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Posts from 2022-02-13

Mission and the resurrection

The reading from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it is the resurrection that is such an important part of the whole ministry of Jesus Christ. Paul says that if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith..... if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins

But, it’s not only Paul who emphasizes the importance of the resurrection. All 4 gospel writers finish their gospel with the resurrection. But, their mentioning of the resurrection is not just the end of their gospels. It is the beginning. All what Jesus claimed to be, became validated only after His resurrection. And the ending of each gospel introduces the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the world. The proclamation of the gospel and the message of God reaching out to all people, instead of to one nation only.

Before Jesus appeared to the disciples it says in John’s Gospel they were behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. Only after the disciples met the risen Christ they unlocked the doors and went out becoming bold preachers and witnesses of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.The disciples left the empty tomb without any excitement, or joy, or motivation to witness or to evangelise. Simply, because they did not understood the Bible nor God’s plan to resurrect Jesus from death. Mary’s going to the tomb (with spices only in Mark and Luke, but not mentioned in John's gospel) emphasises this, because she expected a corpse not a risen Christ. Mary only went to the tomb, because this was in accordance to the custom of women to wail and lament at the tomb for their beloved ones.

After the resurrection of Jesus the disciples begun to believe in all else Jesus had said and how He was the Christ sent by God in accordance to the Bible. All what Jesus ever did was written down and preached, only because He was alive. A dead Jesus is a dead gospel, not worth to be written down.

We read that in the beginning of John’s gospel (2:22) where it says: ‘When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken’. The evidence and excitement of the resurrection of Jesus Christ had moved the first disciples to establish churches and to organise a worldwide incentive to proclaim this good news. 

That was then, but now look to the Anglican church today: Presumably, many still remember bishop David Jenkins who publicly denounced the resurrection in the 1980-ies; he denied that Jesus really rose from the dead and believed it was a story. A story that grew and developed into meaning that the message of Jesus is alive, not Jesus Himself. But, he was not the only bishop to deny this. Another bishop name John Spong, later wrote a book about the resurrection and said the same as Jenkins; Jesus is only resurrected in our imagination and is only a spiritual reality at best. 

Unfortunately, not only bishops doubt or deny the resurrection, even so do many Anglican clergy today. In a survey conducted by the World Anglican in 2019, it showed that 1/3 of all clergy in the Anglican Church don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No surprise then to see that ½ of all clergy don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the only route to salvation. 

Anglican leaders who do not believe in the resurrection are lamentable people. This are not my words, but that of Paul. Paul says not only in :14; If Christ has not been raised our preaching is useless and so is your faith. In :19 he continues; if only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than everybody else. 

The 1st century church always proclaimed the death of Christ together with His resurrection. See Acts 2:23-28; 3:15, 24-26; 4:10; 5:30-32; 10:39-40; 13:33-37 etc. But, such message was rather controversial in those days. A Resurrection from the dead, as was preached by the apostles, was unknown and a bodily resurrection was both alien to Jew and Greek. 

For the Greek/Roman world in those days a resurrection of the dead was absurd. Speaking about a bodily resurrection was unheard of. See for example Paul’s monologue in Athens on the Areopagus in Acts 17: ‘Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, but others said; ‘We will hear you again about this’, so Paul went out from among them’

Jews believe in a last day, when the Messiah comes and will judge each individual. How that involves the resurrection remains ever unclear. Already in Jesus’ time there was a disagreement between the Sadducees and Pharisees about the resurrection. And even up to today there’s not much Jewish theology on the resurrection either. In this debate a book published in 1983 by dr. Pinchas Lapide made some headways. Lapide was a Jewish theologian, Israeli historian and Consul. Pinehas wrote many books and studies, but in one particular book; The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective he wrote: ‘I accept the resurrection of Jesus not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as an historical event.’ Pinehas is one of most outspoken Jewish theologians who believes that life after death is part of the Jewish faith. The only difference then between Jews and Christian what remains is that he believes that its Jesus' messiahship, not his resurrection, which marks the division between Christianity and Judaism. When now some Jewish circles believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, does it mean they have more faith in the resurrection, than many of our clergy in our own churches?

The resurrection of Jesus was the trigger that made all what Jesus had said and done to be true. The resurrection is the evidence of His claims and of His ministry.

But, it is also after His resurrection that Jesus says to His disciples: ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you’. Jesus disciples don’t start a new work, but they continue the work Jesus begun after His resurrection. And that work continues with us. All who believe in Jesus Christ and in His resurrection receive the Holy Spirit and become partakers of the mission of God. 

Only the living Christ is able to send the Spirit to be His messengers and to be partakers in the so-called Missio Dei, the mission of God. God had sent Jesus Christ and so the living Christ sends us. With only a dead Jesus, we have nothing to say, but the resurrected Christ is our testimony.

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