Lenten season is a time of soul-searching, of repentance and of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. And at this time, in 2014, as I and other Christians are going through assorted personal difficulties and struggles,not to mention the crises occurring in the Middle East and Ukraine, I have found myself pondering afresh as to just what difference does the resurrection of Christ make for us and the world? And does it make any difference to our mission in the world for the Lord? Does the resurrection really make any difference when reconciliation—among the nations, among the church, between genders—seems so impossible?
Well, truly and literally, it does make all the difference in the world, despite current appearances. For Christ Jesus, by his death and resurrection, won the decisive victory against sin, death, and the powers of darkness, just like the Allies on D-Day won the decisive battle that assured their victory and the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany. Furthermore, though Christ’s enemies continue to resist and fight to the bitter end, the Risen and Living Christ intends through each member of his body, the church—regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or social status—to carry on his work of redemption and reconciliation in the world until he returns.
The ongoing work of the Risen Christ in the world through the church is the prophetic vision of Scripture itself. Isaiah and the other prophets foretold that the Messiah will not only be filled with the Holy Spirit and declare God’s life-giving words to Israel and the nations, but will also perform signs and wonders that result in the sight of the blind being restored; those entrapped in spiritual darkness and oppression being set free; and those being unjustly treated and oppressed by their enemies being delivered. The Messiah also carries on a great work of redemption and reconciliation through a renewed and Spirit-filled Messianic people (i.e. the church) who are his representatives, or “oaks of righteousness,” and in the power of the Spirit, “rebuild the ancient ruins” (Isa. 61:1–6). The oppression and marginalization of women are parts of those “ancient ruins” that Christ’s followers are called to rebuild. When we see women being freed from sex trafficking, using their gifts without obstruction, and overcoming abuse, we witness Jesus’s resurrection power.
The above passage in Isaiah, along with Joel 2:28–32, is the prophetic bridge that joins Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles together, undergirding their common theme—that the work of redemption and reconciliation, which God began through Jesus the Messiah, he is now carrying on through the new covenant people (i.e. the church), until the time comes for the full deliverance for God’s people and final judgment on all those who have rejected and opposed Jesus (cf. Acts 2:14–39 and 3:11–4:4). Therefore, until he returns, we are to be involved—in accordance with our Spirit-gifting and calling, not limited by our genders—in preaching the gospel, making disciples, and promoting social justice as ambassadors of God’s present and coming kingdom.