Easter From the Backside: A Book Review

First published as a Facebook Note on Friday, February 8, 2011, this seems like a timely review to open my new blog…just in time for Easter!

It approaches—the moment for which my soul yearned through the dark time of winter! It approaches—the day that returns annually to mark the most important event in the history of humanity! And with its approach, the Spirit would have us grasp with finality and victory the indisputable fact that the Day we herald is not a mere Day, but the very portal of ETERNITY! It is NOT coming…it has ARRIVED! Finally, I know, it has been MY day, all along!

Allow me, friends, to review my “Facebook Status”, posted December 22, 2010 at 10:46 a.m.:

“Leah McConnell Randall thinks if you don’t view Christmas through the lens of Easter you have really missed the point. Be an Easter person if you want to “keep Christmas” in your heart every day! “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” John 11:25-26”

I won’t explain my “Christmas Experience” at this point. I’ll say that the Spirit did a work in me over Christmas 2010 which forever changed my perspective on what people call “Christmas” and left an indelible message from our Savior stamped on my heart. The sum of my Christmas experience is that EASTER  surprised me in the dark solstice hours. It was Easter that provided the Christmas feast for which I hungered and the joy foretold by the angels! And it is Easter that offers every believer the power to claim his or her place as an heir—the rights granted by adoption into the household of God—through Christ Jesus! Instead of embracing “Christmas” as the world does, I decided to see myself from that moment on as “an Easter person.”

So, let us turn now to Easter, as I offer this book review. If you don’t have time to read this wonderful gem of print in the next two weeks, read it later. Every day is Easter for Easter people!

 J. Ellsworth Kalas is a former President of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. At the age of 88, he still serves the Lord faithfully as Senior Professor of Homiletics. His “From the Back Side Series” offers insight into scripture from unusual perspectives, often through the eyes of “minor characters” the rest of us have overlooked. Well worth reading for disciples seeking a deeper faith experience!

When was the last time you had a conversation with an octogenarian?  Let me warn you: if you really seek the wisdom of the older saints among us, it is best you let your senior companion do all the talking! This is the experience of the reader who picks up J. Ellsworth Kalas, seeking a moment of fellowship and edification at the feet of a master disciple!

In Easter from the Back Side, Kalas offers instruction on how the salvation story, from Genesis to Revelation, touches Easter at every point.  In the same eloquent and witty tone employed by CS Lewis in his radio broadcasts, Dr. Kalas conveys a deeply introspective wisdom to be broadly shared by the Body of Christ. We realize we partake of the same human condition experienced by Adam and Eve—and all their offspring—since the serpent first discovered his avenue of appeal to our uniquely human attribute of “choice”. We all tend to choose our own way before we choose God’s way. Easter is all about being restored to God’s way!

Whether we mourn the loss of a child, as Adam and Eve must surely have done after Cain murdered his brother, or sit in the ashes of inexplicably tragic circumstances, like Job, Easter trumpets forth the solution to our sorrow and our pain. Seth, the gift of solace, foretells a time when God will put an end to the consequences of our choices gone awry. In one brilliant visionary moment, in the midst of tragedy, Job received a glimpse of his Redeemer and proclaimed a belief in the bodily resurrection. Ezekiel, too, received a revelation of Easter, not only for Israel, but for all who turn to God. Kalas finds a divine sense of humor in God’s command to Ezekiel to preach to a lifeless array of human remains, a humor that masks the wondrous surprise which follows on the heels of Ezekiel’s obedience—the affirmation that God is fully able to bring life from death and to breathe renewal into what is hopeless.

Kalas reminds us it was genuine, exemplary love—the very love born at Christmas and fully manifest in Easter—which compelled Mary Magdalene through the darkness of that Easter morn, to minister to the body she thought she would find; love which compelled her to return and wait there, weeping, that she might come to be the first in John’s Gospel to behold the risen Lord. We find, in the haste and urgency of John and Peter racing to discover the mystery of the empty tomb, a picture of love that transcends and blots out what our post-modern era describes, in its secularization of Advent, as “the Christmas rush”.

Then Kalas discloses that, while Thomas was “late for Easter”, Saul was later still, almost irreparably so. Yet the grace and love of the Savior intervened and not only saved Saul, but transformed the enemy of the church into Paul—the greatest missionary of all time! Embedded in the story of Saul is the promise Easter still holds for all humanity. But the true climax of Easter is yet to come. Some think of Easter as “the end of the story”. But, Kalas cautions, the best is yet to come. The promise of Revelation is that we shall behold the Lamb upon His throne and serve Him for eternity. What greater privilege, but to count ourselves among the redeemed, commissioned to proclaim the gospel in such a time as this?

Along with his sound exegesis of scripture and his Wesleyan understanding of prevenient and sanctifying grace, Kalas brings Spirit-born nourishment for all who hunger for the hope of Easter. Sagely, and with humility, Dr. Kalas serves a feast for the Body that can only have been prepared by a servant who has truly spent much time with the Lord. And isn’t that exactly what Easter calls us to do? To spend more time with the Lord—on a regular basis—in this temporal life of flesh and blood, so that we may be progressively sanctified and perfected, fitted to spend eternity with Him in the time beyond “time”?

Hurry—make haste! There is still time to get your hands on this book and partake of a feast of encouragement and sound teaching. Or, if perchance the Spirit bids you, resolve instead to spend more time in these next few days with the Master and proclaim to the lost world: “Easter is not coming! It has already come! It is NOW!”

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