The Peacock and Easter...

I wanted to share a few things as we move toward the Passion week into Easter Weekend. Thoughts of the Resurrection fill my mind...

**What do you think is the most famous abiding symbol of the Christian faith? Maybe these are the two that come your mind..

The Cross

The Ichthus

But there are two less familiar symbols that existed that speak volumes about the focus of the early church.

***First, the Chi Rho

The Chi Rho is one of the earliest christograms used by Christians. It is formed by superimposing the first two letters in the Greek spelling of the word Christ ( Greek : "Χριστός" ), chi = ch and rho = r, in such a way to produce the monogram .

It represented resurrection to them; the Messiah, Christ, had come and they wanted to remind themselves of his constant abiding presence in the here and now.

The first century Christian tombs and catacombs were ornamented with all kinds of symbolic designs – palm branches, peacocks, the chi-rho monogram, the ichthus, a Shepherd, a dove, a lamb, a vine

But my personal favorite of this list is the second symbol, the peacock

It was believed by the Ancients that the flesh of peafowl did not decay after death, and it so became a symbol of immortality. This symbolism was adopted by early Christianity, and thus many early Christian paintings and mosaics show the peacock. The peacock is still used in the Easter season especially in the east.

You see, the Resurrection was central to the early churches continued vitality of hope.

At that time in Jerusalem a lamp was kept perpetually burning in the empty tomb of Christ, its glow a symbol of the living light of Jesus. As Christians gathered to worship a hymn was sung called the Phos Hilaron (or Gladdening Light” (earliest known hymn) and, in a tradition known as the lighting of the lamps, a candle lit from the lamp was brought forth from the tomb, its bright, solitary flame calling the church to celebrate the Living Life of Jesus in the present.

The Church did not begin depicting Christ crucified until the sixth century. And in 692 AD, the Council of Constantinople ordered the use of crucifixes rather than other prominent symbols at that time. Crucifixion was the most shameful, painful and humiliating form of execution utilized by the Roman government. Although the early Christians reverenced the Cross as a symbol of Christ, they were reluctant to artistically portray the Lord’s death.

Everything in the New Testament, the entirety of Christian preaching and theology in the early church, is predicated on the Resurrection of Jesus and the continuing dynamic of His life in those who receive Him by faith.

One Scottish preacher, James S. Stewart, so passionately spoke to the power of Jesus resurrection in the everyday life of a human in the here and now…

"It is immensely significant that those first Christians never preached the resurrection simply as Jesus' escape from the grave. They always proclaimed it as the living God in omnipotent action.

"This is the conviction that makes the New Testament...the most exciting and the most relevant book in the world. The power that was strong enough to get Jesus out of the grave, and thus to set going the whole Christian movement across the centuries, mighty enough to shatter and confound the hideous demonic alliance of evil, creative enough to smite death with resurrection ­ this power is in action still.

"...preaching the Resurrection means telling men that the identical divine energy which at the first took Christ out of the grave is available still ­ available not only at journey's end to save them in the hour of death, but available here and now to cause them to live. 
It is an awful catastrophe for the Church when the proclamation of such a Gospel grows dull and listless and mechanical. ...the same power which on that day shattered death is now given us for life ­ to vitalize the most depressed and disillusioned and defeated son of man into a resurrected personality and a conquering soul."

*We see this in the response that the death of Christ prompted in the disciples…an abandonment, a resignation of soul, and a return to the old life.

*However, the response to the centrality of the resurrection was abandon, passion, risk, sacrifice, and eventual martyrdom for almost all the disciples that months before were weak and powerless.

You can tell the truest reality based on the response it causes. There’s little argument that the cross didn’t initially serve to transform the day to day lives of the disciples, it was the resurrection that turned them inside out and upside down, catapulting them into a life of confident and passionate faith that stands as the foundation of the movement of Christianity even two thousand years later.

This is why the resurrection was central to the life of the early church…it was celebrated as the primary symbol of importance.

Take a look at what many consider the foremost chapter of the Bible that speaks the importance of the resurrection in the life of a Christ follower. Let’s pick up this conversation in I Corinthians 15 starting in verse twelve where Paul is arguing for the authority of the resurrection of Christ with the church of Corinth. You can tell that this a hill he’s willing to die on when it comes to faith…

1 Corinthians 15 – 12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.

But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

In plain English Paul is saying…if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, everything we’re doing is useless, futile and pitiful (to use his descriptive adjectives)

Why do you think the resurrection mattered this much to him? Do you think it was just a doctrinal line item that needed to be fought for in order to have a squeaky clean Church constitution? Do you think he simply liked fighting for theological trivialities that didn’t matter to people in the real world?

Or do you think this belief mattered deeply to the Real World of everyday living?

He answers this a little later on in the passage and shares some of the ways Christ’s Rising Life changed the way he lived…follow along starting in verse 29…

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

Four things that the resurrection of Christ caused in Paul…

1. A new life of Risking.

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.

~John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic

2. A new life of Dying.

In John 12:2 Jesus said, " I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." NIV

3. A new life of Glorying.

Glory (verb) – to take great pleasure in, to rejoice with, to celebrate someone’s life

- What does it mean to glory over someone? -t o love so extravagantly that you’re heart heaves and buckles and surges and soars for that person.

- Paul spoke of his love for people by saying things like, “I have you in my heart” or “I long for you with the bowels of Jesus Christ” or “You are my very heart” or “You are my joy and my crown in Christ Jesus”.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

1. A new life of Fighting.

Instead of giving up, you have some fight left in you through the resurrection power of God.

Even when you’re wasted, you keep fighting temptation. Keep fighting for people’s freedom. Keep fighting for your children’s hearts. Keep fighting for your marriage. Keep fighting for creative ways to communicate. Keep fighting off negative thoughts. Keep fighting off those who want to tear you down. Keep fighting for your heart. Keep fighting against the Devil’s schemes in this world. Keep fighting for the marginalized and disenfranchised. Keep fighting for hope to rise. Keep fighting for excellence. Keep fighting against the kingdom of darkness and Satan’s attacks against all that is good.

Don’t be overcome with Evil, but overcome evil with Good. - Romans 12:21

Some of you don’t have any fight left in you because you have nothing to motivate you out of your own personal pit. But this is the power of the resurrection, that through Jesus overcoming power, we too can overcome any obstacle that stands opposed to our freedom and the freedom of others. We rise with a new breed of hope.

In this season, I hope this resurrection hope pulls you and drives you.


Popular Posts