This coming Sunday the Greek Orthodox Church will be celebrating Easter, one week after most of the other Christian churches have had their traditional Holy Week. Some people wonder if the Greek Orthodox Church is really Christian, but it is one of the three main branches of Christianity including the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church.
While the Catholic and Protestant churches celebrate Easter a little earlier than the Greek Orthodox, there are certain customs that are the same for all the Christian denominations. All three believe in the divinity of Jesus, many of the events in the life of Jesus and many of the other attributes of the Godhead.
Most people realize that the New Testament was originally written in Greek and being able to learn Greek was one of the reasons that I attended the seminary that I chose. In fact, I would go so far as to say that studying the Bible in Greek is tantamount to seeing television in color as opposed to black and white. The nuances of the language are beautiful and the stories become much richer when studied in the Greek language.
Back at the time of Christ, the average Greek person had a vocabulary of about 14,000 words – whereas the average American today only knows about 3,000 different words in English. This means that the ancient Greek language was far more exacting than the way that we speak today. And, on top of the vocabulary, there are other grammatical tools that add detail to the language. For example, we have the past, present and future tenses in English whereas the Greek language adds other tenses that we don’t have in our language.
One of those tenses is called the “perfect” tense and has to do with an action in the past that has occurred, is finished – yet has lasting consequences into the future. For example, imagine that something happened to you in the past that will affect your life into the future. That lasting consequence means that the incident may well be written about in the “perfect” tense.
One of the interesting things about the Easter story is that all references to the event of the resurrection are told in the “perfect” tense. That means that something happened, is over and had lasting consequences that changed lives forever. And that something is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on what we traditionally refer to as Easter.
We know that Christ died, was buried and then raised from the dead. What we really get from the Greek is that by being raised from the dead, Jesus lived – and still lives. The resurrection had eternal consequences for all of us – and that’s what makes it all “perfect” in more than one sense of the word. The Greek narrative makes it all quite amazing – and beautiful.
Paul is the one who was probably the most fluent and educated in Greek at the time of Jesus. Many of the other disciples were less educated and, therefore, Paul pays tremendous attention to the details of the stories and it is one of his verses that I have chosen for our verse of the night. In fact, Paul’s passage recounts the core of the entire Gospel message.
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, tells us, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” This is the message that includes the Easter story. And in the Greek, the wording that Jesus was “raised” on the third day is in the “perfect tense.” A one time event that has ongoing relevant consequences for us.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Jewish priests had to do weekly ongoing sacrifices and then, with the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus became the once and for all sacrifice that need never be repeated. That’s the consequence of the resurrection. My encouragement this evening is that God loved us enough to send His Son to pay the price for our sins. As a just God, God required that the price for sin be paid – even if He had to pay it Himself through the death of His Son.
My prayer is that we will all, in this Easter season and throughout the year, grasp the awesome sacrifice that was made for us by God the Father and His Son, Jesus. Because of that sacrifice, we have the availability of eternal life with Jesus. And that is “perfect!” Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…