Problem is, if I get one without the other, then I tie myself into all kinds of crazy knots.
I first encountered this at Bible college when writing an essay on the significance of the resurrection. These were my main points:
1. it’s good that Jesus isn’t dead.
2. it proves that the cross er – ‘works’. Like a rubber stamp of authenticity.
3. but the main story is the cross so now I’m going to talk about that.
So – why does the resurrection matter?
When Paul takes the time to really talk about resurrection (1 Corinthians 15), he tells it as part of a much bigger story. It’s the story in which Adam takes the whole world down into death and judgement (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Adam does his thing and the rest of us are caught up in the mess – he sinned, which means we did too. He died and so we died too. We’re born into Adam’s world, his guilt, his suffering. Jesus comes as the second man – the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-47). He takes responsibility for His own world – He takes on our nature, our guilt and suffering. That’s the cross.
But what if the story ended there?
Jesus takes the punishment for my mistakes and Jesus carries the burdens of my past. But without resurrection, I’m like Mary Magdalen – popping back to the graveside at every opportunity. Even though my sins have been put to death, without resurrection, the past still controls me and calls me back. I’ll play my mistakes over and over, on repeat.
But on Easter Sunday Jesus presses stop on what I’ve been. And as well as putting the old me to death, He brings to life a new person, one who’s united to Him. One who inherits a wonderful future and not just a shame-filled past.
Just as Adam did his thing and we were caught up in the mess so Jesus has done His thing and we’re swept up in His victory. Resurrection means more than just a slate wiped clean. It’s a new beginning and it’s not dependent on what I do – but what He has already done.
Easter Sunday is not the celebration that “the cross worked.” It’s where the cross was always heading – the longed-for finale, through death and judgement, into hope and life. To be an Easter person is to go on Mary’s journey. Instead of tending to the past and trying to make it smell better, we meet a risen Jesus who has abolished our sins forever. He turns us from our past and gives us a new future. Like Mary we want to share it with the world.
If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)