Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Christ Has Opened Paradise

Note: This is the second post in a series on "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." The first post is here.  
Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

This verse of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" is, in some ways, a lot more dense than the first. There are a lot of ideas here: love, redemption, death, triumph, and paradise.

First, love and redemption. Love's redeeming work is done. God came to us in human form as Jesus out of love. Jesus loved God's children, his sheep, to the very end, which was death and beyond. A Service of Word and Table paraphrases Romans when it says "Christ died while we were yet sinners. This proves God's love for us," and that's probably my favorite statement of this idea ever. God loves us enough that the part of God that took human form died so that we, who had gone astray, could be redeemed. When Jesus rose, conquering sin and death and freeing us, love's redeeming work was done. We still sin, and God still forgives and grants us grace upon grace, but that grace was secured for us in Christ's death and resurrection. We just have to accept it.

(Side note: I'm pretty Wesleyan in my views on grace and justification, which more generally means I'm pretty Arminian. There are other belief systems of salvation, and they're interesting to learn about and compare.)

Second, Christ triumphed over death. Fought the fight, the battle won. Death in vain forbids him rise. God and God's love are stronger than death. We need never fear death because Jesus did rise, so the battle is won for us all. Christ fought and suffered so that we don't have to. Jesus endured his disciples leaving him, the crowd turning on him, and the excruciating pain and humiliation of crucifixion. In one version of the Apostle's Creed, there's a line between "was crucified, died, and was buried" and "On the third day He rose from the dead." That other line says "He descended into Hell." Whether that's something we believe or not, it's an interesting idea to think about in terms of what the Lord endured for us and what He took on that would have been our burden. We are truly free of slavery to sin and death if we have faith.

Lastly, paradise. Because we have been redeemed and freed from sin and death, paradise is truly open to us. We have life -- abundant life, eternal life. Our joy can be complete. We can have God's peace. It was Christ that opened paradise for us. He took on all our sin in his death, and He gave us all life with his resurrection. As He rose, we rose. That empty tomb is just as surely our own if we choose to follow the Lord. The stone of the tomb was rolled away, and for us God rolled away another stone, opening to us the entrance to heaven.


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