Why Cross and Resurrection? (RJS)

As we move through Lent and approach Easter it has become commonplace to have  questions  surrounding the historicity of the early Christian faith hit the news. This year James Tabor has once again hit the news (complete with forthcoming book and Discovery Channel “documentary”) with the purported discovery of a first century tomb in Jerusalem dated between 20 and 70 CE with Christian symbols and phrases inscribed on ossuaries. The tomb is located near the “Jesus Tomb” he hit the news with about five years ago. The latest claim has been met, primarily, with deep skepticism and a wait and see attitude. Dr. Tabor has not exactly endeared himself to his professional colleagues (sensationalists rarely do). MSNBC had a couple of posts (New Find Revives ‘Jesus Tomb’ Flap and  Doubts About ‘The Jesus Discovery’).

Beyond the rather sensational however, Easter brings up a deep question for many. What ever you think of James Tabor and his new ‘sensational’(ized) find – and I will await the vetting and consensus of his peers before taking him seriously – it is interesting that the symbols he claims to have found point to the central Christian claim and hope of resurrection.  Yet the resurrection seems too bizarre to be true, a strange ending to an otherwise interesting tale. It is something hard for rational modern people to take seriously. And the questions go beyond the rather straightforward “can a scientist believe the resurrection?” (for which there are fairly good answers as NT Wright and John Polkinghorne both point out) to the purpose of the resurrection in the story. A commenter on one of my posts a couple of weeks ago put it like this:

The death of Jesus sounds like such a great story of sacrificial love until the resurrection. What a disappointing turn of events! Who wouldn’t go through crucifixion if afterward they would be resurrected and given all power in the universe. It’s no longer about something mature like love but rather about power, and for the Christian being on the team that has all the power and access to eternal paradise. Such a story reminds me more of something I’d see on Saturday morning cartoons … forces of evil battling against the forces of good … than from a wise creator.

How would you answer this commenter?

Why is ‘Cross and Resurrection’ central to the Christian faith?

What does resurrection – so hard for modern people to accept – bring to the faith?

Clearly resurrection is central to the Christian faith. Paul makes this point with passion in his writing, especially in a passage we’ve touched on many times over the last several month:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.  (1 Cor. 15:3-8)

This is the New Testament statement of the gospel, as Scot points out in his King Jesus Gospel. But the claim of resurrection was controversial from the very beginning. Paul, writing to “the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people”, not preaching to unbelievers or those not yet in the church, finds it necessary to emphasize the importance of resurrection.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:12-19)

We have this passage in our bible (along with the rather confusing discussion of Adam and of spiritual bodies that follows) because Paul found it necessary to defend the resurrection when he was writing to The Church of God in Corinth, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It isn’t only Paul, and it isn’t only the church in Corinth. Matthew adds a defense of the resurrection to his gospel, countering a skepticism in the form of a story widely circulated, he tells us, among the Jews to the very day of the writing of the gospel.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (Mt 28:11-15)

But back to Paul who continues and concludes his thought in 1 Cor. 15 with certainty and confidence:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 15:20)

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:56-58)

The revolutionary claim of resurrection is not peripheral to the Christian faith – something that can be accepted, rejected, or spiritualized. It is not that He lives within my heart but that He Lives whether hearts are receptive or not. And his death and resurrection accomplished something powerful.

In some sense, though, the claim of Paul at the end of this powerful passage in 1 Cor. 15 and elsewhere ( c.f. Phil. 2:5-11 and Romans 8:31-39) comes right back to the commenter I quoted above. This is a story of power. And resurrection is the victory over the power of sin and death. I don’t have a clear answer to give the commenter, and he is far from alone in asking such pointed questions. At this point I would like to open the post up for conversation and find out how others would answer these questions.

How is this resurrection part of the mature love of a wise creator?

Why is Cross and Resurrection central to the gospel of Jesus Christ?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

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  • Chris

    RJS, I have come to see the philosophical purpose of the resurrection as hope and the theological purpose as vindication (Christus Victor). I sometimes wonder if the power motif isn’t mostly an accommodation to “worldly” wisdom. With respect to a “second coming in power” eschatology, the same thing plays out. In the back of my mind, I wonder if a second coming wouldn’t look very much like the first and many people might still not recognize him. Or, maybe the second coming is his Body with spirit and behavior that looks like him. Just musing but I’m not satisfied with power as a central feature of divine evidence.

  • JohnM

    “Who wouldn’t go through crucifixion if afterward they would be resurrected and given all power in the universe.”

