Sunday, April 01, 2018

While it was still dark

God did not raise Jesus from the dead so that he could be my personal Lord and Saviour. I am simply not that important. God raised Jesus from the dead to vindicate Jesus’ faithfulness even unto death, and to demonstrate that God had appointed Jesus as judge over first the unfaithful people of God and then the rebellious (gods of the) surrounding nations.

This would take place in history. The judgement of God’s people is (most immediately, as a first horizon) seen in the fall of Jerusalem, in AD70. The defeat of the pagan gods is (as a first horizon) seen in the fall of Rome and its empire, and the (historical, and limited) triumph of Christendom.

Those who recognised that God had appointed Jesus as judge—first the Jew, and then the Greco-Roman or gentile or non-Jew—would be vindicated in their faith by being delivered through the coming outpouring of judgement, or wrath, as a covenant community that survived the end of the(ir) world. Christ is our Passover lamb (I may not be that important—see above—but I am included).

Related to this judgement are both hell and resurrection. Hell is primarily an image of the desecration of Jerusalem by the Greeks, and its later destruction by the Romans. Resurrection from the sleep of death ‘ahead of time’ or before ‘the end’ is almost entirely limited to the Jewish martyrs killed by the Greeks and Christian martyrs killed by the Romans, as a sign of the restoration of the fortunes of God’s people in general.

Where does that leave us today, long after the fall of both Jerusalem and Rome? It leaves us living and interpreting history in continuity with what God has done in Jesus. So, we might ask, where, currently experiencing or anticipating judgement on the Church and the nations, do we hope to be vindicated in our faith in Jesus?

Today, the Church faces God’s judgement for failing to care as we should have done for vulnerable children, among other sins. We hope for a community that will survive: that will be put to death, with Christ, by the authorities—and be raised to life with him.

Today, the nation of Iran persecutes the Iranian Church. We long for the day when our Iranian brothers’ and sisters’ faith in Jesus will be vindicated, by regime change (or change of heart) and their being able to live openly as Christians in their own nation.

This is something of what Easter means to me today, as a member of the Church of England, and a congregation which is one third Iranian.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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