He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:16-20)
This weekend has been a wonderful reminder of the immense, transformational power found in Christ’s resurrection. Something entirely new happens here, something that flies in the face of the expected, the norms, the patterns of this world. As one of my professors loves to say, “The only things certain were death and taxes, and now it’s just taxes!”
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. (v.16)
My family visited us from Iowa for the long Easter weekend. What a profound gift to share together in remembering Christ’s death on Good Friday by participating in Western Seminary’s unique service of shadows during morning prayers, and then to share together in remembering Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday with the people of God.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of the weekend, however, was our trip to a local butterfly exhibit on Holy Saturday. We spent the afternoon — the silence of Sabbath rest, and the stillness of Christ’s burial — by watching all kinds of butterflies fluttering and feeding and flirting around us. The butterfly’s metamorphosis as a metaphor for spiritual transformation is very familiar to me.
But as I saw the caterpillars eat and crawl and rest, I was stunned by the profound potential hidden away within.As a child, caterpillars were just elaborate worms, creepy and wiggly and smushable. The metaphor, therefore, clumsily suggested that the period before transformation is somehow ugly, or inferior. But Paul asks me to give up my “human point of view” and to consider myself, others, and especially Christ, “no longer in that way.”
So if anyone is in Christ… (v.17)
The simple phrase “in Christ” has been a blaring anthem over my Systematic Theology class this whole semester long, and I have come to hear in it more than just an encouraging sentiment. Looking at the butterfly in its chrysalis stage reminded me that to be “in Christ” is to be in the furnace of transformation, at the precipice of potential change. This is in a very real way a tomb, a burial, a coffin. At this point, the caterpillar ceases to be. From here on, it is no more.
This semester has been a kind of chrysalis for me: a spiritual dying to self, an acknowledging of my Shadow, an enclosed encounter with my pervasive depravity. While this has been a dark, discouraging season, I also have come to see in it the promise of my most profound discovery of the goodness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the place where I have the most potential to grow up into Christ. Thank you, Lord, for your company in the darkness, and for the gift and promise of new life.
…there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (v.17)
Easter’s glory is, of course, the empty tomb: Christ is not here; he is risen! He lives! What is more, he has paved the way for us to join him in new life as something entirely new, completely remade, sharing in Christ’s resurrection splendor. There is no more caterpillar in this new creation; it is radically different. The crisis of being sealed in the dark coffin chrysalis of dying to self is overwhelmed by the vitality and freedom of Easter resurrection.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. (v.18-19)
What is occurring to me in new and significant ways is how this new life is not ultimately for me, but for the sake of the world. The landscape is not my own personal satisfaction; the horizon is not even my eternal salvation. I am made new in order to bear witness to the new life in Christ. This is the “ministry…and…message of reconciliation:” to no longer view others with human eyes that see only external differences, but to see within them the same profound possibility of Christ’s new life in them as is in me; and to offer them the peace of radical hospitality and gospel fellowship as ones found “in Christ.”
So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (v.20)
Lent is over, but the disciple’s invitation to follow Jesus is really only just beginning. I have been following the Christian calendar — or liturgical calendar — for my own personal spiritual formation, and have been profoundly blessed. As Eastertide begins, may God’s Holy Spirit continue to use his Word, the life of his Son, and his people to shape and inspire my faithful apprenticeship. Amen.