From Death to Life

Or, The Smell of Sunday

March 31, 2024 • Sean Higgins • 2 Corinthians 2:14–16

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the greatest victory in history. The greatest enemy is not the devil but death; the devil uses death to cause fear. The greatest enemy is not sin; sin leads to death. The greatest enemy is not the world; the world system is dying and is throwing a fit about it on the way down. Jesus conquered the world, the flesh, and the devil, yes, but more than that He conquered death, and so we celebrate the stone rolled away from the tomb on that Sunday so long ago. We know what it means.

Knowing what it means does not mean that everything is easy. In fact, it is important to know what the empty tomb means because it is *not* easy. One reason it's not easy is because some people not only don’t celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, they *hate* it. The way of the world is death, and death *hates* life. In particular, death hates *losing*, and death is a loser. Jesus won.

In Christ's resurrection there is great comfort, and that comfort is necessary because there is great conflict. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Sometimes it’s bad.

Paul faced affliction in his work, and even faced misunderstanding from the Corinthian Christians. Paul did *not* make a “painful visit” (2 Corinthians 2:1), but he did write them a letter “out of much affliction and anguish of heart” (2:4). He sent the letter with Titus and hoped that Titus could find out more directly how they were doing. Paul planned to meet Titus in Troas. But Titus wasn't there, and he was discouraged.

> When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. (2 Corinthians 2:12-13)

This is quite a context. Paul went to Troas on purpose to preach, *and* he could tell that they were ready to hear him preach, and yet something was so off in his spirit that he would not go on preaching, and he left for another place. He was **not at rest**, so: restless. He was burdened, troubled.

I don't want to dwell on the apostle's deep discouragement except to set up the question: what consoles a depressed apostle? What does an apostle preach to himself when his spirit is upset? He remembers and rejoices in his *participation* in the triumph of Christ.

There are three parts to verses 14-16.

# The Smell of Victory (verse 14)

There are two related analogies that Paul applies to the resurrection.

> But thanks [be] to God, [the One always triumph-leading] us in Christ, and [the One spreading] through us the fragrance of the knowledge of Him in every place.

What is a reasonable response to discouragement? Find something to thank God for. Track the two things God is doing.

First, God is the One always triumph-leading us in Christ. The ESV translates as “**leads us in triumphal procession**.” If you've read _The 12 Caesars_ by Suetonius (which you would probably be more edified *not* to do), or Livy’s _History of Rome_ or Josephus’ _The Jewish War_, you've read about Triumphs. Around 350 Triumphs are mentioned in various Roman writings. If you lived in Corinth, belonging to the Roman Empire in the first century, you would have known about them. Triumphs were *events*.

To triumph is to win, yes, but a Triumph was a special category of winning. Multiple major significant things were required in a military battle, and then multiple major significant things went into the victory parade through the streets of Rome. Among other things:

- The general must have had supreme military command and have won a major land or sea battle.

- The general must have killed at least 5,000 enemy soldiers in a single battle.

- The general must have ended the war successfully and brought his army back to Rome.

As for the parade:

- The procession started outside Rome through the Triumphal Gate, through the Forum, and ended at the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill.

- The procession included musicians, sacrificial animals, the spoils of war (statues, treasure, weapons, captives), soldiers, and the victorious general himself.

- At the temple, the general presented his laurel and offerings to Jupiter. Captives were often executed. The ceremony concluded with a feast for the magistrates and Senate.

God leads *all believers*, not just apostles and their associates, in Christ's triumph. The triumph is not the Second Coming, the triumph is that Sunday morning around 2,000 years ago. The triumph is Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The victory parade is marching through the streets of all nations (**every place**) and generations (**always**). We are not just bystanders, we're *participants*.

We, by application, are the **fragrance of the knowledge of Christ**. The parade included flowers as well as censors of incense. It's not hard to imagine how bad the smell might have been of dirty/unkempt prisoners plus animals as spoil or for sacrifice plus sweaty soldiers who hadn't changed clothes in months. The incense would have been welcome, like Axe Body Spray for the road.

