Emphasizing the resurrection
This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses
— Acts 2:32
Recently when my church hosted the Red Cross Blood Mobile, a donor stopped by my office to introduce himself. We had quite an interesting chat. One of the intriguing things this man said was “I think we put too much emphasis on the crucifixion of Christ and not enough emphasis on his resurrection.” I agreed.
Thousands of people were crucified by the Roman government. Of all those executed, I know of only one whose followers later encountered that person alive. Only one inspired a religious movement that changed the course of history. That person is, of course, Jesus whom we call the Christ.
The blood donor’s comment reminded me of a book called “Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire” by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker. Their work traces the changes in art, ritual, devotional practices and worship space through the history of Christianity. Among the many interesting things the authors note is that the oldest existing representation of Christ crucified, the Gero Cross, dates back only to about 965. Think of it! The image which now dominates western Christian art apparently did not even exist until over 900 years after Christ was crucified.
During the first millennium, churches were decorated with images of the living Jesus in an earthly paradise filled with shimmering stars, golden sunlight, sparkling waters, green meadows, animals and flowers and fruit trees. Believers entered this earthly paradise through the ritual of baptism. They were sustained with the Lord’s Supper which focused on Christ’s incarnation and resurrection rather than his death.
During Holy Week we solemnly remember the last days of Jesus’ life and the horrific way in which he died. Yet let us not forget that we celebrate his resurrection to new life not just Easter Sunday, but every Sunday. And we also trust that the God who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us into his presence (2 Cor. 2:14).
Hallelujah! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed.
The Rev. Dr. Barrie Miller Kirby is pastor of Spencer Presbyterian Church. Her novel No Such Thing as a Cherokee Princess is available at createspace.com, amazon.com, and the Literary Bookpost.