Easter, the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, is the high, holy day of the Church Triumphant. This day seems like the culmination of God’s plan, and yet it is really the beginning of a new age which pulls the past up to it and leaps ahead making the future submit. But this glorious day in which we delight also impacts our present day life in marvelous ways.
In Paul’s prayer request for the believers in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:17-23), he asks God the Father for the Holy Spirit to “open their eyes of their hearts” (this is heart knowledge, which includes the mind, but takes it to a more experiential place in our lives). He wants them to know the Hope and Inheritance that believers have in Christ. The third nugget of illumination is found in verses 19 – 20:
…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places...
Have you ever wondered about how much strength was required to raise Jesus from the dead? I have a theory that may or may not accord with what actually happened. If I was Satan, I would have called in every demon from earth and heaven to Golgotha to stop the predicted resurrection. (Side note: If true, I wonder if every other place in the world that Sunday experienced an amazing blissful day without demons?) Maybe this is how God, in one fell swoop, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ] (Col 2:15).” The point remains that at the resurrection, God defeated the demonic, evil, death, and sin.
In a recent trip to the Columbus Museum of Art I was struck with this painting by Peter Paul Rubens called “Christ Triumphant Over Sin and Death” (about 1615-1620). These iconic paintings were meant to communicate spiritual ideals to a largely illiterate people. Jesus is depicted here, not as a pathetic, beaten figure on the cross, but as powerful, in spite of His visible wounds, as He rises from the grave. One cherub worships Him with what I believe is a palm branch. The other, after removing the shameful crown of thorns, is placing a victor’s laurel on His head. Jesus is holding a standard to signify a sovereign is present, as well a rallying point for His army that He is not defeated, but rather victorious. This victory is best seen by His left foot crushing both the serpent (representing Satan and Sin) and the skull (representing Adam’s sin which brought Death). The fires of Hell cannot reach Him. While this painting gives a vivid picture of the victorious Resurrected Christ, it pales in comparison to how He currently exists (e.g., Revelation 1:12-17).
When the Monday after Easter is upon us, we desperately need to remember that there is a power available to those of us who believe in Christ as our only Savior and Lord. This power is working in us to conform us to the Son (Rom 8:29-34). God’s might has made us more than conquerors in Christ Jesus so that nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:37-39). The power is released in our lives through humility, like Christ’s example, and our acknowledged weakness (2Cor. 12:5-10). So we live in light of Easter as Paul later instructed the Ephesus faithful, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might (Eph. 6:10).”