While there are other illustrations about Christians as soldiers, here we are the smell good. We have the smell of Sunday, of resurrection, the fragrance from death to life.

# The Smell of Eternity (verses 15-16a)

We are not only a fragrance from death to life. Paul keeps the smelling analogy going.

> For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

Our “good smell" (εὐωδία), **aroma** and **fragrance** is of Christ, and because of verse 14, it is the aroma of His win over death, and with it over sin and demons and the world system and rebellion and hostility in all places. That aroma is **to God** and yet obviously not only something He smells. So in a Triumph the incense was *to* the General, for his glory and pleasure, but it was spread among people.

There are **those who are being saved** and **those who are perishing**. These are *eternal* distinctions. God has moved and is moving in the ones being saved, He has moved them from spiritual death to spiritual life, and we see that they will increase in that life unto eternal life. Those still in death, if they are not called out of death, will continue in spiritual death and increase in that life of death unto eternal death. **Perishing** is the final loss, the final defeat.

The phrases **from death to death** and **from life to life** are categorical. They're in the same construction as "from faith to faith" in Romans 1:17. Paired here in verse 16, we learn that:

- It's one or the other, life or death.

- Death and life are not static, they increase and become more of their nature.

- The same smell works both directions.

Put yourself back in Rome during a Triumph. Think of the smells of the parade, and how different your associations would be depending on your position. If you were a soldier, you'd survived, you'd won, you were hearing the cheers, and you were headed home. If you were a captive, you'd lost, you were hearing the cheers against you, and you were headed toward prison, slavery, and/or execution. Even the "good" smells all belonged with defeat and death.

# The Response to Glory (verse 16b)

As with all rhetorical questions, the answer is obvious. But the facts are intended to encourage the feelings.

> Who is sufficient for these things?

**Sufficient** or “adequate” means either, who can really grasp how great this triumph is, or who deserves to be part of the triumph, a part of the ongoing division between death and life?

We did not, could not, cause Christ to triumph. We did not, we could not, move ourselves from death to life. We do not, we can not, move others from death to life. We are, and will forever be, those who smell of Sunday.

# Conclusion

When I say “the smell of Sunday” I mean that our lives are a fragrance of Christ’s triumph over death, and we follow His victory as an aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and those who smell the smell that increases their hate of conquering Christ.

To the degree we love Easter we cannot be loved by all.

And, with Paul, here is *rest for our spirits*. Thanks be to God! Christ is risen!


## Charge

Christians, do not rely on yourselves but on God who raises the dead. He has already raised Christ, and has called you to follow in Christ’s triumph. You are the aroma of Christ. Thank God that He has put the smell of Sunday all over you.

## Benediction:

> But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

> Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57–58 ESV)

