Friday, September 30, 2011

The Foundation Event for the Entire Christian Religion

With the crucifixion the life of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth comes to an end. But the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation event for the entire Christian religion.

If Jesus were not raised from the dead, then all we would have is the memory of a very delightful, lovable, courageous, but misguided man. It would mean that while many might be drawn to him because of his compassion and honesty, yet this earth was altogether too ugly a place to contain such a beautiful spirit. The evil in men could not stand to be near something so threatening, threatening precisely because his spirit is so enviable and yet so unobtainable. Better not to have him around. And so, earthman had to kill him.

If Jesus were not raised from the dead, it would also mean that though men scream, shout and shake their fists at the heavens, there is no answer, no response. Look to the heavens. Plead. All you get is silence. Whatever gods there by, they seemingly have no stake in or even interest in Jesus. We may be among those who would remember the man we loved with deep affection and passionate hope. But now, alas, the cup is empty, the dregs bitter.

But if the resurrection is true, then earth may still be an ugly, hostile place, but the entire purpose of the universe and the power behind it can be understood in terms of that single life. Jesus becomes the key to it all. ...

If you want to know the secret to your life, then look to Jesus and learn of the present Lord, the risen Christ, who awaits to enter your life and bring you the power and the spirit to make you a child of God, a brother or sister of Jesus, who is the first-born of the new creation.

~ John Stone Jenkins, What Think Ye of Jesus? (1979)

5 comments:

George Dunning said...

This post has consumed my thoughts since I read it . . . . makes you wonder what all the rest of the 'side dressing' that seems to consume the 'churches' of the world is for?

When put so succinctly you cant avoid an introspective search for a response.

Christopher said...

However, without the cross, resurrection becomes a triumphalism rather than revelation of the God determined to be with us and for us no matter what. A different God is revealed when we lose the cross, and the nativity, for that matter. I would rather say the Incarnation is the foundational event, and that encapsulates the entirety of the Nativity, Presentation, Transfiguration, Baptism, Life, Ministry, Wilderness, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Sending of the Spirit in Christ Jesus.

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for the comments, George and Christopher.

Fr. John is a retired priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi who is dearly loved and respected throughout the Episcopal Church. He started the DOCC program (Disciples of Christ in Community) back in the 1970s. Along with EfM, it has touched and changed the lives of thousands of people. Knowing Fr. John, the book from which this quote comes, and the DOCC program, I'm quite certain that he does not intend the kind of triumphalism you warn against, Christopher.

Drawing on Bishop Frank Wilson, I have also noted that the Incarnation is the central fact of the Christian faith, and that Christmas is just as important as Holy Week and Easter. And in a Good Friday sermon I preached several years ago, I said this:

Lifted high upon the cross, Jesus completes his mission, the purpose for which God consecrated him and sent him into the world. On the cross, he who knew no sin became sin for our sakes (2 Cor. 5:21). On the cross, Jesus fulfils God’s determination to do something decisive about sin, evil, and death. On the cross, Jesus takes human suffering and death into the heart of God’s life for healing and transformation. On the cross, Jesus throws the Pilates of this world out of office and crushes Satan under his feet. On the cross, Jesus rises above the world to reign as the true Lord of the world.

And yet, if Christ be not raised from the dead, then we Christians are of all people most to be pitied. And all is lost, for everything hinges on the resurrection.

For me, if it's not the Jesus we meet in the pages of the New Testament, if it's not the Jesus we encounter in the preaching and teaching of the early Church Fathers and Mothers, if it's not the Jesus of the historic creeds, if it's not the Jesus of mainstream Christian thought and practice down through the centuries, if it's not the Jesus I encounter in the liturgies of The Book of Common Prayer and in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist - all of which presupposes the fulness of the Christ event (Nativity, Presentation, Transfiguration, Baptism, Life, Ministry, Wilderness, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Sending of the Spirit) - then there really is nowhere else to go. All bets are off. In which case, IMO, Nietzsche got it right.

The Underground Pewster said...

Keep on preaching on the resurrection because it is often argued to be a myth. I have even heard the myth argument emanate from within the Church itself (in adult Sunday school for instance).

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks, Underground Pewster. With God's help, I will continue to preach and teach the resurrection of our Lord.