Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Glory of the Risen Christ

Death. The enemy. The last and monumental enemy. Death. We all know what it means to breathe your last breath and expire. Most of us have seen a lifeless corpse. But death is much more than the cessation of biological life; death is a transport into another realm of existence and indeed of consciousness. Death is a powerful enemy that stalks every person that has ever lived. Death visits the baby born who takes only one tiny breath; death invades the mother’s womb, sometimes by providence and sometimes by wicked hands of men. Death calls upon the good and the bad; it beckons the saint and criminal alike. Mankind has always feared and attempted to avoid death. Medals are given to some who willingly die to save others, but that does not dissuade death from harvesting our heroes. Death respects no one.

The unknown journey is only a small part of why men fear death. There is an unsettling feeling within us that speaks not only to the uncertainty of death’s journey, but there is a tangible sense of impending judgment. Regardless of how many works of compassion that we do, we cannot wash our hands of death and its courtroom. The greatest compilation of works of philanthropy cannot block death from calling without hesitation or deference to any and all human works of kindness and mercy. Death is has no soul, no conscience. Death continues to draw its assignment and power from sin, and driven by that power death is never weary or distracted.

And so the human race wobbles precariously on the edge of death, separated only by a precious few days and nights. Marking time by experience and determined to forget about death by exalting the now, mankind continues the lemming march toward eternity. Death oversees the cattle drive and ensures there are no strays so that all will be at the final round-up. Death begins at life and awaits the fruit of Adam’s sin, through which all must pay that debt. Death is not just an enemy…it is THE enemy.

And so death marches on challenged only by temporary postponement through diet and carefulness. But no one had confronted it head on, to say nothing of escaping it directly. Everyone who lives is everyone who dies. None have escaped death and none will. But one night in early fall a baby was born to one of death’s coming victims. No one really knew and no one was really watching. There was nothing special about the birth and there seemed to be nothing special about this newborn. In fact, he was not even afforded the luxury of a room, instead he was born in an animal stable. Filthy and filled with the odor of animals, this baby was laid in a wooden structure where animals ate their food. Who would lay their newborn in a dog’s dish? Even the poorest among us find better accommodations for our babies than that which animals use.

It did not take death long before it recognized that this child was a challenge to its kingdom of darkness, and only a few years later death enlisted some of its soldiers to accomplish early in this child what most wait years to experience…death. Under the guidance of the Great Shepherd, this child escaped the clutches of death even while many died instead. Life had a plan. The Christ has arrived. Quietly and to a peasant woman, but He has arrived nonetheless. The world will never be the same, even though the world remains blind and dying.

Incarnate Life grows up in the likeness of humankind. In a colossal paradox this Life is headed for death, and seemingly in the likeness of the death that has visited all sinners. A place that has been chosen before the stars were formed awaits His arrival and death prepares for its ultimate harvest. He will not be spared, and in fact, His death will be published for all to see and none to question. He will die openly and before a host of witnesses. And yet this Christ speaks glimpses of His death, letting those with ears to know He has already embraced His coming demise.

What is this narrative? Why does this man follow a path that He knows will lead to His death? Ordinary men would flee, and human logic would circumvent this event. But behold, He rides into Jerusalem upon a donkey amidst the praises of sinners and into the face of the death plot against Him. The angels must shake their heads in disbelief and Gabriel himself, who heralded His arrival, must be profoundly confused. “Hosanna!” will soon be “Crucify!’. Death awaits it next victim just outside the city walls.

As preparation for His death He is beaten and bloodied. The soldiers mock and berate Him, and He is punched squarely in the face while wearing a blindfold. It is not enough they will kill Him, He must suffer both pain and indignity. There are thorns and there are whips, and His beard is plucked from His face. The scene is drenched in blood and ripped flesh. And the entire preparation culminates with the Christ carrying His own implement of death to the hill where death will fulfill its mission. Finally, the Christ is nailed both feet and hands to a Roman cross and lifted up in a diabolical benediction.

It is only a matter of time and suffering now. Death has begun the final chapter. He struggles, He moans, he gasps, and He lowers His head and dies. He is dead. Another passing hope is gone; another fleeting promise has been lost. Christ is dead, and with Him all the dreams of victory. Three days of silence. But the incubated glory is alive and well and ready to rise like an eternal phoenix. It’s business as usual on earth but it’s business eternal in the Spirit.

On the first day of the week life visits death in a borrowed tomb. The Christ does not just stir, He rises with the glory that is His alone, and with life in His bosom, He discards the tomb and returns it to its owner. But where is death? Where is that deadly sting? Why has death hidden itself?

We use the word “glory” as if we know what it means and as if we have seen it. But in truth we are infinitely more expert at death than we are glory. The enemy called “death” has been defeated by a Person whose name is Life. Who can digest what it took to defeat death? The depth of the evil of death cannot be fully realized on this side of the veil, and perhaps God Himself is only capable of knowing the eternal ramifications of death. But one thing we do know; Jesus, the Son of the Living God, has defeated death and has claimed the victory for all eternity. He now offers that victory to whosoever will believe.

Ps.24:7- 10 - Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.

This passage is usually interpreted as prophetic since when did the Lord of Glory leave His eternal dwelling place? This surely can refer to Christ and His ascension and His victorious return to the Father and the throne room of the Trinity. Christ has risen and Christ has triumphed! The entire expanse of heaven bows before the glory of this nail scarred Redeemer! Halleluiah! The brilliance of His matchless glory brightens all of heaven, and the knowledge of His victory and the great cost blankets all creation. He is risen from the dead; the first fruits of all who will follow through the path He has made.

His magnificence demands lavish praise and all creatures bow in wondrous worship. Only He could have defeated death, and He did it voluntarily and with great sacrifice. The angels still are bewildered after watching the Creator of the universe suffer at the hands of His creation, but there can be no denying the majesty that rests upon Him. We as graced sinners can only wonder, and in reality throughout eternity our wonder, our amazement, and our worship will never be tempered by time and familiarity. Every moment that we are granted another infinitesimal piece of knowledge about our Lord will intensify our grateful worship before Him. Wave after wave of bowing, rejoicing, dancing, and praising saints fill all of heaven with their adoration.
The Word made flesh whose name is Jesus the Christ has risen from the dead and reigns triumphant; let His Name be praised forevermore!!


Anonymous said...

speaking of our western culture,


Think this is from some pagan cult anthem from the church of satan? Nope...they're just lyrics straight from the current NUMBER 1 SONG IN THE COUNTRY RIGHT NOW! (Not just #1 on the Billboard charts in the USA, but #1 in the UK as well.) These are words from rapper Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind"

(notice the silence from celebrity pastors in the media...)

Praise God though, THIS response video is making its rounds around youtube:

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