More from Easter

The Resurrection and the Light

April 9, 2023 • Sean Higgins • John 1:4–5

Darkness is discouraging. Our poets associate darkness with the cold, with the unknown, with fear, with evil, with death. To be in the dark is to be ignorant, often it describes what it feels to be sad, even to the point of despair. So many psalms begin with the author in the dark. So many societies before the incarnation existed in the dark. The world around us today is like Egypt in the ninth plague; it’s so dark that they can't even see their gender in front of their faces. The modern dark is a worse dark because it has been chosen. Men have always loved darkness, but we're throwing ourselves down into depraved loves like pre-Jesus pagans. It's one thing to read the gross behaviors of the Caesars, each one with his own little Epstein Island inventions. I'm not trying to take anything away from Sodom and Gomorrah, nor from the continual evil intentions of antediluvian mankind. But all those were before grace and truth took on flesh. Jesus called those who believed in Him the "light of the world." He followed that identification with a principle: "nether do men lyght a candell/& put it under a busshell/but on a candelstycke/& it lyghteth all that are in the house" (Matthew 5:14-15, Tyndale). Applied to periods of history, what came before Jesus was *tenebras*, Latin for darkness. What came with Jesus was *lux*, light. And based on the Sermon on the Mount passage we could refer to our days as *modius*, the word for a bushel basket. We had the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ! And we've gone and stuck our heads under a 50 gallon measuring bowl. But, beloved, "the light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5)! The eternal Logos--the Word--is the life and light of men. His lamp cannot be dimmed or defeated. In flesh He was put to death, His body was buried, but He rose from the dead with resurrection light that will not, that cannot, be turned down, turned off, put out. Let us walk in the light, rejoice in the light, and while the residue of darkness is all around us, remember that the rule of darkness has already been broken. It's on a timer. There are a few passages that I'd like to compare from the Gospel of John, two that are "I am" statements. Then I'd like for us to exult together in the glories of the light of the gospel that shines for us. # Three Texts about the Light > Jesus spoke to [the scribes and the Pharisees], saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) > Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) > In Him was life and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4) In John 8 Jesus is talking to religious professionals who were committed to their unbelief. Unbelief is spiritual darkness. They couldn't seen Jesus for who He really was, and in failing to see Jesus truly they couldn't see anything really. In Jesus is understanding, so those who believe in Jesus walk in His sunshine. We see the light, we see by the light. The light is *glory*, and even the Greek word for glory (δόξα) includes the idea of brightness, brilliance, shining. In John 11 Jesus is talking to those mourning the death of Lazarus. Of course Jesus waited on purpose when He heard Lazarus was sick for sake of showing off His *glory* (John 11:4, 6). Mary and Martha were in the darkness of grief, and though they believed truly, they did not see fully. Jesus did have power to heal Lazarus and keep him from dying, but preventative miracles weren't the full display. Jesus told Mary that He is the *resurrection* and the life. He is the bring-back-from-the-dead one, the come-back-from-the-dead Lord. It is as much a part of His nature as being the Shepherd of the sheep. So we've got resurrection-life and light. As John opens his account, he starts with a summary of what's going to be seen. These are not coming attractions, but coming attributes. Jesus is God, He is the revelation of God, He is the Creator God. He is “the true light” (John 1:9, and John said “We have seen his *glory*” (John 11:14). “His life is the light of men.” At first it might seem backward; His light would be life. And that is true. But His life is our light. In the life of Jesus we see heavenly wisdom, creative power, divine love, perfect holiness, redeeming grace, eternal truth. # Three Effects of the Light ## 1. The Light gives strength. Light is essential for life. Sunlight is the source of energy used by plants to convert light energy into chemical energy