Eastertide’s Didactic Function

How was your Easter? I know for us, it was a time of great celebration. We gathered as the people of God to consider Christ’s glorious resurrection and all which it entailed. As a congregation, we proclaimed together that historic responsive declaration: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!” We make so much of a single day, and so we ought. But Easter is more than a day.

The time between Easter and Pentecost is regularly called “Eastertide” by the church. It is a way of speaking of the time during which the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ walked, talked, ate, and taught with His disciples. Again, we recognize that the resurrection according to Scripture was not a mass delusion by the early church, but a miraculous moment whereby the same Christ who had died on Calvary’s cross, now returned in glory with a true resurrected body.

Luke’s Gospel portrays the bodily resurrection of Christ most plainly, “Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” (Luke 24:36-40 ESV)

Why does this all matter? Eastertide is a time where we reflect upon the historic, empirical reality of the resurrection of Christ. He wasn’t merely raised in their hearts, but He regularly interacted with them in tangible ways. He invited their investigation. He provided sensible data to silence any doubts. Even more than that, He continued to teach them.

We learn about His heart by that fact. If you and I had students who abandoned us in our great hour of need, I doubt any of us would be glad to enroll them in our class again. Yet this is precisely what we see Christ do. This is of course an outworking of His role as the Messiah. He is not only our great High Priest, and present-reigning King. But He is also our Prophetic teacher.

We can forget that. It’s easier than we want to admit. But we must not forget that even after Jesus conquered the grave, He still taught His disciples. It’s a reminder to us that way we can most profit in this Eastertide season is to consider these words of Christ. Here we turn again to Luke’s Gospel: “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…” (Luke 24:44-45 ESV)

How did Jesus teach them? He taught them to read their Old Testaments rightly, that is, with an eye towards Him. If we were honest, we’d likely admit that the Old Testament is an oft skipped-over section in our Bibles. Sure, the Psalms are great, maybe even the Proverbs, but when was the last time you read through Leviticus or Hosea looking to see how they point forward to Christ? This example provided for us by Christ Himself must guide our practice. By the power of the Spirit, we must learn to read our Old Testament in light of Christ’s finished work.

It’s rather ironic if you think about it. The only way to utilize Eastertide well is to consider how the Old Testament points us to Christ. There are of course many clear places of explicit fulfillment. Think for example about those early prophecies of the virgin conception (Matthew 1:23), or Bethlehem as the place of Christ’s birth (Matthew 2:6). But there are other examples hinted at by the Apostle Paul which lend to our understanding of how we might see Christ clearly in the Old Testament (e.g., 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; vv. 11-12!).

Neither time nor space allow us to go into further detail on these things but what this brief sketch does provide us is the reality of Christ’s role as our Prophetic-Teacher and that it signifies our need to be taught. Likewise, as Christ’s prophetic office continues today through the faithful preaching and teaching of the Scriptures by pastors (the heirs of the apostles and their teaching ministry) we too must commit ourselves to being taught by faithful men who have been set apart for this task (1 Tim. 2:12; 3:2).

May this Eastertide be one of enrichment for your hearts and your minds. May you grow in understanding the Bible as chiefly focused on the person and work of Christ. May you sit eagerly at your next worship service, waiting to grow as a student of Scripture, so that you too might reflect the joy that God has for you through His Word and Spirit.