Easter and the Renewal of the Spirit

By: Amos Yong
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Some say that the renewing work of the Spirit presumes a lukewarmness of sorts or a state of spiritual formalism (one lacking in vitality); only such a condition presumes or requires renewal. Others say that the renewal of the Spirit simply makes new, so that one can go not only from “death” to “life” (a negative to a positive state) but also from one form of life to another (a more or less positive state to another even more positive state). I think the truth is somewhere in between, and this was brought home to me in reflecting on the events of this past Easter weekend.

Jesus’ journey to the cross – was this led by the Spirit or not? Obviously yes – the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness and then from there through to Jerusalem and Golgotha – which suggests that the work of the Spirit is not always along the path of prosperity, peace, and blessing! This is especially the case if we also, as Jesus-followers, recognize that part of the call to discipleship is to walk in his footsteps that led to the cross. Yes, Good Friday brings to our remembrance that Christ took up our sins once for all; however, Good Friday also calls us to a renewed commitment to bear the cross of Christ through the valley of the shadow of death in the power of the Spirit.

Easter Sunday, of course, reminds us of the Spirit’s raising Jesus from the dead, thereby making possible also our rising with him over the powers of sin and death. Simultaneously, Easter Sunday also propels our hearts forward, in eager anticipation of the time when sin will finally subdued and death will be no more. Hence our present life in the Spirit unfolds in the light of Easter, but yet also yearning for its fullness of life at the second coming of Christ.

Often forgotten in the Good Friday to Easter Sunday weekend is Holy Saturday. That the renewing work of the Spirit today neither leaves behind Good Friday nor brings about the fullness of God’s new heavens and new earth means that life between the first and second coming of Christ is like that of Holy Saturday. In this liminal state between the resurrected/ascended Christ and his return on a white horse we experience the victory of Christ over sin while longing for the triumph of Christ over death. That we realize the Spirit’s renewing our hearts despite sin gives us assurance that we will undergo the final renewal of eternal life and union with God through the one who raised Jesus from the bonds of the grave.

The church’s liturgical calendar reminds us each year through Good Friday and Easter Sunday of the work of Christ that strengthens our resolve and emboldens our hope. These are also renewing works of the Spirit. The Spirit makes new as each spring time opens us up to a new season in the year. Holy Saturday meant for the disciples of Jesus that his crucifixion was in their past, although they were unsure of what was in their future. Our Holy Saturday invites us to ask once again for the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts so that we can persevere and rejoice in light of the past, and work in expectation of the future. Come Holy Spirit – gives us the means through which to bear witness to the world about why Friday is Good (beyond “TGIF”) but Sunday is coming!

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Amos Yong
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