that enables growth and fruit. As grass and trees catch the light and grow tall and fruitful, so the Son of God is light to our souls for strength. His light has caused us to be born again. His light has taken us from dead to alive; what greater energy is there? His light has transformed our hostility into love, our unbelief into submission and worship, our despair into joy. It is a supernatural light, a divine light, imparted to our hearts that we might live. His life is light that is our life. ## 2. The Light gives understanding. As the sun—or a candle or a lamp or an always-on flash bulb—shines, so we can see. Darkness is blindness, and those who are in darkness stumble (Proverbs 4:19). Those who are in darkness hide where it’s hard to see (John 3:20). Light exposes. Light shows what’s there. Light opens our eyes. His light has pierced the underground caverns of our ignorance and our uncertainty. We know good and evil, we know heroes and villains, we know male and female. The light shines on our history, on our present, on the telos of all mankind. We see how things fit together, how they work together for good for those who love God. The light shines on our risen Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords. His light reveals what our real problem is: we have all broken His law. His light reveals the only solution: one Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. His light reveals the way for disciples: walk in the light as He is in the light and we have fellowship with Him and with each other. Light shatters illusions. We are not dreaming. We believe in the light and in His light we see. ## 3. The Light gives rhythm. The light was given to mark the days. On the first day of creation God said, "Let there be light," and there was light, and it was good. God separated the light from the darkness. On the fourth day of creation God gave “lights in the expanse of the heavens” to “be for signs and for seasons, for days and years.” These lights *rule* over the day and over the night; the rosy dawn signals the new day. It is not the clock (or coordinate signal from satellites) that runs the world, the sun defines our *rhythms and our rejoicing*. Why are we here today? It is because of the Resurrection Light! When the Son of God rose from the grave on the third day in accordance with Scriptures, nothing could remain the same. The first day of the week, *Sunday*, sets the tone of the whole weekly cycle. BC and AD are only the match tip (or BCE and CE - Before Christ Embodied / Christ Embodied if you prefer). Every Sunday Christians gather because the Light of the world crushed the darkness on His way out of the tomb. We assemble for oil in our lamps, for a corporate visit with the Light that our faces would shine when we return to our vocations in His light. His light regulates the rhythms of our days. # Conclusion Only those in the light can be tempted toward discouragement like we are. Because of the light we see the deceit of darkness, the despair of those in darkness, the dead end of darkness. We can see enough to see that men with buckets on their head become bizarro world, clown world, upside down world. But this is part of the glory of the light. Of course you can see the bad beside the good. Of course you can see the destruction and waste chosen by those who hate the Light. That's because of the life you have in His light. When “pitch darkness” was over Egypt for three days, “a darkness to be felt,” all the people of Israel still had light where they lived (Exodus 10:21-23). There was light in Goshen! Beloved, we have the Light. There is light in Christ Jesus who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10). Death is dead and darkness is on the run. Let the world bring its biggest bucket. They already tried to bury the Light in a tomb; the grave could not hold Him. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 2:12). > "A dark hour makes Jesus bright." —Robert Murray M'Cheyne He is the light of the world, the resurrection and the life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, and the light has *conquered*. ---------- ## Charge Jesus came into the world as light so that all the ones believing in Him may not remain in darkness (John 12:46), so you who believe have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). “At one time you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true (Ephesians 5:8-9). ## Benediction: > [May you be] strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11–12, ESV)

