Monday, May 09, 2011

Easter Triumph, Easter Joy!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! This joyful Easter response echoes through our churches in the weeks after Easter Sunday or the Resurrection of Our Lord. We celebrated Easter on April 24th, this year, and our Easter celebration continues through the first week of June, before the next church festival of Pentecost (June 12). Easter is always a tremendous experience as we reach the loudest and most joyous crescendo of praise during the year. You just want to belt out those Easter hymns and Alleluias!! The combination of the brass and the choir and the powerful melodies that together proclaim: Victory, Resurrection, Life!! Christ is Risen!

One of the hymns that I think best captures that Easter mood was sung at our services during communion. That hymn is #633, At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing. The first verse reads:

At the Lamb’s high feast we sing, praise to our victorious King, who has washed us in the tide flowing from His pierced side. Alleluia!

The “high feast” or “paschal feast” as you might hear in prayers, is Easter—the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection. Paschal comes from the word Passover—and refers to the great Jewish feast that happened on the weekend that Jesus died and rose again. When Jesus celebrated His Last Supper with the disciples, it was after they had met and celebrated the Jewish Passover meal (Matt. 26:19), which was a living remembrance of how God delivered the Jews out of their slavery in Egypt (read Exodus 12). [We just had a “Christ in the Passover” presentation on April 14th, with Jews for Jesus, explaining the whole significance of that meal and how it points to Jesus.] It was no accident that Jesus died during the celebration of the Passover, because the central element of the Passover meal was the sacrificial lamb, and Jesus is called the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). It was no accident because that meal pointed to Him and was fulfilled in Him!

Then what does the hymn mean by “who has washed us in the tide flowing from His pierced side”? Hopefully the kids aren’t imagining laundry detergent!  But the song is talking about the “tide” or flow of water that rushed from Jesus’ side when the soldier pierced Him with the spear to be sure that Jesus was dead. This flow of blood and water (John 19:34-35; 1 John 5:6-8; Rev. 7:14) is the cleansing of our sins. Jesus’ blood shed for us on the cross is the reason we call the day of His death—Good Friday—good. We call it good because on that day Jesus washed our sins away through His blood. And the joy of Easter is that death could not hold Him in the tomb!

The hymn goes on to sing about how Jesus blood and body are given for the wine and bread of the Lord’s Supper—the Feast that He has commanded us to celebrate in an ongoing, living remembrance of His self-sacrifice as our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14). Verse three sings:

Where the paschal blood is poured, Death’s dread angel sheathes the sword; Israel’s hosts triumphant go through the wave that drowns the foe. Alleluia!

Just as the blood of the Passover lamb caused the angel of death to “pass over” the homes of the Jews waiting to be delivered from Egypt, so also the blood of Jesus becomes the shield spread over us, so that we are spared from the eternal sentence of death from our sins. Just as the Israelites walked through the Red Sea waters and Pharaoh’s armies were drowned in the wave, Christ leads His church through the waters of baptism (1 Cor. 10:1-4) toward a redeemed and holy life, drowning our spiritual enemies of sin, death, and the devil.

Easter is ultimately about Jesus’ victory over death, by removing death’s sting—which is sin (1 Cor. 15:56-57). Verses 6 & 7 speak of that triumph and victory:

Now no more can death appall, now no more the grave enthrall; you have opened paradise, and your saints in You shall rise. Alleluia!
Easter triumph, Easter joy! This alone can sin destroy; From sin’s pow’r, Lord, set us free, Newborn souls in You to be. Alleluia!

Easter is filled with such celebration, triumph, and joy, because Jesus’ resurrection means that our greatest enemy of death has been defeated. It is a victory celebration! Only the death and resurrection of Jesus could destroy sin and death. We’re no longer subject to the grave and the fear of death, because we know and trust the One who has defeated them both. We can face our own death unafraid because we are promised to share in His resurrection. That’s joy for life and for living—and that’s joy to be shared! My prayer is that all of you be filled with that Easter Triumph; Easter Joy and that your life would reflect the joy and contentment of knowing that your eternity rests secure with Jesus, our Living Passover Lamb!

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