Notre Dame and Easter Hope

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This week, millions of people around the globe have been mourning the burning of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, France. It is deeply disturbing to witness something that has lasted for 900 years absolutely gutted in a day. 

Many voices in the media are calling this catastrophe a “sign” of the times, lamenting the neglect of tradition, faith, and history throughout the Western world and the decline of our civilization. The significance is heightened by the fact that this happened during Holy Week, the most important time in the Christian calendar. Christianity has long been declining in Europe and increasingly attacked in recent decades—some reports cite over 2,000 incidents of church vandalism in France in the last two years alone.

Yet the very message we proclaim at Easter is this: He is risen. Even as we mourn the loss of beautiful, irreplaceable artifacts and the deeper cultural losses to which they point—along with many other signs of brokenness, loss, and death in our world—we must look to Christ’s death and resurrection to see reality and find our unshakeable hope. 

The Eternal Temple of God 

Before Jesus went to the cross, He drove the moneychangers out of the great religious building of His day, Herod’s Temple. He then declared, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The religious leaders responded incredulously: “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 

The Gospel explains: “But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoke” (John 2:19-22 NIV).

Jesus’ body is the temple of God on earth. It is not a building made by human hands, but a building of humans, “living stones” held together by Christ, the cornerstone (see 1 Peter 2:5-9). As we watch a great monument to faith burn, we remember that the real church is this eternal body, which cannot be destroyed. 

In fact, one of the truths that has been actively attacked in Western culture for centuries now is that human souls are eternal, a truth that, as C.S. Lewis pointed out repeatedly, must shape our perspective on the significance of things like civilizations, governments, arts, culture, and all human institutions. As he famously said in his talk, “The Weight of Glory”: 

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours . . . Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.

The vandalizing and destruction of human monuments merely reflects the deeper gutting of our humanity that takes place when we deny the eternal value of people. From heaven’s perspective, the destruction of the child in the womb, the desecration of bodies through violence and abuse, and every way in which we mar and devalue the image of God in one another is more heartbreaking than the burning of an iconic building. For each soul is far more unique and precious to God than a Notre-Dame. 

The Source of our Eternal Value 

In order to live with this value for our humanity, however, we must encounter it. And the place where we do that is at the cross and empty tomb of Jesus. 

On the cross, Jesus took on the burning torment and fiery wrath of our sin, shame, rebellion, and bondage on His body. As Isaiah had prophesied, “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 42:14). He was the Last Adam, the perfect image of God, yet He loved and valued us enough to become the fallen image in our place. 

But after enduring this destruction, the Father raised Him from death with a new, glorified body, the firstborn of the new humanity. He loved and valued us enough to join us to Himself forever in a life-giving union that ultimately unravels sin and death not only in this life, but into eternity, bringing the restoration of all things.   

Easter Hope 

I spend my life speaking to and meeting with people who are walking out the journey of seeing the resurrection life of Jesus heal the destruction of sin and death in their lives. 

I have sat in countless rooms with people who feel like their lives are over. Their hearts are shattered. Their relationships lie in ruins. Their worlds have been blown up by their own choices or the choices of others.

And every time, I see the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus come in the room with hope and life. He speaks truth that drives out the lies and strongholds of darkness. He brings healing that wipes away the past. He gives grace to forgive and reconcile. And He pours out His power to walk in the restored identity of a son or daughter with a new way of resurrection life.

And this is the hope that I carry, that even the fall of a civilization cannot stop the real work of Jesus. Yes, such a fall is full of darkness—the same kind of darkness the disciples must have felt for those three days Jesus was in the grave. What overwhelming horror and hopelessness they must have known watching the One they believed was going to change the world beaten to death and stuffed in a cave. That darkness feels close again. It could be argued that it’s winning. But, we’ve seen this hundreds of times in the history of mankind, and every time, Jesus returns from the tomb victorious. No matter how intense the hatred gets, love always wins. 

Reality cannot be defined by the fearmongers and skeptics. We are closer to a worldwide revival than we are to the end of the world. Signs, wonders, miracles, and salvations are in every country I can think of around the world. Jesus is building His church of living stones, raising up liberated sons and daughters who imitate His example of sacrificial love and life wherever they go. God is building His cathedral on the earth, and its beauty will never be destroyed.

 
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