    Afterwards…given?! Who would relinquish all the power in the universe and submit to a crucifixion on anyone else’s behalf?

    I wonder what your commentor thinks a wise creator would do and whatever that is, how the commentor claims to know it would be the wise and right choice.

    What kind of Sunday school stories were people told that they would think it’s all about being nice, but victory over sin and death is a bad thing?

  • JohnM

    If Jane plunged into the water knowing there was really no child to be saved Jane’s drowning was not an example of sacrificial love. If Jane knew she couldn’t swim, the rapids were too strong for any swimmer anyway, and she could not possibly save the child, Jane’s drowning was not mature love but a pointless gesture, and no more than suicide.

  • RJS

    JohnM (#2),

    Are we not taught two things in Sunday School – (1) the bible is a collection of moral stories and commandments to govern life today as in the past and future and (2) God’s wrath at our sinfulness is great and only satisfied by the blood sacrifice of his son? Resurrection may be a key piece of this – but in a rather strange way.

    Church is about being nice (or good) and being redeemed?

    This is a rather bald way of stating this – and I am not saying that it is my belief – but I think it may be at the core of the commenter’s dissatisfaction based on some of the other comments made on the same post.

  • http://1teawmilk@blogpot.com gspielman

    I’s always bothered me that the Gospel has been cut off at the knees, presented with no ‘why’ no so-what’ apart from some vague eternal life.
    Jesus Christ’ death and resurrection is meaningful not because he was perfect and not because he got power afterwards. He had all power and authority before time and long before humans. He didn’t need us to gain power. He entered our reality to bring us through to a new-creation state. His death and resurrection (I lay my life down and I take it up again) was not to prove he was sinless. He didn’t need to prove anything to any human. His death and resurrection was to make it possible for Him to pull us out of being still born creatures (in sin/death did my mother conceive me) into being alive in Christ’s life, able to dwell with God-literally- in His reality (which is completely uninhabitable for us otherwise) I think we need to start taking some ethereal verses a bit more literally. We are made new creatures in Christ. We live in Him, we are given everything He is and has because we live in Him. The death and resurrection of Jesus accomplished this. Human+God united to unite humanity to Himself in a completely new kind of life.

  • JohnM

    RJS #4 – I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ressurection being key in a “strange way”. If Jesus is who we say He is, could it have been otherwise? Easier to realize this side of Calvary of course.

    I chose the word ‘nice’ because nice fits certain pop-Christianity notions of ‘what it’s all about’. Nice can be rather shallow and isn’t always the same as good or wise.

    Rather than saying “Church is about being nice (or good) and being redeemed” I would say discipleship is about being redeemed first and then living it out – which, in shorthand, means being good. Maybe just a quibble with word choice and order, but it matters :)

  • TJJ

    Well, “the comment”, by “the commenter” is so flawed and insipid, on so many levels and in so many ways that I a not even going to or bother to critique it. But I am somewhat surprised by is that RJS finds it in any way compelling or even provocative. The comment is what is cartoonish, not the NT teaching of the ressurection.

    Honestly, the comment critiques itself.

  • Ricky

    “18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”[a]20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[b] foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

  • RJS

    TJJ (#6),

    Is your approach to ridicule people into submission? I posted this because I think answers to these sorts of questions are important as we preach or witness to the gospel in the Western world.

    The commenter who posted this was being provocative – but according to the story given had been a conservative pastor, then a liberal Christian, and now an athiest or agnostic – because there seemed to be nothing compelling in the Christian story. As I don’t know the person I don’t know any details, but I can say that elements of the story ring true in many others I have heard (except the “was a pastor” part).

  • http://youtube.com/psalms4guitar Psalms4guitar

    The comment sounds like questions I’ve received before by non-Christians. What a wonderful opening for us to share Jesus with someone who doesn’t know him yet. Not sure why we should respond with disdain for questions like this?

    Peace, Brian

  • Rodney

    @ TJJ # 7,

    Before we dismiss the commentator in RJS’ post as ridiculous, it represents a major approach to the intentions of Jesus first introduced by Albert Schweitzer. Another way of posing the same question, if Jesus knew he was going to be raised from the dead after the crucifixion, then is that “true faith”? True faith leads one to “throw themselves before the wheels of history” not knowing what will happen–at least that was Schweitzer’s contention. In other words, Jesus’ actions in Jerusalem were about power.

