They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. (Acts 10:39–40 NIV)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In these few words the book of Acts lays out the bare bones of Easter.
They (human beings) killed him…
God raised him…
…and caused him to be seen.
Simple, succinct, and to the point.
When we read ‘him’, of course, we think of Jesus Christ. Acts, however, refers to ‘him’ as Jesus of Nazareth – emphasising that Jesus is a real flesh-and-blood human being who came from a particular place in a particular moment in history.
That means his death – just like his life – is real. Easter isn’t like a Greek legend, told to pass on a high-minded moral or ideological concept. When Acts was written, the event was still raw and unedited. People remembered Jesus of Nazareth. They had heard stuff about him. They wondered if any of it could be true. Acts is the voice of witnesses, people who actually saw what Jesus did and what happened to him (see 10:39a).
It’s important that we pay attention to what the Bible tells us about who does what at Easter.
Firstly, who does the killing? ‘They’ do – it’s a reference to the Jews, but we can read it as referring to human beings. Humanity – people like us – killed Jesus. One of the most powerful lessons of Good Friday is to confess our place in the crowd which called for his crucifixion; our place at Pilate’s judgement seat as he tried to wash his hands of guilt; our place with the mercenary Judas, who thought he knew better than God; our place with ‘I do not know the man’ Peter, who thought he was braver than he was; and our weakness shared with the disciples, who ran off when the going got tough. Maybe, as a blessing, we can also find a place with the women who wept, watched, and waited while all this was going on.
Secondly, who does the raising to life? God – and only God. Death is final, and we can struggle to accept that. We always want another chance to prove ourselves. We hate the thought of losing the ability to shape our destiny. But Jesus our Saviour was crucified and dead – end of story. Or not, because there is one greater than death, and God acted to raise Jesus from the dead. If we also ever want to conquer death, as baptismal faith promises us, it will only be because God does the same for us. God raises us from the dead, for the sake of our brother Jesus, and only Jesus.
All of this is no secret. God ‘caused Jesus to be seen’. Jesus’ resurrection comes complete with witnesses, just like his life and death. That’s why we pay attention to the Bible. It’s God’s living witness to Jesus Christ, who lived on earth and died, and whom he raised to life.
So when you worship with God’s people at Easter, wherever they are and whoever they might be, you are witnesses telling the world that Jesus is alive. He is your only hope of life. You want to be with him where he is. Until then we remain here on earth, flesh and blood, by God’s will, witnessing to Jesus, sharing in his life, and acting as instruments of his love so that all people, everywhere, may know that he is alive, and so are we.
God bless you in your worship and strengthen you in faith and good deeds until the day of the resurrection to eternal life.
Pastor John Henderson
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
† That freedoms of thought, belief, speech, conscience and association may spread, take hold and be valued and defended in all places and that wherever they are enjoyed, people will exercise them responsibly, with due regard for their fellow citizens.
† That we stand against influences that lead to unnecessary violence and war.
† That Christians everywhere will come to understand freedom as freedom to die to self and to serve others, just as Jesus served us, and died and rose again for us.