Easter is the wonderful good news of Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of the resurrection to eternal life for all who believe in him. But hidden from view is a greater and more stunning reality.
In the beginning all is well. God lives in harmony with his creation and with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve live in harmony with God, each other and the creation.
In the beginning before the world goes wrong, before darkness enters in and crushes the light. Before sin comes into the world and brings with it misery and grief and sorrow and slavery to idols. Before sin comes and people join together in their sin and create structures and systems that multiply sin so that the poor are oppressed, the refugee is rejected, those considered less than because of color of skin or background or whatever are kept in their place.
In the beginning all is well and then the world goes wrong, the creation goes wrong so that what is needed is a new, a renewed creation where light once again is the way of things. As John says,
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4–5 NIV11)
A light is needed to overcome the darkness, a renewed creation to spring out of the old creation. John in his gospel takes us on a journey as Jesus brings this old creation to an end and begins the renewed creation. Take us a journey giving us hints all along the way of what this new creation is going to be like. Using seven signs—what we often call miracles, but John speaks of signs—pictures of God’s new creation. Here are two of the seven.
Jesus goes to the wedding feast in Cana and turns water into wine. And not just a little bit of wine, a lot of wine. And not just any wine, the best of wine. The head of the feast says to the bridegroom,
“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” John 2
The best has been saved, the present creation is not the best, the best is yet to come. To fully understand this moment we go back to the Old Testament prophet Amos,
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God.” (Amos 9:13–15 NIV)
From wine to food. Jesus feeds 5000 men along with many women and children in John 6, like the wine it is a miracle. From a few loaves he creates a feast for thousands. A feast for thousands on a mountainside. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah says,
“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.” (Is 25:6–8 NIV)
A renewed creation. Exile comes to an end, cities are rebuilt, people live without fear, an amazing meal in the presence of God, death swallowed up, no more tears or disgrace.
This is what the signs point to, they point to this renewed creation. What Jesus is doing in all of this is saying something like, “I’m bringing an end to that first creation that brought darkness and I’m going to bring in the renewed creation where I myself am the light at the center of it.”
John takes on this journey of hope, the journey of hope of a renewed creation, where light always triumphs over darkness. But before he can get to that place darkness will have it’s day. Jesus is arrested, sentenced to death—on the sixth day of the week. The day on which God created Adam, the first Adam who fell into sin, who brought the darkness. On this sixth day Pilate takes Jesus, Jesus dressed in purple with a crown of thorns on his head, he is shown as a king—whether the people really get it or not, he is the king over creation as the first Adam was supposed to be.
Jesus stands there, a king, no one really sees it, but then on this sixth day of the week Pilate says to the crowd, and stands him before the crowd and says,
“Behold the man”
Which brings us all the way back to Adam, only this time the new Adam, Jesus will not fail at his task. He will bring in the creation that God has always wanted and longed for. A creation where we are God’s people live for him and his kingdom carrying out the calling as we were meant to: bringing glory to God, flourishing to people and to creation.
On the sixth day we hear: Behold the man. And then on that same day we hear Jesus cry out,
“It is finished”
The Greek word is Tetelestai. The root of the word is “Teleo”. Here’s why that’s important. In Genesis this is what we read,
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” (Gen 2:1–2)
It is finished, the heavens and the earth were finished. Genesis, in its Greek translation uses the word sunteleo to tell us that God finished his work, same root. When Jesus cries out “it is finished” he is saying that the end of the first creation has come, he’s done all that’s necessary to finish the work of the first creation and now…
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” (John 20:1)
The first day, while it is still dark — sound familiar? The first day, while it is still dark, Jesus, the light of the world, is raised to life. It is the beginning of God’s renewed creation. The old is gone, the new has come. It is a stunning moment—to recognize that God’s renewed creation is already on the move, that darkness has been overcome by light, that God is calling people out of the darkness into the light, that God is calling a people to demonstrate this renewed creation and the renewed creation way of life to the world.
Jesus’ resurrection then is the wonderful good news not only of our resurrection, but also the amazing good news that the new creation has already begun. A new creation that is lived out in vibrant, shalom-focused communities of Jesus.
“A Whole New World” provided by Larry Doornbos, director of Vibrant Congregations. Vibrant Congregations joins local churches in discovering their God-given, hope-filled, shalom-focused future using the Vibrancy Pathway:
- Pray Deeply|Identify Wisely|Implement Joyfully
- Pray Deeply: We engaging congregations in Word and prayer to listen to God’s word to the church
- Identify Wisely: We join with the congregation in discovering their best partner for fresh steps in ministry and mission.
- Implement Joyfully: We equip the congregation to move forward into God’s future.
For more information on the Vibrancy Pathway, resources and our latest Church Now Conversation, visit Vibrant’s website.