Tag Archives: Resurrection

On losing a child

Tender words and comfort from John Donne. Written to his sister in 1629 after the death of her son.

We do but borrow our children of God, to lend them to the world. And when I lend the world a daughter in marriage, or lend the world a son in profession, the world does not always pay me well again: my hopes are not always answered in that daughter or that son.  But of all that I lend to, the grave is my best paymaster. The grave shall restore me my child where he and I shall have but one Father, and pay me my earth when that earth shall be amber, a sweet perfume, in the nostrils of his and my Saviour.



The gospel in two points

The Christian announcement – the gospel – centres on Jesus. That’s the simple and joyful reality.

The Christian message also is beautiful and profound, open to expression in a rich variety of ways. After all, there are four New Testament gospels.

The simple complexity of Jesus’ truth means there are many, many great ways to speak truly about Jesus. I love that! And have a quick two point option to throw into the mix.

  1. We all judge Jesus as worthy of death
  2. God invites us to share his own view of Jesus, as Lord

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The events of Jesus’ life were remarkable: teaching, wonders, healing, gaining followers and enemies. Without doubt, Jesus’ impact came to its pinnacle in Easter week.

Jesus’ death at Easter was caused by … everybody.

Disciples abandoned Jesus or became traitor. Religious leaders condemned Jesus. The crowds who followed these leaders easily agreed to call for execution. And the world’s power, exemplified through Roman law, decided death was the only option for Jesus.

But God raised Jesus.

So now Jesus is alive. God’s view of Jesus has been established for all time: Jesus is the ruler of God’s people, and Lord of the world.

Thankfully, we can recant from our mis-judgement of Jesus. We can repent, and trust Jesus’ for forgiveness and new life.

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The biblical material I have in mind for this two point outline is mainly the preaching of Acts. Here are some of the verses from Acts, so you can test and see it this two point gospel is a fair summary.

Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead– by him this man is standing before you well.

They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear

And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

[Testifying] that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.


Reasons not to believe

In Albury-Wodonga, the weekly free newspapers used to include a column of reflections. They were written by local  ministers, or similar (authors included a local Baha’i leader, as well as someone from the local humanist society branch). I don’t know why they stopped. Equally, I don’t know if they achieved anything!

Cleaning up my computer, I found a few of mine. In the interests of recycling, I will re-release them on this blog.

What’s a good reason to not be a Christian?

As a minister, I regularly ask myself this. After all, I don’t want to waste my time if the Bible, prayer and church are empty. There are many suggested arguments against Christianity. Of all the reasons, there is only one that might stick.

Some reasons are about weak Christians. Perhaps you know a Christian with a short temper, or you’ve been to a church that did not feel as friendly as it could.

These are weaknesses, but hardly reason to ignore Jesus. Jesus said he came to call sinners, so I expect them at church. Having wrongdoers at church is just like having sick people at hospital – perfectly normal.

Other reasons against Christianity are about the Bible. Maybe you have said, ‘It’s too hard to understand.’ Or, ‘I want to read it one day, but haven’t got around to it.’

These aren’t convincing either. It’s a big surprise to me to find men and women who are experts in their work, but whose understanding of Jesus is at the level of a ten year old. They’ve never read the Bible as adults and rely on half-remembered school scripture from 20 years ago!

So what is the one good reason to stay away from Christianity?

As we’d expect, the reason is all about Jesus. Specifically, if Jesus is not alive from the dead then ignore all Christians.

Lots of leaders have died unjustly, even heroically. Yet none claimed that they would come back to life after three days. Jesus did.

Many religions spread their leader’s teachings. Followers of Jesus have always announced that Jesus’ tomb is empty. A ridiculous message. Unless it’s true!

If anyone could prove to me that Jesus did not rise and that he is not alive, it would change everything. This alone would convince me Christianity is bankrupt.

Yet, as we approach Easter, I am ever more convinced that Jesus is alive. That’s why I keep following him. What do you say about the living Jesus?
March 2006



Empty tomb ethics

The centre of Christianity is Jesus: his life, death, resurrection and present rule. But this is not the only thing Christians speak about – far from it.

It’s probably true that Christians spend more time speaking about ethics than anything else. (I’m using ‘ethics’ broadly to cover any thoughts about how to live.) This is true in the public arena, as well as privately over coffee after church. Public examples range from well-known Christians (denominational leaders, say) to specific lobby groups like the Australian Christian Lobby (http://www.acl.org.au/).

In this post, I am not going to critique how well Christians do at public ethics-talk. I have a different aim: to claim that all our ethical talk must include the empty tomb of Jesus, otherwise it’s not Christian at all.

The empty tomb of Jesus is the powerful demonstration the Jesus really is the Son of God (Romans 1:4). Despite the shameful cursedness of Jesus’ cross – even through this curse – Jesus greatness remains: Jesus is Lord. The empty tomb changes everything, including the shape of life.

Empty tomb ethics
I think there are (at least) two factors that link ethics and the empty tomb.

  1. To crush evil, God had to defeat death itself
    God had to do this personally, in the person of Jesus the Son. No one else was capable of facing sin’s deadly sting with purity sufficient to remove the poison of that sting.
  2. In defeating death itself, God overwhelmingly crushed evil
    What’s the worst that could have happened to Jesus? The worst was to be handed over to evil men and condemned to an unjust death. That worst thing happened, yet God prevailed.

The first of these points makes it crystal clear: evil and sin are a big deal. The evil act of any person is death. No evil is ever trivial or can be shrugged off as of no account. If God went to that extent to crush evil, we have no permission to be blasé about our wrongs (or anyone else’s).

In other words, Christians must speak about ethics, including placing a spotlight on wrong. If we go soft, we do a disservice to the empty tomb and the astounding completed work of Jesus.

The second of these points is the wonderful glimmer of hope defeating the blackness of sin. God won the victory, therefore sin will not have the victory. More than that, since God won the victory, sin cannot triumph.

In consequence, all Christian talk of ethics must also include hope. Sin-talk that functions as a blunt-instrument attack is not consistent with the empty tomb. Sin-talk is serious, but always looks to the transformation God promises to those who have been raised with Christ.

For instance
To take one sin for an example, consider the greed for ‘stuff’ so prevalent in affluent Australia.

The empty tomb shows how useless is possession of the latest gadget, or fastest car, or shiniest house. The pursuit of these is a pathetic effort at self-definition. It spurns Jesus’ victory over sin by pushing it aside. ‘I’d much rather get a flat-screen TV than have union Christ who rose as the Son of God.’ We should name greed for the sin it is.

Yet there is hope. Once convicted of this failing, the greedy one can be sure: if s/he stops the pursuit of stuff, life will not end. There will be no loss of identity, but possession of true identity in Jesus! Change and transformation and resurrection life are real today. The sinner, therefore, is not left downcast but is lifted up to where Christ is seated in the heavenly realms. Life changes – and that is empty tomb ethics.