This week in our Wednesday Night Bible study I was reminded of the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus to the Good News that the apostles, and all of us in the church, are to proclaim to the world. St. Paul, in introducing himself to the Christians in Rome at the outset of his epistle to the Romans, comments about Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, saying, "[Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:4)
Notice that Paul is identifying the resurrection, not the crucifixion, as that act which vindicated Jesus, and proved that He was indeed the Son of God. It was Jesus' victory over death and the grave that was the pivotal point in human history that transformed humanity from fearing death to having power over death. I say this not to minimize the importance of the cross in the work and ministry of Christ, but to elevate in my own thinking and yours the truth and primacy of the resurrection.
Paul himself comments on this when he writes to the Corinthians:
"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)
The resurrection is not only that which forms the foundation of the Christian faith but it is what gives us hope to have joy in the midst of the chaos of the world around us. We see Paul follow this line of thinking as He reflects upon his own suffering:
"For [Jesus'] sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8, 10-11)
We bring to the world a message of hope and peace, not fear and violence. While the cross was a crucial part of Jesus' work of redemption, His work in the world did not stop with that act of violence and bloody sacrifice. Instead, His work of the cross took violence and bloody sacrifice and said, "enough is enough, this needs not happen again!" For when Jesus conquered the grave and removed the strongman of death from having power over us He freed us from seeing violence and bloody sacrifice as somehow necessary to release us from the chaos we experience around us or to curry favor with an angry God. Instead, Jesus' conquest of death shows us that our God loves us, has extended His grace and mercy upon us, has forgiven us, and is not looming over us ready to pounce.
This is why Paul can say, with boldness, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. " (Romans 8:1-2) The resurrection is freedom, freedom from being scared into a relationship with God, freedom to choose, from gratitude, to accept the reconciliation that God has offered us as His children. He is the father of the Prodigal Son who is running to throw His arms around us, His wayward children. The resurrection shows us that all are welcome to return to Him and that all can return without fear of His wrath when they do, for the grave and death have been conquered and the love of our Divine Father has been proven through the victory of the Son.
May the resurrection give you peace, even when the chaos of the world overwhelms you.
(as published in St. Luke’s weekly newsletter, 9/27/18)