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Easter Reflections From the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary For 2023

Kees van der Knijff


Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) John 20: 8-9 (NIV)

What is resurrection-faith? Is it the kind of faith that has everything figured out? Is it the strong, over-confident faith that always proclaims Jesus’s victory and focuses on his promise of material blessing?

When studying John 20, a chapter packed with John’s usual and deliberate subtlety, I was struck by the order of verses 8 and 9. First, we are told how John finally entered the tomb. How he looked around and started to believe. That certainly is resurrection-faith: standing in the empty tomb and believing.

And then, immediately after that verse, John reminds us of something else: They still did not understand. I love that order. This also is resurrection-faith: standing in the empty tomb, believing, without fully understanding.

It would have been more logical to reverse the phrases. To remind the readers that the disciples previously did not yet fully understand, but that now, in the empty tomb, John starts to believe. However, the author deliberately chose the opposite order. We don’t have to understand everything to start believing. We don’t have to have everything figured out.

Resurrection-faith is not triumphalist faith, but humble faith. Resurrection-faith knows it will never fully understand. It is aware that with Easter everything changed, but that we also still live in the “already and not yet”.

In this tension between verses 8 and 9, in this experience of believing while not fully understanding, resurrection-faith follows the identity of the One who was resurrected: the resurrected Jesus is none other than the crucified Jesus, and the crucified Christ is none other than the resurrected Christ.


Dustin Ellington

Stepping Toward Galilee

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. – Mark 16:7-8 (ESV)   

Mark 16:8 is a surprising way to end a Gospel, with the women fleeing in fear after seeing the empty tomb and hearing the angel announce that Jesus has risen. Most evidence from ancient manuscripts points to this as the real ending of Mark’s Gospel, not 16:9-20. It’s worth reflecting on why Mark most likely ended not with an appearance of Jesus but with a promise that his disciples will see him, and not with a response of belief but with fleeing and fear.

Jesus had risen. That means that everything had changed for these women who went early Sunday to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. Yet Mark says they met what they saw and heard with trembling, fear, and silence. Mark often speaks of the Twelve not understanding Jesus. The women tend to do better. This time, even their response proves inadequate.

Sometimes we as Jesus followers respond weakly. We fail to take in the good news, as though it doesn’t quite register with our expectations. We don’t absorb it. Sometimes our fears speak louder than the good news of resurrection and a hope-filled promise. Let’s be aware that, even at Easter, some believers may barely hold on to hope.

Yet the words of promise remain: “He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him…” No matter what we feel, we’re called to step toward Galilee – where Jesus taught discipleship. As we respond, stepping toward discipleship, we will see the resurrected Jesus. It’s a promise.[1]


Loulwa El Maalouf

Seeking the Truth

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” – John 18:37 (NIV)

“We want the truth.” This was one of three main demands of more than a million Lebanese protesting after the ex-Lebanese prime minister was assassinated in 2005. Many years have passed, yet this request and many like it are still unmet. The world struggles in search for truth. On one hand some claim that they have the truth; others suggest that truth is relative and each person has their own truth.

As we look to celebrate Easter my mind shifts to Pilate who retorted “What is Truth?” This was just after Jesus had answered him in John 18:37.

Do we sometimes do like Pilate? Ask questions where the answer is right in front of us? As we remember the death and resurrection of Christ, I hope that we are reminded of two things:

  1. Jesus is King and everyone on the side of truth listens to Him. Are we listening to Him or are we allowing the noise of the world to shape truth for us?
  2. He came and was born into our world. The Son of God left His throne and experienced pain and sorrow and “because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18 (NIV) Are we ready to look to Him for help when temptation comes?

This Easter, my hope is that the cry of Lebanese will change to, “We want The Truth.”


Elie Haddad

The Power of Resurrection

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” – Philippians 3:10 (ESV)

Paul desired to know Christ, not just theologically, but also relationally and experientially. He wanted to experience in practice what he knew to be true, to experience the power of Christ’s resurrection.

For Paul, this meant renouncing his own selfish desires and completely aligning himself with Christ, living with a deep sense of expectation and hope based on the power of the resurrection.

But what does this mean to today’s church that is living in a complex world filled with adversity and calamities, especially in a region such as ours? In Lebanon, for example, we are experiencing one crisis after another. What does it mean for us to know Christ in the power of His resurrection while we are struggling to find meaning in what is happening around us? How can we talk about the future hope of the resurrection to people around us today who are hungry, suffering, and in utter despair?

The power of the resurrection is meaningless if it cannot give us the strength today to accomplish God’s purposes as it did to Paul. It is meaningless if the eschatological hope that we proclaim has no bearing on our lives now.

As we reflect on the resurrection this Easter season, my prayer is that we continue to align ourselves with Christ, that we grow in knowing Him and the power of His resurrection, that we get to experience that same power today as we navigate the complexity of our daily lives, and that we are able to live the resurrected life in a way that brings real and tangible hope to those suffering around us.


[1] Regarding Galilee and discipleship, see M.D. Hooker, The Gospel According to St. Mark, 393-394.

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