Surprising Death

April 17, 2022 • Sean Higgins • 1 Corinthians 2:8–9

# Introduction There are stories too good to be told only once. Some people enjoy going over known information, they get edification in the repetition, others enjoy seeking out new information and adding it to their collection. But there is one story in particular that is always the same and yet keeps making all things new. A key element in these stories is when things are *bad*. David and Goliath is a genre; there was no way David could win. Aslan at the Stone Table is brutal; when you read it for the first time it seems like hope dies. The 2004 Red Sox were down three games to none in a seven games series against the Yankees; no professional team in any sport had ever won four in a row in that situation. Chamberlain’s men were out of ammunition at the holding the Union’s left flank at Little Round Top. We eat these stories up like meat on a charcuterie board. What I pray brings comfort and strength and joy to you today is not only our remembrance that the darkness of the cross is eclipsed by the light of Christ's resurrection, but also that the cyclical attacks of the evil one, as bad as they have been, continually lead to his own undoing. At no point is this more obvious than the cross. Let's look at the main text for this morning and then trace the evil one's series of brutal yet self-defeating blunders. > Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, > "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, > nor the heart of man imagined, > what God has prepared for those who love Him." > (1 Corinthians 2:6-9) Paul has been exalting the word of the cross since 1 Corinthians 1:18. That word is *folly* to the kind of man who can only see what's in front of him, the man who takes his cues from what's everyone else around him thinks. Christ crucified made no sense as a way of salvation and certainly not as a way of glory. Christ crucified obviously made sense as the way to shut Christ down. Killing Him was clearly the move to make Him look bad. # Surprising Power But it is preaching Christ crucified that is God's wisdom. Christ crucified is God's power. > For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the **power** of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV) > to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the **power** of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:24 ESV) > my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of **power**, (1 Corinthians 2:4 ESV) > so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the **power** of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV) The power of God is demonstrated in the crucifixion, which is a kind of divine *wisdom*, a wisdom that rulers missed, and in missing it they sealed not only their ignorance but their doom. Verse 6 doesn't change the subject from Christ crucified, but Paul does clarify that what sounded like a simple message--Christ crucified—is surprisingly powerful. **This age** is the current *aeon*, not just the first century, but is a *way* of looking at things. It’s less a whenever and more a however of a fleshly, man-centered, and *God-hating* way. They are playing a game, so to speak, and the field is only what's in front of them. There can only be one winner, and the competition must be destroyed. The **rulers** of this age are not just the Jewish leaders or Roman officials, Pilate and Herod and soldiers. Those men are included, as are all the men ever who lie and murder to get their power. But there are also spiritual rulers, angels, who were behind the scenes and to some extent always have been involved. There are “rulers and authorities” that are clearly men, there are “rulers and authorities” that are clearly *not* men. But they follow the same playbook. # The Typical Play You know how some women are always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7)? The evil one is *Always Losing and Never Coming to the Knowledge of the Truth*. The ancient serpent hated God’s new image-bearers in the Garden of Eden, and for as much damage as he did to humanity, what he actually got was a specific, but not too specific, threat that became an obsession. “He shall bruise your head…” (Genesis 3:15). Who? When? How? Whether or not the “sons of God” (Genesis 6) were demons or demonically-possessed men, they tried to corrupt the seed of humanity in order to ruin the seed of the woman. What they got was not only a global demonstration of God’s power, but a forever covenant of God’s mercy. When news came that a child was born of a virgin, “the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it” (Revelation 12:4). Through Herod attempt was made to kill the boy, and what that got was more fulfillment of prophecy. # Winning That Isn’t And of course, the cross is the ultimate *defeat* of rebels. The death of Christ fulfills prophecies *and* satisfies the Father's wrath *and* purchases our forgiveness and eternal life *and* is the very triumph over the spiritual enemies that thought they were playing the terminal move. Check mate was a trap door. Satan himself deceived Judas into betraying Jesus. Satan and the rulers and authorities, both in the spiritual realm and in the sphere of politics, wanted Jesus dead. And they got what they wanted. They accomplished the terminal move. Their envy and anger didn't end with mocking and beating, but with crucifixion. That should have been it, right? But they didn't understand the game they were in. They didn't understand the wisdom or power of God. They crucified Jesus but it was the crucifixion that purchased the death of rivalry and divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10). It purchased the death of slavery to the opinions of foolish men (1 Corinthians 1:25). It purchased the death of need for self-righteousness, let alone buying our way out of debt (1 Corinthians 1:30). It purchased the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and the confidence that our faith does not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5). It purchased the death of death. > Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself \[Jesus] likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV) Death is the devil’s move. It is his best weapon. But the wisdom and power of God is that death is beaten through death. If Satan knew what was going to happen, would he have stopped it? For however much Jesus’ death was surprising to evil men, how much more to the evil one? # Wisdom That Isn’t What the natural man can't see is that his pragmatism doesn't even work, which was supposed to be its advantage. It's self-limiting (to this age) and self-destructing, as they are **doomed to pass away** (ESV) or "who are coming to nothing" (NIV). Not only is this currently happening in their heyday, it is something they are doing to themselves (the substantival participle τῶν καταργουμένων is in the middle voice, so reflexive. Not only are they causing something to be powerless, they are doing it to themselves.) They are patting themselves on the back with one hand and with the other sawing off the limb they're sitting on. The wisdom of men wants immediate results. It's not mature, it's as demanding and far-seeing as a toddler screaming for a third helping of ice cream; the crash is inevitable. # God-Given Glory The Son of Man, however, is **the Lord of glory**, a title which is only found in 1 Corinthians 1:8, but already echoes in the age to come. Jesus is not only the glorious Lord, or the one who gives glory, but the very revelation of it. In Him is displayed the wisdom and power of God in defeating so-called rulers by their own selfish glory-grabbing. This wisdom of the word of the cross is part of the Lord's glory. It was also **decreed before the ages for *our* glory** (2:7). There is **glory**, *kavod* or *gravity* in Hebrew, weighty, substantial, and splendor with its Greek nuance. Here is magnificence. Here is meaning. Here is God's purpose for His elect, *predestined* before the ages by God. He determined the boundary line, προορίζω, mark a horizon (see also Romans 8:29). (Also, the cross was predetermined, Acts 4:28). All the powers of this age are sinking, slipping, fading in power and glory, while those who believe the word of the cross are being lifted, secured, and gaining in substance and color. His enemies are like the grass that pulls a concrete block onto itself, while we are being planted like trees beside living waters. **as it is written** in verse 9 readies us for revelation, and it must be a quote from Isaiah 64:4 and it seems a line from Isaiah 65:17. Not from empirical testing (eye has not seen), community tradition (ear has not heard), or speculative intuition (heart has not conceived)(Garland). We “have received…the Spirit who is from God, what we might understand the things freely given us by God” (verse 12). # Conclusion The rulers of this age who ignore the crucifixion *and resurrection* of the Lord of glory will know the power of God, but they will know it as their own foolishness undoes them. The terminal move changed everything. “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes”! Christ is our wisdom from God, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption and *boast*! ---------- ## Charge Do not waste a worry on the opinions or hostilities of the men of this age. Their success is as likely to cohere as a used Easter egg sticker. Do not fear the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places, God’s own purpose is to show off His wisdom to them through the church. Serve the risen Lord with gladness. Be wise as to what is good. Overcome evil with good, in the power of the risen Savior. ## Benediction: > The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20, ESV)

