By Tom Neven | Focus on the Family Blog
This weekend we mark that nexus of history, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the crucial, defining event of Christianity.
Yet despite this clear teaching of Scripture, there have been those through the ages who have reduced Christ to merely a great teacher and Christianity to a code of good works. The most recent example of this I’ve come across is Erik Reece’s essay “Save Jesus, Ignore Easter.” In it this son and grandson of Baptist preachers confesses that he does not share their faith. But, he adds, he still wants to follow Jesus. He writes:
"American Christianity has historically been focused so obsessively on the Nicene Creed—which says Jesus was the son of God, who was crucified for our sins and rose from the grave three days later—that it never made much room for the actual teachings of this radical Jewish street preacher.
"This is why I'm against Easter. It celebrates the death of Jesus nearly to the exclusion of his life. If the Easter miracle can save us from this life, then why bother with the harder work of enacting the kingdom of God here? It is, after all, much harder."
I’m always confused when I hear things like this. What “radical” teachings does he refer to? Perhaps this? Or maybe this? Or how about this? And there’s always this. To carry one’s cross was not just a great burden; under the Roman form of punishment, the condemned was forced to carry his cross as an acknowledgment of guilt. It was a way of saying that Rome was correct in meting out justice to this criminal. To carry one's cross is to acknowledge that you are guilty and that God is correct in meting out justice. That is the full import of that frequently misused verse.
The good news is that Christ carried the cross and endured God's justice for us. Knowing this adds special weight to Paul’s declaration that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Reece wants to do good works on this earth. Good for him. We can all learn from his example. But when he takes only a partial Jesus and ignores the full teaching of Scripture, he is not obeying Jesus.
Me, I want Jesus, too, but I want the Jesus of Good Friday and Easter morning. Without that Jesus, I’d be a pitiable fool.