Luke gave me something great to think about today during our discipling meeting. What would be different if Jesus died and stayed dead?
[Now, before I dive in, I want to mention 1 Cor. 15:17..."If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." What follows is a thought experiment, not an attempt to contradict Paul.]
If Christ has not been raised, our faith would probably remain intact. We might not even notice the difference. If the gospel is really about Christ dying to pay the penalty for our sins, do we really need him to come back to life? "It is finished" he said. Do we need him anymore? Would anything change if he died and stayed dead?
Here're some thoughts about what might change:
We might approach the Gospels distrustfully. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, what do we do with the things he said about his coming resurrection? Was he mistaken? Lying? If that's the case, can we trust him with other things? Will he really rescue us from our sins? Can we really call God "Abba, Father"? Will we be punished for writing long chains of interrogative sentences?
We might feel enormous pressure to perform. Imagine that God the Father sacrificed his Son to rescue us from our bondage from sin. Free, now, we would face the grief of the Son-less Father. Our adoption into his family, while still filling us with joy (what an honor!), would come with pressure. Our seat at the table would be Jesus' old seat. We'd wear his old clothes. We'd have to live up to his legacy. Jesus died for us, after all. He would want to see us, as Dickens said, "winning [our] way up in that path of [ours] which once was [his]...winning it so well, that [his] name is made illustrious there by the light of [ours]."
We might fear the future. If Jesus died alone and rots alone in a borrowed grave, what destiny awaits us? Can a servant be greater than his master? We would be hard-pressed to expect a good outcome for ourselves, bad as we are, if the best among us meets a miserable end. If he was rejected by God, we might be rejected. If he was broken, we might be broken. If he was abandoned, we might be abandoned. If that is the last word for him, it might also be for us. Did God accept the sacrifice? Did he really accept us? Or is what we see more real than what we've been told?
Fear, pressure, distrust: we don't feel those, do we? If we do, might we look to the resurrection? Instead of distrust, could we find courage because the things he foretold came to pass? Instead of pressure, could we rejoice that the one who takes our place also takes us to his place and resides in joyful fellowship with us? Instead of fear, could we feel hope that the rising again of the Chosen One might foreshadow the rising again of all who are in Christ? Instead of interrogatives, we could rejoice in declaratives (and long sentences full of big words).
Christ is risen indeed. All is not perfect, yet all is well.