Posted on September 17, 2010
G’day all – almost back from holidays. While away, I started doing some writing on theology for Christians working with young people. One of those bits is on Death+Resurrection. I’d like your feedback on it because I’m finding it the most difficult one to nut out! A disclaimer – I’m trying to keep these summaries of theological themes as succinct as possible, so if I miss out stuff, that’s why…love your feedback.
Briefly tempted to split this section into 2 separate parts, but I refrained. All parts of theology belong together, but these 2 especially. Why? Because the death of Jesus Christ chopped off the road the disciples were travelling. The great story of creation, law, prophets, kingdoms, exile and restoration that seemed to be leading to the climax of a triumphant ‘return of the king of Israel’ ground to a bloody halt on a mound of skulls. For the disciples, it spelt personal devastation and for some, the danger was so great they hightailed it to Emmaus. Others hid. A few braved the tomb.
I keet them together because without the other, the Death of Jesus is insignificant in the train of martyrs, and the Resurrection of Jesus is a fairytale designed to keep the punters happy.
The Death of Jesus is only significant to Christians because of his Resurrection. Without it, Jesus is another crazybrave Jewish martyr like the Maccabees. We celebrate his Death, and the mandate it brings to suffer with the suffering, only because the Resurrection brings meaning and hope to that suffering. We take up our cross in confidence that even physical death is not the end.
The Resurrection of Jesus is only significant to Christians because of his Death. Without it, Jesus is another teacher, who died a normal death, and lives on in the desperate memory of his followers who want the dream to continue. We celebrate his Resurrection and the life it brings, only because of his radically faithful life that led to his public, political, brutal and voluntary Death. The Resurrection is God’s affirmation of Jesus’ life and message.
Jesus was killed by the Powers of darkness and evil. Jesus defeated the Powers! Hallelujah!
It is perhaps easy to write these things, but what effect does Jesus death+resurrection have? Why does it matter? We remember Creation, in which the ideal order of all things was put into place. Our rebellion against this order has created the injustice, hate and division that plague our world. Jesus’ death+resurrection has defeated the power of death that lies behind all our woes. What does this victory enable?
- Our personal failings, all that we are ashamed of, are no longer a bar to relationship with God. God has declared us to be just despite our obvious injustices and flaws. God extends grace to us.
- Our social injustices are declared offensive to God. In raising an innocent victim from an unjust death, God declares that victims of injustice will be vindicated.
- We are enabled to live fearlessly, in the knowledge that death is no longer the enemy to be feared. It has been put into its right place. We are free to live as God intends, empowered by the death-defeating power of the death+resurrection.
So, why isn’t everything hunky-dory then? There is no answer to this question that will not sound trite, bland and simplistic in that face of personal suffering and social injustice. No verbal answer can satisfy. Plenty of people have tried nonetheless.
My answer is this: though God achieves the ultimate victory in the battle against sin and evil, making this victory a visible and tangible reality is not completely up to God. Christlike compassion, forgiveness, justice and truth is a result of an unequal partnership between God and us. God invites us into relationship with him, a relationship that includes forgiveness of our trespasses and the active expression of Christlike love, truth and justice on our part. Because not all people are actively expressing such Christlike characteristics, God’s victory cannot be fully made visible and tangible. And even if everyone was doing so (happy day!), the consequences of previous hate, lies and injustice would still affect the present. So, when God brings our history to a close, his victory over sin and evil will be finally made a visible and tangible reality which we experience fully.