Resurrectio in Excelsis

April 4, 2021 • Sean Higgins

John 11:25-26 Series: Easter # Introduction When grapes die they are glorified. Without any external energy applied, a grape that has lived to the full becomes more potent every fall. I learned about this reality from Robert Capon, in a chapter titled "Water in Excelcis," water in the highest. Because of the way that God made grapes, and because He sustains the chemical processes that grow and ripen and then ferment, grapes are born to become wine. According to Psalm 104:15 it’s a *gift*; just as God gave grain to become bread, so He gave wine to gladden the heart of man. Wine is, according to God-given laws of science, inevitable. > “Each thing, at every moment, becomes the delight of His hand, the apple of His eye. The bloom of yeast lies upon the grapeskins year after year because He likes it; C6H12O6 = 2C2H5OH+2CO2 (glucose ferments into ethanol and carbon dioxide) is a dependable process because, every September, He says, That was nice; do it again.” (Capon, _The Supper of the Lamb_, 85) Man must intervene to stop fermentation, or react after the face to undo the results of the alcohol bonds. Man can also ignore the whole thing, excuse himself by covering his mouth, and his eyes, but he cannot make creation different. > “Only the ungrateful or the purblind (the slow) can fail to see that sugar in the grape and yeast on the skins is a divine idea, not a human one. Man’s part in the process consists of honest and prudent management of the work that God has begun. Something underhanded has to be done to grape juice to keep it from running its appointed course.” (Capon, 89) According to John 6:55-57, the living Father sent His Son to be true food and true drink. In flesh and blood Jesus lived to the full, full in obedience, and like a grain of wheat became even more potent when He died and was buried (see John 12:23-24). Because of who Jesus is, He could not help but rise from the grave. > God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:24) According to God-given laws of sacrifice, Jesus' resurrection was inevitable, along with the resurrection of every man who believes in Jesus. A man can deny these truths, but he cannot undo them. *Resurrectio in excelcis!* This is resurrection in the highest! Grapes die every harvest to make hearts glad; wine exists inescapably. Jesus died once for all (Romans 6:10) and those who died with Him are given cups overflowing with joy in salvation. Jesus' resurrection is a first-fruits, and His elect can't help but be following-fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20). As He Himself said, He laid down His life for the sheep that they may have life and have it *abundantly* (John 10:10-11). So what is the deal with wine in an Easter sermon? There are a couple reasons, both of which I've already introduced without calling them points per se, and I'll restate them and then spend some time with each one. But it's also come to our attention that some outside our church have taken to calling us the "boozer" church. It is sort of humorous, and sort of expected, and sort of a great opportunity to ask what we want to be known for, indeed, what we *ought* to be known for. And that is as related to the resurrection as the letter r. We should not want to be known for our sin, though it wouldn't be a bad start if we had a reputation for being quick to confess our sin. And, of course, drunkenness *is* a sin. So is the wrong kind of fear. The same is true of thanklessness, or boredom with God, or lack of joy, or self-righteousness. But we keep worshiping even though it could be done wrongly. And based on the number of kids dressed in their new Easter outfits, it's obvious that husbands and wives aren't entirely avoiding the marriage bed even though the sins of lust and sexual immorality are obvious and dangerous selling points in our cultural context. The good news is that drunkenness died with Christ. He atoned for all our sins, and our fleshly desires died in Him and were buried with Him. So also lying and covetousness and anger and slander and obscene talk died with Him. And the good news is that death wasn't His end. It couldn't be. And because we are united with Him by faith, death isn't our end either, and that makes certain things certain. Wine, then, provides a double-analogy, both because it is inevitable and because, received rightly, it makes glad. # Resurrection was a When not If. Jesus' interchange with Martha in John 11 continues to help map my theological coordinates. The Gospel of John has the "I am" statements, claims that Jesus made about His nature as *God*. "I am" is, of course, the idea behind God's covenant name, *Yahweh*, which God told to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Jesus took up the I am identification for Himself. He said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35), "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12), "I am the door of “the sheep” (John 10:7). To some scoffers He even said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), leaving no doubt as to His conscious claim of divinity. In John 11 Jesus came two days late to see Lazarus. When He heard that Lazarus was sick He staid away (John 11:6), and when He arrived in Bethany Lazarus had already been buried four days (11:17). Lazarus had two sisters, Martha and Mary, and Martha came out to meet Jesus (11:20). She believed enough to believe that if Jesus had just come sooner He could have kept her brother from dying (11:21). Even still, she seemed to have some hope that Jesus might be able to do something (11:22). Jesus gave her some theology, but she initially put it in the wrong category. He said, "Your brother will rise again," and she understood that about the end times, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." It is His response to this comment that requires our Easter attention. **Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life."