In a few days Christians around the world will celebrate our great day of victory—Easter. If you love Easter, you are in very good company. The early Christians exalted Easter as their high holiday. The risen Lord marks the climax of history, the highest moment of God’s creation. This is seen most clearly in how the disciples viewed greeting the risen Jesus, not as “the last days” but as “the first days,” of God’s new creation—an observation noted by N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Easter. In what ways did the early Christians view Christ’s victory over death as the first days of a new creation?
Wright sees the parallels between the creation story in Genesis and the new creation made possible through Calvary. Just as God finished his work on the sixth day, Jesus declared his work is finished also on the sixth day. Just as Christ rested in the tomb on the seventh day, God rested from his creation work on the seventh day.
It is Mary Magdalene who is the first to encounter the new creation—the Risen Lord (John 20:1). She is also the first to receive Christ’s comfort and commission. Christ tells Mary to “Go instead to my brothers and tell them ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'” (John 20:17). Because Jesus sent Mary to the other apostles with the good news of his victory over sin and death, she is referred to as the apostle to the apostles.
Jesus also appears to the other disciples on that Easter day. Like Mary, the disciples are also fearful—they were gathered behind locked doors. Jesus approaches them with the same assurance and comfort he gave Mary. He also sends them (John 20:22), just as he sent Mary. Finally, as Wright notes, Jesus breathes his Spirit into them, just as God breathed life into Adam and Eve in the garden.
Both men and women, created equally in God’s image, are equally engaged in the comfort, commissioning and equipping of this new creation. Just as Adam and Eve together receive the divine mandate in Eden to exercise dominion and be fruitful in the garden, likewise, Christ also gives the disciples, both men and women, a spiritual mandate to forgive or retain sins (John 20:23). As God’s messengers of the new creation in Christ, we receive the divine mandate to exercise a holy and Spirit-filled dominion in our world together as men and women. God’s intention is that we work together as men and women, as both creation stories show.
Friends, as we celebrate our new creation in Christ, may we embody fully that newness of life in Christ that engages every believer in the work of building Christ’s kingdom. In that kingdom, men and women are full participants in this vital drama. Christ is risen!