Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Central Event

The events that many commemorate this week--the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth--are together the very essence of Christianity. The primary propositional claim of Christianity is that the eternal Son of God became fully human, lived a sinless life, died by Roman crucifixion in order to pay the penalty for the sins of all humanity, and then was bodily raised from the dead. As the apostle Paul had it (in I Corinthians 15:17, 19),
if Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins... [and] we are of all people most to be pitied.
In modern times, there are those who nonetheless claim to be Christian while denying any supernatural events recorded in Scripture, including the resurrection of Christ. They are the ones most worthy of pity, because this denial arises from an assumption that science has somehow proven naturalism, and comes at a time when all of the latest discoveries have instead served to validate the historical and scientific claims of the Bible.

But the crucifixion and resurrection are not only the center of Christianity; they are also the central event in human history. They changed the course of Western history and continue to improve life for and give hope to people around the world. Upon his death, Jesus' disciples were a disheartened and disillusioned bunch, a rag-tag group of mostly uneducated men and outcast women, themselves members of an insignificant people group conquered and dominated by the mighty Roman Empire. But when they encountered the death-conquering, risen Messiah, they became the leaders of a revolution--the reconciling of people to their Creator--that lives on today, having outlasted the Roman Empire by more than 1500 years. In the two millennia since the resurrection, Christianity has spread throughout the world, and it has been Christians who have brought literacy and medicine, founding schools and universities, orphanages and hospitals, and launching modern science.

But it's even more than that. When it comes right down to it, the death and resurrection of Jesus are together the central event in all of cosmic history--the purpose behind the creation of the universe. Christ's substitutionary death was not an afterthought, a "Plan B" necessary in response to an unforeseen rebellion on the part of the free-will creature, man. No, Scripture makes it clear that the death and resurrection of Christ were planned before the creation. One of several examples is the introduction of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, in which we are told that God
chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world... according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time (Eph. 1:3-10).
Moreover, in eternity future it will be these historical events upon which we will look back and focus our attention. For example, John's vision in Revelation show the heavenly host worshipping Jesus with the words
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open the seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation...(Rev. 5:9)
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Rev. 5:12).
The most fundamental and important thing about the universe in which we live is embodied in what we call Easter... Our Creator so loves us that He planned and executed the most wonderful sacrificial way of reconciling us to Himself, and validated the sufficiency of that sacrifice by demonstrating His power over death. My hope is that each of my readers can experience and live daily in the resurrection power made available 2000 years ago.

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