  • Mason

    I believe that the commentator missed what is happening on the cross. this is not just another would be Messiah being down away with..this is not Judas Maccabee. this is the God-man. Gods do not die, much less relate to there creation. therefore the cross is much more about death and the promise of life. if you take seriously the phrase “the faith of Jesus” then you have to wonder if Jesus with perhaps limited knowledge had to trust God to do what God said he would do..i.e. resurrect him. i think there is a part of Jesus that did not “know” for 100% certainty that resurrection was guaranteed, that is why the anguish in Gethsemane?? i realize that i am treading in very dangerous waters, but i thought that i would step out a little.

  • http://www.redeemchristianity.org Redeem Christianity

    I would say that Jesus really didn’t know what would happen on the other side of death, He was simply being obedient to the Father, even to death. (if he really knew for 100% percent certainty that he would be resurrected in ultimate power on the other side, would he really have sweat blood in the garden?)

  • TJJ

    RSJ #9 – My approach is to be honest. Answers to what? That someone who sees the NT and Gospel as a novel/fairly tale story and does not like the ending/plot line? The comment is not a question, it is a rejection of nearly, if not all, of the theological content taught about Jesus in the NT, including anything supernatural. Does that approach prove to be very unsatisfying and pointless? Absolutely.

    Rodney #11 – Ablert Schweitzer indeed. That whole approach of the “historical Jesus” is nearly 200 years old, tired, exausted, and the stake has been driven through it many many times. Why drag it’s corpse out one more time just because it is Lent?

  • John G

    I wonder if the commenter makes a false dichotomy between love and power. The story of Jesus is one where he comes into a world where the powers of evil and of death are in charge, and he comes to make war on and defeat those powers, a war which culminates in his crucifixion and resurrection. And then in his victory, he is given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). All of this is an act of love, for in this act, he rescues those who are under the power of sin and death. This is evident in passages like John 12:31-32, 1 Cor. 15:54-57, Eph. 1:20-2:10, Heb. 2:14-15, and many others. Of course, “power” in Jesus’ kingdom is not exercised in tyranny but in humility, as Jesus exemplified, but it remains the case that Jesus’ mission was one of reasserting God’s power through himself on this earth. And this mission was the supreme act of love.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Here’s how I look at it and explain it.

    First, to me the idea that something happened like the gates of heaven being opened or god relinquishing his wrath or god be satisfied about Jesus death is not what this is about. God loves us and always has loved us.

    Next, the nature of our relationship with god is such that for us to love him we need to freely come to him. He has given us free will so we need to exercise that free will.

    To make the decision to follow god requires a couple things for people. First, they need to know that there is a god and second they need to have an understanding of what it means to follow that god.

    To help us with this decision, god sent Jesus as the incarnation of what it looks like to be god in human form. We need that example or else we make up stuff like the gods are angry and we have to sacrifice our children to appease him. So in Jesus we know what god looks like.

    And his death and resurrection are about us, using our free will, rejecting him, but then god showing the love he has for us wants to make his image in the world unmistakable. He takes our rejection and resurrects Jesus to show that he is indeed the one we have wanted and is the true image of god in human form.

    So this is not about him gaining power, he always has had the power. This is a story about how god is showing his faithfulness to us by giving us the example of how to live and giving us the proof of that example being the right example.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I forgot to address the “he knew he would be raised ahead of time part”

    I would continue…

    You say that it would be no big deal if he knew that he would be raised. And if he is all powerful like that, then where is the challenge. I agree with that, and would like to think that I would also go to the cross if I knew I could save everyone in the world.

    But, Jesus probably did not know that. I feel that Jesus had a sense of mission in what he did, but I don’t think that he walked around knowing that he is god and he could simply command something and it would happen. The reason Jesus did not come down off that cross is because he couldn’t.

    He cried blood before his torture and execution, one does not have that type of emotion if you have supreme magical powers. I believe that Jesus was a man, a man that shows what it would look like if god were a man. He did not know what would happen, but he knew that he was a servant and that was what he had to do, serve and be faithful to the end. It was not easy for him.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    er, sweated blood..

  • Matt

    Just chiming in on the resurrection piece of the equation – and I’ll admit upfront that NT Wright’s thoughts on resurrection have influenced my thoughts here – I think too often we view the resurrection merely as God’s stamp of approval on the work Jesus did on the cross. Almost like a, “See, I am who I said I was!” kind of thing… While that might be a minor part of it, we miss the Jewish hope of resurrection for God’s people – a hope that was held prior to Jesus’ resurrection. Now, they never anticipated one person resurrecting alone ahead of everyone else. They anticipated a resurrection of all God’s people at the same time – at the time when God finally conquered that which had kept humanity and all creation in bondage. In this light, Christ’s resurrection gives tremendous hope and promise, because it shows us that those things have been defeated and, even more than that, we now can be assured that our resurrection is guaranteed as well, if we are in Christ. It’s not a “power trip” – rather, it’s the first fruits of God’s redemptive work, and the promise that what happened to Jesus will happen to us one day as well. It’s beautiful.

