April 2020 Magazine

Celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection

How would you respond if someone asked you: ‘What do Christians actually believe?’ It’s a good exercise to have a go at working out what you’d say. There are lots of ways we might describe some of our activities and gatherings, but if we strip all that back, what do we actually believe? 

One of the clearest expressions of the Christian faith I’ve found was written by the apostle Paul who wrote to the Corinthians: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

The fact that Good Friday and Easter Sunday are so close together in our calendar is a reminder that both the death and resurrection of Jesus, belong together; neither event makes sense on its own, and a description of the Christian faith which doesn’t hold them together is not complete.

Over recent weeks, I’ve been conscious of how often we declare the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus in our liturgy. Throughout our Communion services, which we might think focuses on the death of Jesus more than his resurrection, there are many references to both together:

  • “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again…”
  • “Bringing before you the bread of life and cup of salvation, we proclaim his death and resurrection…”
  • Dying and living [have you noticed the order of those words before?], he declared your love, gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory…”

I’ve also been reminded that the death and resurrection of Jesus is not just a truth to treasure, but a pattern which shapes our own experience. It is often a joy to baptise infants, which is something we do regularly, but it was a particular joy to baptise two adults at St Peter’s recently (well in BBHS swimming pool actually!). In that service, these words were used:

  • “We thank you, Father, for the water of baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection.”

Baptism by immersion is such a powerful and visual reminder of how both belong together and set the pattern of our Christian experience. Again, our liturgy reminds us: “His dying and rising have set us free from sin and death.”

As we approach the climax of our Christian calendar, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I want to encourage you to enter into the darkness and light, the solemnity and joy, the experience of the death and resurrection of Jesus which form the heart of our faith. We sometimes seem to focus more energy on Christmas than Easter, and yet as one writer reminds us:

“Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity” (Tom Wright).

There are many opportunities over the Easter weekend to reflect on and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus – the heart of the gospel. Do join us at either of our churches where you will always be most welcome.

Every blessing at this Easter time.

Jonathan