Overcoming the World

April 2nd, 2013

Around the world at Easter, Christians greet one another with a call and response that reaches back nearly two thousand years: “Christ is risen!” it begins. “Christ is risen indeed!” comes the response.

This Easter greeting says that, because physical death was not the end for Jesus, it will not be the end for us, either. As Paul wrote triumphantly, “Where is your victory, Death? Where is your sting, Death?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have the promise of eternal life with God. As Charles Wesley wrote in the most famous of Easter hymns, “Christ has opened Paradise.”

But what does a risen Christ mean for us in the here and now? One answer lies in Jesus’ words to his disciples on the night he was arrested. “Be encouraged,” he said to them; “I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

On Good Friday human beings tried to kill God’s “Word” (to use John’s term for Jesus in John 1:1-4)—the creative force of God’s love at work in the world. But on Easter, God issued an emphatic “No!” The Resurrection was God’s way of saying to the world: Human anger and human violence do not get the last word. Human hate does not get the last word. God’s love cannot be killed. God’s love overcomes everything. God’s love gets the last word.

Resurrection People

That’s a powerful message for our lives, affirming what Jesus told his friend Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). In other words, those who follow Jesus will experience resurrection both after death and in their lives now. We, as Resurrection people, believe that God’s love at work in our lives gives us a rebirth, in which our old, selfish selves “die” and something beautiful emerges. We experience a resurrection of the spirit in the present and a resurrection of the body in the life to come. We are able to overcome, or to transcend, the world.

Most of us experience times when the world seems a very cold, un-Christlike place—a place where hate and anger and prejudice rule the day, and love for God and neighbor are pushed to the side. Imagine for moment how Jesus’ followers must have felt during that first day or so after Jesus’ brutal crucifixion. It appeared, at the time, that everything they had believed in was destroyed.

We Know How This Story Ends

We have an advantage over the disciples, though. We know, through the Resurrection, that God has the final word. The disciples didn’t know that until Easter morning. At the news of Jesus’ resurrection they were transformed from a band of people hiding in fear to people who boldly, fearlessly proclaimed that Jesus is Lord. In a real sense, they were resurrected.

And, in a real sense, that is what Jesus calls us to be as disciples: people born anew into a transformed way of life. Every day is an opportunity to live this new life, whether we are at school, at home, with friends, at practice, or at work. We can always choose to be people of love and hope instead of people of hatred and despair; to put God and others ahead of any personal gain or advantage; and to follow Christ’s example.

At Easter we celebrate the good news that we don’t have to live in fear of what might happen to us if we dare to submit ourselves to God’s reign. We know who wins in the end. We can be bold and free. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has shown us how to overcome the world.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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