I’ve embarked on a journey through the New Testament to see how the early church refers to Jesus. This idea was inspired by remarks a friend made that it’s a little bit weird and uncomfortable how much the church talks about death, execution, and blood (obviously, Jesus’ death on the cross). It’s not typical conversational stuff; we’re used to it in a church setting as experienced Christians but it’s not common place conversation in other settings….
Now I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; I know it is the power of God unto salvation. I’m not ashamed of Jesus, and what he has done for me. I am not ashamed of the precious outpouring of his life blood on the cross, which paid the penalty for my sins, and bought my eternal salvation.
But it got me thinking. Do we talk too much about Jesus on the cross? Do we talk enough about Jesus resurrected?
Well, I’m not speed reading. I’ve trundled through the book of Acts and Romans so far. And by guesstimation, I would say that the early church primarily refers to Jesus (of Nazareth) as Lord and Christ, and they emphasize that he is alive about four times more than they directly mention his death! They reiterate that he is judge, the way of salvation, the Son of God, and the only way our sins are forgiven. Often they remind people he is alive, sometimes without even mentioning that he died!
What’s the point? In the historical recountings of the early Christians, I believe the cross and the blood of Jesus were means to an end: salvation and forgiveness. For the Apostles (who were Jesus’ disciples and saw him publically betrayed, and judged, and crucified, and buried) the most important fact they felt people needed to know was that this man was also publically witnessed alive. And as such, he now stands (or sits) in the position of authority with God as judge, advocate, healer, and lord over mankind and creation.
Yes, we need to understand the weight of our sin and the terrible price that was paid to expunge it from the records. But isn’t it God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, rather than the terrible weight of our own guiltiness (Rom 2:4). Should we be focusing more on the living Christ who came not to condemn the world but to save it?
In a world that actually has enough physical historical evidence that Jesus was alive, maybe we should be more concerned about spreading the news that he’s still alive. Nobody questions if Muhammed, or Buddha, or Moses, or Abraham lived or died. Any educated person will have to agree that there’s equal or more evidence that Jesus also lived and died. But Jesus is the only one who resurrected.
And that makes who he is now is really, really important!