A LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT
What is this Jesus whom we praise, honor, and glorify throughout the year? The question of "Who was He?" is not difficult to answer. Even the unbeliever can agree that Jesus was born a Jew, of a mother named Mary, in a village called Bethlehem. Even the unbeliever can agree that Jesus was born while the Jews were still in possession of their Promised Land, though ruled over by the Roman Empire and its formidable legions. Even the unbeliever can agree that Jesus grew to adulthood, worked as an itinerant rabbi, and had a great following in his lifetime and thereafter.
In the days of the apostle's ministry, the Jewish historian Josephus, who was not a Christian, had this to say about Jesus:"About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared" (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jesus, Book 18, Chapter 3, 3).
It is only in the modern period, after the dominance of rationalistic philosophy in universities and educated circles, that people have stopped believing that Jesus was a Jewish prince("the Christ") fortold by the prophets, accompanied by daily miracles, and appearing on the "third day restored to life". So the matter of "Who was Jesus?" now has many answers, with unbelievers often not even believing in his historical existence at all.
But even when we believers get the right answer to the question of "Who was Jesus?", there is still the mystery of "What was Jesus?" He was truly God and truly man. This is true, but there is something more.
Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45 explains the "something more" when he states:"'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit."
This is the truly great mystery of Easter, and of Christianity itself. It is not enough to say that Jesus was "truly God", though that it true. We also need to confess that this person of the Trinity was ordained and chosen before the foundation of the world to be the "life-giving spirit". He was chosen to restore life to Adam, to Eve, and to all their descendants. During his years of earthly ministry, wherever Jesus went, he restored life to those who were sick. What is healing except restoring that part of life which is broken? Wherever Jesus went, he restored life to those who were sick in spirit through demon possession. What is exorcism except restoring to life that part of the human spirit which is broken? On several occasions, he restored life to those who were dead. He could not do otherwise, because Jesus was a life-giving spirit.
In this season of Easter we not only rejoice at his victory over death, but chiefly look forward to that day when this life-giving spirit will return and touch our graves, our bones, our ashes, and the remains of our loved ones. At that time, he will give life to all who believe in Him and who believe in the forgiveness of sins that he most surely offers today in His Word, Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism, and his Holy Supper. "For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is LIFE and salvation" (Martin Luther, Small Catechism, 6th Chief Part, Benefit of the Sacrament of the Altar).
May our Lord richly bless your Easter season!
Yours in Christ,