empty tomb

What the Resurrection Says About the Cross

As with every other aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry, even the resurrection must be understood in light of the cross. This event was not just the resuscitation of a random corpse. It was the resurrection of the Incarnate Son of God who had fulfilled the human side of the God-human covenant by living a sinless life and who, as an unsurpassable expression of divine love, came to earth and entered into the worst of human evil and carried it all on his shoulders. Understood as such, the resurrection can only be viewed as God’s vindication of the self-sacrificial life and death of this God-man through whom God’s eternal character was made known.

For this reason the resurrection must not be interpreted as a display of triumphalist power that contrasts with the humble, cruciform, character of God revealed on the cross as well as throughout Jesus’ ministry. It was rather a display of power that confirmed that the cross is in fact the revelation of God’s true character and that God’s enemy-loving, non-violent, self-sacrificial way of responding to evil is in fact victorious.

It is for this reason that the One who sits on the throne in the Book of Revelation and who alone is worthy to open the scroll of God’s plan for history is the victorious lamb who was “slaughtered” (Rev. 4-5; 21:22; 22:1,4). And it’s for this reason that those who conquer are depicted as doing so because they “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev. 14:4), bearing witness to his victory and imitating his sacrificial death (Rev. 12:11). Moreover, throughout Revelation we find the emphatic declaration that the glorified and victorious Jesus is the same as the crucified Jesus (see Rev. 5:6, 9, 12; 7:14, 17; 12:11; 13:8; 17:14).

This is precisely why all who have been raised with Christ and who therefore participate in his resurrected life (Rom. 6) reflect their participation by taking on a cruciform character that leads them to sacrificially serve others, including their enemies, just as Jesus did (Rom. 12:7-12). The same point is made by noting that for Paul, the Spirit that dwells within believers is the Spirit of the crucified Christ that empowers them to live according to “the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2), which is to love others as he loved us “when he gave his life for [us]” (Eph. 5:1-2).

Ernst Käsemann is thus surely on the mark when he holds that the cross is “the signature of the one who is risen.”[1] And the surest signature that anyone belongs to him is that they participate in Christ’s risen life, which means they participate in the expression of his self-sacrificial love.

[1] E. Käsemann, “The Saving Significance of the Death of Jesus in Paul,” in Perspectives on Paul, trans. M. Kohl (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 56.

Related Reading

Sermon Clip: How Christians Should Respond to Ferguson

In this clip from this weeks sermon, Greg Boyd comments on how Christians should respond to the events in Ferguson St. Louis and how that response should always be in love and to help heal both sides. The full sermon is here: http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon/heart-smart-qa

How God Changes the World

God’s hopes for us began before the creation of the world. And what God intended from the beginning gives us insight into how God works to bring about what he intends. In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul teaches that God “chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and…

The Cleansing of the Temple and Non-Violence

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple is the most commonly cited example of those who allege that he did not absolutize loving enemies or refraining from violence. I submit that this episode implies nothing of the sort. First, it is important that we understand that this episode was not an expression of unpremeditated anger on Jesus’…

Not the God You Were Expecting

Thomas Hawk via Compfight Micah J. Murray posted a reflection today titled The God Who Bleeds. In contrast to Mark Driscoll’s “Pride Fighter,” this God allowed himself to get beat up and killed while all his closest friends ran and hid and denied they even knew him. What kind of a God does this? The kind…

Nothing but Christ Crucified

One of the most remarkable expressions of the all-encompassing nature of the cross is reflected in an incidental, but extremely important, comment that Paul made in his First Letter to the Corinthians. He noted that when he brought “the testimony of God” to Corinth, he hadn’t come “with eloquence or human wisdom”. He instead “resolved…

Love OR Judgment – You Can’t Have Both

Image by Morgan Sessions We cannot judge others because it is not our place as humans to function as the center—because God is that center—and judge other people. In addition, we cannot judge others because we ourselves are sinners who deserve judgment. If we don’t want to be judged, Jesus says, we must not judge. The…