One reason to celebrate Easter comes in a song that we normally sing at Christmas: Charles Wesley’s 1744 hymn, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”. The song was written for Advent, but its final line casts its gaze upon the fruit of Easter:
by thine all-sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.
It’s a song of longing, here between the ages. It gives expression to what many of us feel right now: for a king to come and solve the problems that we see all around us – to deliver us to a better country, ruled by a perfect King.
But that deliverance only comes by resurrection, because that country is God’s country, and He is pure light, purity itself. In Him there is no darkness. We must be made gloriously new, like Him, to share in all He is.
So then, Jesus came, died and was raised from the dead.
He was raised from the dead on one basis – that he had obeyed God perfectly, in our place. Here we run into the two kinds of Jesus’ obedience. There was his passive obedience – allowing Himself to be hung on the cross, in our place, for our sins. But there was also his active obedience.
He did not come to earth as an adult and go straight to the cross. He lived life, from birth onward, obeying perfectly, in everything we experience. He obeyed in our place.
Thus when the time came, after the three days were up, Jesus had actively acquired all the merit necessary for God to raise Him from the dead, by His own perfect obedience. God raised Jesus because His delight in Himself was fully displayed by Jesus, throughout his life. Jesus was raised because His merit was “all-sufficient”.
God now counts both forms of obedience to all who trust Christ. In faith, we are united to all of Christ, by the Spirit.
His passive obedience is counted to us – he was “delivered up for our trespasses” (Rom. 4:24a). We are counted “not guilty”, on the basis of that passive obedience – forgiven, without sin.
And his active obedience is counted to us – he was “raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25b). Justification: in the words of John Owen, that state where God delights in us, is well-pleased with us, and only has thoughts of kindness toward us – the same state which merited resurrection for Jesus.
Thus to sing Wesley’s hymn is to pray what God promises to do, because of what He’s already done for us, in Christ.