Hot take: Easter is the best holiday. Like, ever.
In the Yee household, Easter is a big deal. Every year since I was born, my family has hosted an Easter gathering on Resurrection Sunday, now affectionately called “Yeester”. Family friends from our Bible Study group come over, most of whom have known my family for over twenty years and have seen me grow up. Some have come into the fold later, and are younger families with children that I’ve seen grow up. Over the course of the day, everyone enjoys the feast, the older kids hide the eggs for the little kids, and the little kids go on a glorious egg hunt in the huge field out front of my house. An adult shares their testimony, and the Easter story is retold with many interjections from the kiddos and tons of laughter all around. It’s a true celebration.
I didn’t always appreciate Easter this much, and if you’ve grown up in the church, you might feel the same. Perhaps you’ve heard the Resurrection story more than I can count. I know in your head that it’s a big deal because Jesus rose from the dead, and we will live eternally as well. But with so much looking back and looking forward, the idea of the resurrection always seemed a little detached from the present– it happened for Jesus back in the first century and we know it would happen for us someday (in what seems like the distant future). But on April 21st, 2019? We haven’t died yet, so eternal life postmortem doesn’t really feel relevant to the now.
My mission with this post is to give a new perspective on Easter’s relevance to our lives in the present. Yes, we celebrate Easter in order to remember the past and look ahead to future glory. But also fundamental to Easter’s meaning is what’s happening today, in your life and mine.
As I was singing in church on Sunday, I was struck by the words of “Resurrecting” by Elevation worship:
“By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me
In Your name I come alive
To declare Your victory
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me”
Resurrecting. As in, the present tense. Jesus died so that we could be resurrected as well, and as part of this we are being resurrected right now. Literally, being raised from the dead.
I’ve heard people say things like, “From the moment we are born, we begin to die.” I guess this is true from a biological perspective. Our bodies age and we get sick and then one day we’ll take our last breaths. But from a spiritual perspective, this quote could not be more wrong.
From the moment we are born again, we begin to grow more alive. Over the course of our lives, we become more human, not less.
In my very first post on CG, I defined sanctification as “a believer’s journey towards Christ-like holiness, beginning at the moment of salvation and ending in the Lord’s presence after death.” I want to add another layer of meaning to this. If you think of the fullest life as being a life that perfectly imitates Christ, then the long process of learning to be like Jesus– the process of sanctification– is really just a process of becoming more alive.
This process is completed once we finally see Jesus face-to-face. C.S. Lewis once wrote that “To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being on earth; to enter hell, is to be banished from humanity.” At the moment when we reach Heaven or when Jesus comes again, we become fully human, gloriously perfected in every way.
This contrasts the pervasive notion that spiritual growth involves “becoming less human,” with “human” defined as sin nature and fleshly passions. This view of humanity casts sanctification as growth away from our originally depraved status. It seeks to transcend humanity and attain some holy, non-human state. It is true that the Christian life involves overcoming sin, and in many ways this understanding of sanctification is true. The only problem is that it can confuse our understanding of the incarnation. If the end goal is to be like Christ, and if this goal is tied to “transcending humanity,” it becomes easy to think that Jesus wasn’t really human at all.
But of course, He was, and his humanity is the whole reason that His death on the cross covers us. The “human” CS Lewis is talking about is our originally-intended state of being, a state of glory in which we can finally understand and embody Truth. By this definition, Jesus was the most human person to ever walk the earth. So yes, we are absolutely tainted by sin. But by choosing to view being “human” as being perfectly holy in Christ’s presence, sanctification becomes growth towards humanity rather than away from it. This spiritual resurrection has to come after some sort of death; this former death is the spiritual death to sin that occurs at salvation.
In Romans 6:3-11, Paul discusses this very truth. He says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Later, he says that we must consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
In Colossians 3:1-4, similar messages abound: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Because our lives are united with Christ’s– hidden and wrapped up in His– His death and resurrection are our death and resurrection. We have died to our sin and are being spiritually resurrected now until we see him face-to-face. Right now, we are growing into fuller life because the Holy Spirit is doing His sanctifying work in and through His word, our relationships, our circumstances, and more. This growth involves the continual death to sin as well as the continual growth into more life. And when Jesus comes again and Creation is restored, we will be resurrected bodily as well.
When I stopped to actually think about all of this, I was blown away by the hope that it holds. In a world where anxieties about the future threaten our peace, how amazing that we can look ahead and see fuller, richer life. How incredible that even when life is amazing, we can say with confidence that “the best is yet to come,” when we finally see Jesus face to face and are more human than ever before. For the believer, every day from here on out promises greater glory, more humanity, more Christlikeness.
This process of growing more alive is not easy– if anything, it’s pretty tough– and it’s never perfectly linear. But there’s freedom in knowing that the Holy Spirit is the agent of sanctification, the one making it all happen. Sanctification is hard, but God is cheering us on and making it happen all the way. It promises difficulty, but it’s oh-so-full of joy.
So, hot take: from the moment we are born again, we don’t begin to die. We begin to grow more alive in Christ. This is why Easter is the best holiday; it reminds us of resurrection past, present, and future. Pretty awesome, if you ask me.