  • phil_style

    John G, #15 – well spotted.

    Of course it’s about power. But also love. Love is the appropriate use of power. Everything in the universe exerts power over something else, it’s inevitable. Redemption is the plan to subvert the “bad” use of power and replace it.

    RJS’s quoted “comment” is full of assumptions about what is going on in the death/resurrection story. The comment seems to me to assume that suffering is a necessary part of the solution, and therefore if the sufferer (in this case jesus)does not suffer enough then the solution is not adequate. If we’ve already determined that penal subsitution is necessary then the above is the logical corollary… but, there is a glaring question going a begging here… why is suffering necessary?

    The death of Jesus does something very fundamental that is consistent throughout the biblical story – it reflects the position of the innocent who experiences injustice at the hands of humanity. Unlike most (maybe all) pagan material/stories/myths the bible constantly cries out with the voice of the loser.

    Jesus suffers because that’s what humans do. We kill each other and we kill the innocent. We are the perpetrators of violence.

    The resurrection shows us that the loser is vindicated by God. Divinity is on the side of the innocent loser. He turns the power relationship on its head.

    So, to the question what if Jesus knew, or did not know his fate (if you take his prophecies at face value you would argue that he knew this fate, or at least had faith that God would vindicate him) does the resurrection then devalue the suffering? Of course not! It proves the pointlessness of violent recriminations against the innocent. It proves that humans will rise up in violence against the prophets and even their own messiah. It’s a demonstration that the divine is ridiculously merciful to dwell among men, suffer their violence and still offer them a solution to their own blindness. Crickey.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    BTW, I am increasingly believing this whole “sins are forgiven” part is, again, something more to do with us than with god. Let me explain.

    I am believing that many people back then, and now for that matter, believe that sin disgusts god and drives us away from god. But god does not think like that. Yes, he does wish we would not sin, but he loves us unconditionally. What is meant by “your sins are forgiven” is that he will accept us despite our sins. In other words, he says something like “come to me no matter what, I will not hold even your sins against you, just come to me” Doesn’t that mean the same thing as he forgives our sins?

  • Luke Allison

    RJS,

    The comment is interesting, since I’ve said similar things over the years (the thought of just throwing up my hands and giving up is tempting sometimes). And yet, the more I’ve studied the Resurrection, the more convinced I’ve become that it actually happened. So theological interpretations aside, what are we to make of the objective, historical event in the 1st century that started this odd movement? My experience is that many people don’t quite grasp the significance of saying “someone was dead and rose again three days late”, much like they don’t appreciate the significance of saying “God is dead”, as brother Nietzsche has taught us.

    If I am taught that God is in control and governing all things in love and justice, the world doesn’t make any sense, and the Christian claims make even less sense. So clearly something has to be different in our starting point.

    But something also has to be different in my worldview, as well. Since the modern Western world is a vast minority in not affirming the reality of the “supernatural” (some would say, “more natural”), maybe our lens needs to be shattered and rebuilt? How we do that is beyond me. I just read the blog.

  • Luke Allison

    To add one more thought:

    There’s a certain amount of emotional intelligence necessary to respond to someone asking these types of questions. When I read that comment, I don’t see purely intellectual objections. I see pain. This person may not admit that, (and which of us have mastered the art of self-examination?) but the tone of the comment screams it to me (from a pastoral angle).

    So we need to be more interested in taking care of people like this than we do in explaining the theological or practical implications of the Resurrection.

    Case in point: I used to be a compulsive sexual addict (much like Fassbender in the recent film Shame) whose primary objections to the existence of God, while cloaked in intellectual and rational finery, consisted mainly of: “Where the hell were you when THIS happened??? Or, “Why the hell didn’t you answer THIS prayer??” And so on. The shame that defined my very being wouldn’t have allowed me to branch much further than this.

    I’m not saying that the commenter is in a similar situation (I wouldn’t wish that on anybody), simply that there is far more to these types of things than mere rationalization or clarity of the message. And that’s because there is far more to US than just our rational and intellectual faculties.

