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem [good justice is broad jurisdiction], and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.” —Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis, 1820. ME 15:277

    Your average attorney is a supporter of the ACLU, which said of its mission, “The goal is communism.” Said ACLU founder Roger Baldwin:

    I am for Socialism, disarmament and ultimately, for the abolishing of the State itself … I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class and sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal.

    Here’s a link explaining why people who love to call themselves “brilliant” are so terribly and so fundamentally wrong.

    I laugh at your description of your liberal relatives as thinking they are “the smartest people in the room.” Because that’s how the total fools at Enron have been repeatedly described.

    If I had a relative who just couldn’t shut up about his/her offensive politics, I’d probably stop all correspondence, too.

  12. HL Says:

    These quotes about lawyers are fantastic, thank you.What grieves me the most is their continued supression of truth. They are getting older now and are continuing to reject truth when it is presented to them. I do not want them to spend eternity in hell.

    Michael, did you happen to see Bachmann and Palin on Hannity last night? It was so encouraging to hear these two beautiful women, shining with the light of the Lord, articulate common sense Conservative solutions to the problems we are facing as Americans. I appreciate their optimism, it did my heart good.

    No wonder the devil and the Left hate these two, they are a powerful force to be reckoned with. God bless and protect them and their families.

  13. Michael Eden Says:

    Jefferson was actually speaking about judges, but ultimately he was referring to what he saw happening; namely, the legal system being hijacked by a movement that could care less about the Constitution. And today, most lawyers are part of the problem Jefferson described, and few are part of the solution.

    I did see Sarah and Michelle giving ’em heck. I have on Hannity tonight as we speak; I noticed immediately that Palin and Bachmann generated a “slightly” larger crowd.

    What amazes me about both women is their lack of anger or bitterness toward those who hate and demonize them so. I would probably have a case of permanent laryngitis from screaming back at my attackers. As it is, I still remember how Bachmann (a very attractive woman who is clearly every inch a lady) taking Arlen Specter apart with sheer sweetness while he kept telling her to “act like a lady.”

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