My text/theme for the Passion Week is this embryonic expression of the Christian faith from I Corinthians 15:
That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
This statement emphasizes that Christ died, that Christ (using the pronoun “he”) was buried, that Christ was raised, and that Christ appeared. Experts in the original language emphasize that this is a term that denotes Jesus as the Jewish messiah. That is, the description of Jesus as messiah designates him as the long-anticipated King who would come and restore God’s rule on the earth.
Most of the theological signficiance of this early Christian statement is wrapped up in the authority that is attributed to Jesus as a result of his resurrection. That is, the resurrection itself is a sign that Jesus is God’s king. The early Christian declaration that “Jesus is Lord” follows a similar train of thought. In Romans 1, Paul specifically makes this point: by raising Jesus up, God has established Jesus’ authority.
No longer can emperors, kings, dictators, presidents, democratic bodies, etc. make a claim to dominion over the world – God has made it clear by way of the resurrection that Jesus is now in charge. Our job is to recognize that, with the resurrection of Christ, a new geopolitical reality has arrived – the Kingdom of God.
I also think that the resurrection is a sort-of sign post. During Jesus’ life, he behaved in a certain way. He taught that (and demonstrated how) people should treat each other respectfully and love each other sacrificially. By raising Jesus from the dead – by making him the first manifestation of his new creation – God was poiting the way to Jesus. By following in the way of Jesus, in his life an death, each of us can also find our way into God’s new world.
Next: What it means for Christ to die for our sins.