Summary: The empty tomb means that we are freed from the power of sin over our lives and we can live the kind of lives God originally intended right now in the present.
A Life of Discipline: Lent week 3
March 7, 2010
The season of Lent can sometimes feel like the opposite of the season of Advent, don’t you think? Advent, our preparation for Christmas, seems to be full of excitement and anticipation and joy and merriness, as we prepare to gather around the warm baby Jesus in the warm candlelight of the immaculately clean, warm stable… And Lent, our preparation for Easter, seems to be full of remorse and sacrifice and hard work and repentance, as we prepare to gather around the harsh cross, the bloody Jesus, and the desperation of the disciples’, and be confronted with the difficult truth that Jesus went through all that because of my sin. Hmmm, is it any wonder then that we prefer, enjoy, put more effort, and look more forward to Christmas? Today I want to suggest that this is in large part because we’ve significantly misunderstood what it actually means to be saved.
What then does it mean to “be saved”?
So let’s start today with this question: what does it mean to “be saved”? Perhaps we back that up and ask “from what do we need to be saved?” (invite response).
A Better Question:
When I suggest that we’ve significantly misunderstood the nature of salvation, it is because I think we tend to stick salvation in the past or project it into the future, with little application to the now. True: our salvation is rooted in an historical event in the past, in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Also True: our salvation will only be fully realized in the future at death and at the second coming of Jesus. We believe that Jesus died for our sins in the past, saving us from some future punishment for our sins. But what about the now, the present, the moments that make up our lives day in and day out? What does salvation mean in the present?
I think perhaps a better question than “from what do we need to be saved?” is this: “for what are we saved?” Perhaps another way to phrase this difference is to recognize that when Jesus talked about His mission, He did not say “I have come to save you from the penalty of your sins so you can go to heaven when you die.” Again, those are true statements, but they weren’t the heart of Jesus’ message. The Good News is not that Jesus died on the cross. Does that sound like a blasphemous statement? I believe it! The Good News is not that Jesus died, the Good News is that Jesus died and rose again!! The emphasis of much of Christianity today is two days off of what it is supposed to be – we are stuck in Good Friday, with only a nod to Resurrection Sunday. We see the grand story of our faith climaxing with the death of Jesus on the cross, with the Resurrection as the dénouement, rather than seeing the cross as the moment of great tension resolved in glorious, incredible victory at the empty tomb, with the climax being our daily experience of this same power. When we emphasize the cross over the empty tomb, we emphasize death over life, and then stay focussed on death instead of life, on sin instead of forgiveness, on the past and future instead of the present.
So What Did Jesus Say?
With that as introduction, let us turn to Scripture and see what Jesus had to say for Himself about why He came, and what He taught. Luke 4 says, “16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Where is the idea of sin, the cross, forgiveness, and eternity in heaven there? It is there, but you’ll have to look closely… Maybe another Scripture will help: John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” In the broader context of that verse, where Jesus compares Himself to a good shepherd that knows his sheep, the sheep know his voice and follow, there is the idea of death, “11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” So in this passage also we have the idea of sacrifice, but as with Luke 4 what is the main emphasis? What is the point of Jesus’ ministry to the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed, and the “sheep”? Answering this gets us closer to understanding the nature of salvation. Any thoughts?