The turning point of all christian theology
The turning point of all christian theology is the resurrection of Jesus. Mainly for two reasons:
1/ Remember Daniel 12: within Judaism, resurrection has been thought as an event for the end of time (i.e. it is what theologians call an eschatological event) so it was seldom the major concern. On the contrary, in early christianity it was the major concern because:
a) No one until Jesus followers claimed that someone already raised from the dead to stay alive for ever (which is the difference between resurrection and resuscitation).
b) except Jesus, no one even thought that it could occur before the end of times even for the messiah (we have no record of traditions about that).
When in Mark 8,31-32 Jesus teaches that:
… it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke openly about this.
obviously the disciples did not understand the teaching:
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
As says N.T. Wright : « The world of Judaism was quite unprepared »1
But there is an other reason why Jesus’ resurrection is the main event for christians:
2/ Crucifixion by itself carries no divine revelation It is only the expression of Roman justice which was dedicated to stifle any sign of dissent : on the night of the crucifixion, no one thought, « at last, he died for our sins ». The disciples felt exactly what the authorities wanted them to feel: fear and despair.
But the resurrection gives its meaning to the crucifixion (notice that resurrection without crucifixion has not the same meaning either). It is only because Christ raised from the dead that Paul could say such sentences like :
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved.
we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.
I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Jesus resurrection is the turning point of our faith. It teaches us that even though Jesus has been rejected by both his people and the nations, he has not been rejected by God who shows that he was right and righteous.
You understand here that the couple Cross/Resurrection is not a cute feature in history but that it should be the center of our meditation. To say it with our church culture vocabulary: it should be what fills most of our quiet times, songs and sermons2.
Meditating about the Cross helps to find the solution of many human paradoxes:
- guilt vs. justification
- suffering vs. healing
- grieve vs. joy
- aggression vs. peace
- death vs. life
- aging vs. renewal
- submission vs. freedom
- limit vs. disinhibition
- shame vs. glory
- stupidity vs. wisdom
- destruction vs. salvation
- and many more…
1 Wright, Nicholas T. 2003. The Resurrection of the Son of God, Minneapolis: Fortress Press. p.206
2 And that is a good criteria of evaluation of the speech of a Church or of a preacher: does he insist on referring to the Cross/Resurrection duo as the focal point of whatever subject?