SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Hallelujah! Through Christ We Have Victory Over Death!
John 20:1-10; Romans 6:1-14
Key Verse: We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. – Romans 6:9
Easter! It is not simply an annual day on our calendar. It is an experience we share as we celebrate the victory of God over evil, of life over death.
We are free to do more than read about it or talk about it. We can go back to that stone-sealed tomb and “watch” God at work. We can hear that stone roll away when God says “Open!” We can emphasize with the Roman guards who fall to the ground in fear, like dead men.
We hear someone running. We recognize Peter and John as they rush up to the open tomb. John hesitates to go in, but Peter goes in. The body of Jesus is not there, only the linens and the cloth that had been on his head. Peter and John walk away in stunned amazement.
Soon weeping Mary and the other women arrive. We fall to our knees as a mighty angel appears and says to the women: “Do not fear. I know you are looking for Jesus. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” We watch the women hurry away to obey the angel. We know that we too would have been “afraid yet filled with joy”.
What a day! It seemed on Friday that death had won, but no, Sunday is coming! God wins! God wins! Forget the bunnies. Forget the eggs. Forget the new bonnet. Forget the new shoes. What matters here is that the gift of eternal life is ours! Because Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God, we too have hope of life after death. Because He lives, we too shall live!
Such news cannot be embraced calmly. This calls for a glad Hallelujah! That is why on Easter Sunday we sing with joyous enthusiasm:
“Sing with all the sons of glory,
Sing the resurrection song!
Death and sorrow, earth’s dark story,
To the former days belong.
All around the clouds are breaking,
Soon the storms of time shall cease;
In God’s likeness, man awaking,
Knows the everlasting peace.”
On this glorious day we do well to ponder why Jesus suffered and died, and why God raised him from the dead. The obvious answer is that he died as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we can be forgiven and go to heaven. This is true, but there is much more to the death and resurrection of Jesus than God arranging for us to get to heaven.
Paul explores this in depth in his letter to the Romans. He rejects the notion of some believers that they can go on sinning, and being forgiven, and finally make it to heaven. Some of us do not take sin as seriously as Paul did. He would never agree with the commonly accepted idea that Christians are only human, and cannot stop sinning, but they need not worry because grace abounds.
Examine Paul’s teaching and you will see that Jesus died, not simply so we could go to heaven, but so God could fill us with his Spirit. Then by the power of his indwelling Spirit we can stop intentionally sinning and allow the Spirit to produce in us the character of God. Though we remain capable of unintentional sin, we can refuse to live under the control of “the flesh” and obey God. God’s plan is for us to “crucify” the old self that we “might no longer be enslaved to sin.” Once we “die” with Christ, we are “freed from sin.”
Believe that, accept that, and you cannot believe that sin continues to control us after we are surrendered to God. We are not slaves to sin! Yes, we are saved by grace, and that not by our own effort, but we are saved so that God can make us holy as He is holy! God wants more than to take us to heaven; he wants holiness in our daily living on our way to heaven.
We cannot produce the character of God in ourselves, but the Spirit can! When we climb down from the throne of our lives, and allow the Spirit to be in charge, then He gives us the grace to become “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” And that, dear friends, is good news, and it all springs from the resurrection of Christ from the dead!
Is our submission to the Spirit a one-time event? No, the power of sin is so strong that we must die daily, and ask God to fill us with His Spirit. John Oswalt offers us a beautiful picture. Dying daily, and being filled by the Spirit again and again, we learn to ask for the “sweet water” of His Spirit. Sweet water being heavier than bitter water, it pushes the bitter water out of our lives. By the grace of God we can receive enough sweet water to keep the bitter water out.
Today praise God for the resurrection. Then ask the Spirit to show you how to be crucified with Christ and raised to newness of life by the power of God. Then you can affirm with Paul this great truth: “We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Do you see it? That we too may walk in newness of life!
Hallelujah! He lives! And He gives us the power to live holy lives for Him! + + + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)