This week, people the world over celebrated the single event that more than any other changed history, changed the world. For folks on every continent and in every nation, the crux or crossroads of history is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
It is, of course, impossible to fully separate the incarnation (the coming of God in the flesh), the crucifixion (with all it accomplished and the multitude of theological ramifications), and the resurrection. And while each of these doctrines is central and necessary to the Christian faith, most of us (rightly) focus on the latter--resurrection--as we celebrate this week.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus was the incredible news that spread like wildfire through the first-century Roman Empire. It represented the vindication (on the part of God the Father) of Jesus' earthly teachings and of His claim of being one with the Father. It is what changed a ragtag group of uneducated Jewish outcasts--broken and demoralized by the humiliating execution of their leader--into a bold band of mission-minded evangelists, willing to spread their message of assured hope wherever they went and at whatever cost (including ignomious and excruciating martyrdom). His earliest disciples were quick to recognize that Jesus' bodily resurrection meant--because of His promises to that effect--that they too (and all for whom he died) would likewise be raised.
The evidences for the centrality (in human history) of the death and resurrection of Christ are many and varied. For now, let me just point out that much of our language testifies to that centrality. Words I have used in this short essay--'crux,' 'crossroads'--are used to describe centrality, to designate the heart of a matter. These words, of course, share their etymology--as does the word for horrible pain--'excruciating'--with the word for the method by which Jesus was killed, 'crucifixion.'
"Jesus lives!" The events referred to by those two simple words produced a fundamental, cataclysmic, unalterable change in the world. Two thousand years after those events, the power of the Resurrection of Jesus is still producing astonishing transformation in the lives of people, families, tribes, and nations.
For those first followers of Jesus and for millions of believers since, the events we celebrate this week were life-changing--indeed, world-changing. Whatever else may be going on, we now recognize that we live in a world visited by its creator, a world redeemed by his atoning sacrificial death, and a world in which death has been finally and ultimately conquered.