    This may be preaching to the choir…but just a reminder, I guess. We have no idea what people are going through or have been through.

  • RJS

    Luke,

    Yes, but … emotional intelligence is a real key and far too few really have any of it.

    As too many many ignore “deeper” problems, too many also assume a “deeper” problem, and it is incredibly annoying. To tell someone that you know they are only struggling with these ideas or only have doubts, or only disagree, because of undealt with personal failings (aka sin) … this is also a problem.

  • RJS

    Luke,

    And … I am not trying to undercut your experience – which is certainly real, I’m only saying that one size doesn’t fit all on these issues.

  • Dana Ames

    “Are we not taught two things in Sunday School – (1) the bible is a collection of moral stories and commandments to govern life today as in the past and future and (2) God’s wrath at our sinfulness is great and only satisfied by the blood sacrifice of his son? Resurrection may be a key piece of this – but in a rather strange way.”

    Yes, that is a large part of the problem. Protestantism has rejected or ignored a Christus Victor understanding of the Paschal event (Cross+Resurrection). I think it’s because of the wholesale rejection/ignorance of the patristic understanding of Jesus suffering death in order to 1) display God’s forgiveness, as in DRT’s comment above, and 2) to prove that death has been overthrown, which is the answer to the very real existential question/angst of humanity.

    Following on the commonly told in Sunday School line, we also believe that the only reason Jesus had to become incarnate was to deal with our sin, but that is also not the patristic understanding. It’s their consensus that the Incarnation was planned from the beginning, because humans are the only created beings to have the capacity to become united with God, and *that* was the mystery from before all ages that has now been revealed: Christ in you, the hope of glory. And, because God knew the predicament into which we would get ourselves before he even began creating, Incarnation+Cross+Resurrection was the only way that all could come to pass.

    That’s why the Paschal event is so central to the Christian faith, and that’s how I would at least begin to attempt to answer the commenter.

    N.T. Wright has repeatedly made the point that it’s not just “modern people” who know that the dead don’t come back to life. I’m sure it was every bit as hard for the first Christians, even with a hope, as most Jews held, of the future resurrection.

    As to the “mature love”, I can’t think of any love more mature than coming in humility and enduring what Jesus endured in his suffering at the hands of the human beings he created in his image, uniting himself with humanity even unto death – and thereby destroying the power of death and freeing humanity from the slavery to fear of death (Heb 2.14-15), by which he launched the new creation, wherein we have a real foretaste of what will be when Jesus returns as we live in and from a sacramental life of increasing love and union with him and with one another – thus getting “back on track” the intentional project God had from the very beginning.

    But that’s just not the story we’re told; I’ve been churched all my 56 years, and I never heard anything like that, even as a Roman Catholic. So even though that IS the gospel of Jesus Christ, not merely central to it, it’s very rarely found in churches.

    So far the only place I have found it, and where it is indeed central, is in N.T. Wright and in Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Dana

  • http://Twocoppercoins.blogspot.com Jake Ulasich

    I think what the commenter misses is how the resurrection fits with many of the central teachings of Jesus and of the Bible.

    Consider first how often Jesus talks about rewards. The pharisees who give openly so that people will see have the reward of being seen and admired, and that’s all they’re going to get. But the people who give in secret have an eternal reward. For Jesus, seeking a reward is not a bad thing: it’s the nature and value of the reward that is at stake. I think this calls into question the wisdom that sees sacrificial love that receives nothing in return as something to be attained. That may sound selfish to some, but consider the ideal. The true hope of God for humanity is one of love, joy, peace, a kingdom where service is synonymous with honor, where people give to each other freely and everyone has all that they need. In that ideal world, we give freely with a resounding trust. Most of Jesus’ talk abut giving was really about trust, faith in a God that loves his children deeply and provides for their every need. Jesus actions on the cross embody that same trust. Knowing that death is not the end, but a doorway to even more wonderful life is definitely key to many of Jesus’ teachings and to living a life of faith on earth.

    Second, think of the many exhortations in the Hebrew Scriptures to have the same trust mentioned above and to act in obedience, not just out of some selfless (self-abhorrent) sacrifice, but in faith in God’s promises. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, not just because “God’s ways are higher than our ways” or because he obeyed God out of a respect for God’s complete Sovereignty. In other words, he didn’t reason that God must have a good reason for not wanting him to have a son anymore. He was obedient because he trusted that God would still live up to his promise, that he could bring Isaac back from the dead if he chose. His obedience was born of faith.

