April 5, 2015
The Risen Christ
The death of Jesus on the cross is the center of all Christian life and theology. If we want to know who God is, who we are, and the way to ultimate truth and life - the best thing we can do is look at Jesus upon the cross. The cross is not just a religious symbol; it is an utterly new way to live.
They took him down from the cross and buried him. And then God raised him from death. There is no disputing that. – Acts 13v29-31 (Message)
- One of the unique aspects of Christianity compared to other faith movements is that it actually traces its origin to one particular event in one moment on one day in history. This is not true for Judaism or Buddhism or Islam or atheism. But one day there was no such thing as a church, and then suddenly overnight there was. How did the resurrection change Jesus’ disciples lives? Do you think they understood the resurrection as a beautiful metaphor for life-after-death? A way to remember the teachings of Jesus after his death? Or as a historic, history altering event? Why?
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
- What Jesus is bringing out is there are two sides to the doctrine of the resurrection. On the one hand, the resurrection of Christ is a fact to be believed. On the other hand, it is an experience to connect with. If you believe in it as a fact, but you’ve never experienced the resurrection, or if you think of the resurrection as a kind of spiritual experience, but you don’t believe it was a fact - both result in a religion with form but no power. Discuss. Why is it so critical to connect with both aspects of the resurrection?
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
- Because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead you can’t relate to Jesus the way a Muslim relates to Muhammad. The Muslim knows Muhammad is dead. Therefore, you can relate to the teachings of Muhammad, but not to Muhammad. How is Christianity different? How can we relate to Jesus?
- The difference between knowing Christ and knowing the power of his resurrection is Paul’s way of saying there’s a difference between knowing a person and resembling a person. When he says, “I want to know him,” that means I want to be with him. When it says, “I want to know the power of his resurrection,” that means I want to be like him. How can we experience the “power of his resurrection”?
- What does Paul mean when he says I want to know the fellowship of his suffering?
In facing his own death Jesus wasn’t a victim of forces beyond his control – he had options. He could fight like the zealots, withdraw like the Essenes, collaborate with the chief priests, cut a deal with Pilate, or call on God to be delivered. Instead, he chose to die out of love for others. He explained it this way:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep… The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father commanded.” (John 10v11, 17-18 NLT)
- Why do you think it matters so much that Jesus’ disciples understand that he is making a sacrificial choice from a position of authority?
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9v23-24 NLT)
- Jesus describes taking up one’s cross as a daily choice, a habit practiced in the routines of everyday life and relationships. As you think back over the last day or two, what opportunities did you have to take up your cross – to make a loving, sacrificial choice? How did you respond? What happened as a result?
Jesus released a new kind of hope – hope that called people to die to the lesser life of a lesser self so that a greater self might be born.
- Where are you most aware of a need for this kind of hope in your life right now? What lesser thing do you sense God may be asking you to die to?
As Christ burst forth from the tomb, may new life burst forth from us and show itself in acts of love and healing to a hurting world. And may that same Christ, who lives forever and is the source of our new life, keep your hearts rejoicing and grant you peace this day and always. Amen.