Looking back over this past week of Passion, we have attended Seder meals, Good Friday services, sunrise services, Easter breakfasts and, yes, more services; we have reread the Passion narratives, remembered Jesus’ body and blood, commemorated his crucifixion, and yesterday we celebrated his resurrection. The week has been so eventful and exhausting that we are probably quite glad it’s over and ended. The Easter eggs have been found, the chocolate bunnies have been savored, a little vacation time has been enjoyed, Jesus is alive; now it’s time to get back to real life. Ironically, this is what Jesus’ resurrection is all about; knowing why Jesus lives on Sunday so we know how to live on Monday. But to do so requires hearts that see clearer, know deeper, and hope further than they ever have before.
Paul knew that Jesus “was the true Light which…enlightens every man.” His experience of this first hand would later shape his hope for the churches. In his letter to the congregations in and around Ephesus, Paul writes “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…”
The heart is a deceitful thing, Jeremiah says; dark and oblivious, our hearts do not often see rightly. Hoping their awareness of God’s grace would be expanded with wisdom and insight, Paul prays for their enlightenment; that Christ would shine Himself so deeply within the deep, dark crevices of their understanding that the eyes of their heart would adjust to reality as God sees it. Paul then describes three realities he hopes they will experience in this enlightenment: “…so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
These three realities Paul prays into the Ephesian believers summarize the awareness’s that come beautifully into view as the eyes of their heart adjust to God’s enlightenment. The call of Jesus is a grace-filled, affirming truth that transcendingly echoes and reverberates throughout our perceptions, shattering falsehoods and insecurities to which we’ve clung, leaving us regenerated and responsible in confident, hopeful assurance of the One who called. Aware and apprehended by the magnificent majesty of the Most High God, we respond with conformity to the character of Christ, demonstrating ourselves an earthly community that sincerely serves one another while eagerly anticipating the rich fulfillment of our heavenly kingdom. But while awaiting its glorious fulfillment, our spirits are steeled and steadied by his mighty, all-sufficient and surpassing power, which increasingly grants our realities a confident trust that overwhelms and overcomes the worries and anxieties that steal within, fortifying the faith that compels us forward. How eagerly do you yearn to have the eyes of your heart enlightened to gaze upon such beautiful and beckoning realities?
But what is it that quickens this enlightenment? By what power do the eyes of our heart gaze upon such realities?
Paul then declares “These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
Our enlightenment is rooted in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. The power exerted in raising Jesus from the dead is the same power that raises our realities from the dead. The power that exalted Christ to his throne is the same power that elevates our hearts to his courts where resplendent glory pours out from His majestic dwelling, sovereignly revealing to the receiving believer previously hidden wonders and wisdom. As the eyes of our hearts are opened, truth gazes back and an intimate, holy reality fills our vision and enlightens our souls. The power by which Christ arose allows us all Christ to know. Oh what marvelous majesties enter our minds when deeply rooted in the resurrection and in full focus of the exalted Lord upon the throne of God!
In a final scene of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth”, a fictional temple scribe who was instrumental in the conviction and crucifixion of Jesus enters into the empty tomb to see for himself if Jesus’ body is there or not. Looking at the discarded wrappings, he pensively whispers to himself “Now it begins. It all begins.”
The Week of Passion has ended, but God’s passion for humanity and Earth’s redemption presses on; if you’ve experienced Christ’s salvation and enlightenment, don’t let Sunday be the end. Make Monday the beginning. Today is the day to live the salvation story; now it begins.
“Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”