    In other places people are often told to value what God values and act in faith, and often encouraged to do so with a promise of a reward. The main problem concerning rewards in the Bible, is not that people want them, but that they seek the wrong ones in the wrong ways. They want earthly power and they trust in earthly weapons. They want earthly riches and they trust in worldly wisdom to get it. Part of the message is that “taking up your cross” is a light and momentary trouble, well worth the reward to follow: full, abundant life, with peace and joy.

    That is not to put all of our hopes on an afterlife – I really think that many of these heavenly rewards are available to us on earth today, but the resurrection is part of all this.

    Lastly, love is still at the center of it all. We are willing to endure for others, because Christ endured for us. It’s still “the gift that keeps on giving,” if you’ll pardon the cliche. But the resurrection speaks to an almost universal idea: you reap what you sow. You get what you give.

    I would tell the commenter to reevaluate what in life is the ultimate good? And what is the true meaning of sacrifice? Is it more desirable for love to be poured out without hope or with it? Is it more wise that doing good should return good or not? The message of the resurrection says that the first are last and the last are first in a very real way. Is that unwise? Is that not a deep and vibrant message of love and faith working together? I think it is.

  • Dana Ames

    p.s.
    This is not to ignore Sin. Sin and Death mutually feed off one another. But if the power of Death has been destroyed, then we are *truly free*, in and with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live a life that springs from the New Creation, not a life that is characterized by things we do because of our fear of death and our insistence at maintaining our life at the expense of others (sin). Even before the Incarnation, and even more so because of it, we are truly united with all humanity, so especially in the light of the Paschal event, sin, which is always relational, is absurd…

    In EO we are exhorted to at least attempt to regard ourselves as the chief of sinners. We are constantly faced with our need to repent: to turn and turn and keep turning back to back to God in that true freedom, forsaking those acts which are inhuman. Not because of his wrath, but because of his incomprehensible love.

    The issue of sin is involved with very different emphasis.

    Dana

  • Luke Allison

    RJS,

    I agree with everything you said…I don’t think I was trying to imply that the commenter was dealing with sin issues. That is incredibly annoying.

    BUT, to assume that the only thing going on in every situation is merely intellectual or rational exploration that has led a person to utterly (and emotionally) reject a theological idea would be a mistake as well.

    The commenter is definitely rejecting a particular interpretation of the Biblical narrative. Perhaps that person has good reason to do so. All I’m saying is that the tone of the comment was very emotional. I’m sure you know from experience that sometimes no explanation will be satisfactory, especially if a person has been trained to expect revelation or relationship with God to look like something in particular….and that something has never occurred! Or if you’ve been trained to “see God” in every aspect of the world, a close scrutiny of the newspaper will screw that whole worldview up completely.

    I have a migraine so I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts together.

  • RJS

    Luke,

    Thanks – I think you are quite right here, especially with the conflict between what one has been taught to expect and what one actually experiences.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Luke Allison, thanks for sharing your candid thoughts on this thread.

  • http://Geekpreacher.com Derek White

    Simply put, Jesus’ resurrection is about the power to overcome sin and death while also showing that he did not come back and destroy those who crucified Him.

    A comic story is often about redemptive violence and when they come back from the dead they pour out vengeance on their enemies. The power of the Jesus story is that He acts in a totally different manner than those others.

  • RJS

    Derek,

    Thanks – that is a great point. The different way of Jesus and the kingdom of God is continued with discipleship and love not violent overthrow of the powers that oppose.

    A commenter also pointed to a verse in Romans – 4:25 – that may have a place in this discussion. Speaking of Jesus Christ Paul concludes “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” The resurrection isn’t a tag on.

  • RJS

    I wrote this post because I think it highlights a real problem with the message the church preaches by and large. I don’t think we communicate the story of the gospel well. The way we frame the message – especially the message of cross and resurrection – is becoming increasingly irrelevant for our culture. We force questions and answers that (1) are not the full gospel; (2) are not questions that anyone (or many) are interested in; and (3) carry baggage that an increasing number of people find absolutely ridiculous, like a young earth for example.

    We need to frame the story in a way that illustrates the work of God in all its glory and bring this story to our communities. Yes, some will find resurrection ridiculous on any level (as was true in the beginning as well) which is part of the reason that we need to be able to articulate well the importance and accomplishment of the resurrection.

  • Andy W.

    Dana #26 and #28. Thanks for your comments Dana. I knew you would have something to add here and I was looking and waiting. Always helpful to see the EO perspective!


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