** Resurrection, then, is not only an action God can accomplish, it is *an attribute of God* as revealed in the Son. Just as the Son is access to God (the door), as well as understanding (the light) and energy (the life) of the world, He is also the *conqueror* of death. He not only can keep from dying, He overcomes dying. It belongs with His very nature. When Martha acknowledges that He is “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27), she is using the categories that she was familiar with. Putting it together, the Messiah is the Savior through death, Immanuel, God with us, who defeats death. It could not be otherwise because resurrection is God's idea, and in a sense it is in His very nature. When Jesus told His disciples that He must suffer, be killed, and then rise again (as in Matthew 16:21), it wasn't simply because He knew more of His Father's plan, it was because He knew His own character. When Jesus told His disciples that they would weep and lament, but that their sorrow would turn to joy as when a woman had great joy at the birth of her baby (John 16:20-22), it's because He knew the rejoicing that His resurrection and their reunion would bring. He said, > “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22) We should drink this in. # Resurrection is a Joy not Killjoy. Jesus' resurrection gives birth to **joy** (John 16:22), to "the experience of gladness" (BDAG for *χαρά*). What is it, though, that causes such joy? There are *reasons* for joy, reasons for rejoicing, and it relates to some of the things that God gives us through the resurrection of His Son. *We can't be condemned/canceled*. Which is another way to say that we are forgiven, and we can know that we are forgiven because Jesus' resurrection demonstrates the Father's acceptance of the sacrifice. We deserved judgment; "The wages of sin is death." All of us *were* guilty, and God's righteousness requires that unrighteousness be addressed. For all those who would ever believe, God sent His Son to die in their place. Jesus paid it all, it is finished. Peter wrote, > Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1 Peter 3:21–22) So Paul wrote, > “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--*more than that, who was raised*--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:33-34) Christian, your guilt was crucified in Christ. Your flesh was crucified in Christ. Your disobedience and “the record of debt that stood against” you, was crucified in Christ (Colossians 2:14). So let no one pass judgment on you (Colossians 2:16). When Christians are being tagged today as haters, as racists, as hypocrites, as dangerous (which, of course, could have been the kind of criticisms against Christians in Rome to whom Paul was writing, Christians who were about to be "regarded as sheep to be slaughtered" as Romans 8:36), we are to remember that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). When the serpent and his offspring accuse us, we remember that we are forgiven, we cannot be condemned. *We can't be enslaved/captivated by sin.* A second reason for our joy in the resurrection is because we have been raised with Jesus and we share in His life. We can obey, and obedience has consequences of blessings. This reality is also pictured in our baptism, and it is an argument Paul uses in order to challenge those who think grace is only as good for covering sin. Grace also changes us. > “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, *we too might walk in newness of life*" (Romans 6:3-4). Sins of every kind are the killjoys; God blesses obedience and good works with joy. Every self-pitying, moping desire of the flesh is a killjoy, but we are free from the joy-killer within us. *We can't be manipulated/coerced.* Because "we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again," and that "death no longer has dominion over him" (Romans 6:9), because He promised that "everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:26), what can man do to us? We no longer seek the glory that comes from man (John John 12:43), let alone the protection that comes from man. We are free from those killjoys, those who would shame us or malign us (see 1 Peter 4:3-5). We seek the glory that comes from God. We seek the same joy as Christ. > let us run…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2) So we have patience and endurance and courage and *joy*. None of that would be possible apart from the resurrection. # Conclusion How then should we live? I am not exhorting you to be more joyful, though there are those imperatives (Matthew 5:12; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). I'm saying *joy is yours*. Joy is an indicative in the resurrected Christ. Don't accommodate yourself to self-pity, to mopery, to the spirit of this age, to death. Ours is not syrupy simplicity, nor is it like the vinegar of truth. Our joy is not a cackling of fools like the crackling of thorns under a pot (Ecclesiastes 7:6), but like well-aged wine, refined (Isaiah 25:6), mature and deep. In his book _The Everlasting Man_ G.K. Chesterton wrote: > “Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy. It is when for some reason or other the good things in a society no longer work that the society begins to decline; when its food does not feed, when its cures do not cure, when its blessings refuse to bless.” Let us not be weary of joy, or give it up, thinking that it is the problem. According to God's will grapes become wine become a heart-gladdening gift to man. According to God's will the Son took on flesh, obeyed perfectly, sacrificed lovingly, and rose again on the third day so that His joy might be in us. You were a killjoy, and He has made you free. You are surrounded by killjoys, and He has made you free. *Resurrectio in excelsis!* ---------- ## Charge As you give your kids candies and chocolates for a sweet celebration of resurrection, make sure you are tasting the goodness of the Lord. As you gather, as you eat ham and drink wine, make sure your heart is glad in God. If you are hurting, if you are struggling, make sure you mediate on God's power that raised His Son from the dead and the hope He calls you to. ## Benediction: > May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead. (Ephesians 1:17-20a, ESV)