By Pastor Rey Diaz
Crowds in cities like Thessalonica, Philippi, or Corinth: Who is this odd little man, sounding as if he’s a royal herald making a proclamation about a new emperor? And who is this new emperor anyway?
Paul: He is a Jew! And he was crucified! He is called Jesus!
Crowd: At this point mouths drop open with incredulity. People stare. This guy is drunk. Or crazy. Crucifixion is about the most shameful thing that can happen to you. Besides if he was crucified it means he’s dead. How can a crucified man be the Lord, the Son of God?
Paul: No! He’s alive! God raised him from the dead!
Crowd: Now the crowd knows Paul is mad. Everybody knows perfectly well that dead people don’t come back to life. It’s the ultimate statistic. 100% of people will die. No one escapes.
Paul: I have good news to share. The Messiah died for our sins in accordance to the Bible and he was raised on the third day!
This was and continues to be shocking, scandalous and foolishness to the crowd. But Paul continues sharing this Easter message. There is after all one true God, the God of Israel. He made the whole world, and he planned an amazing rescue operation for that world.
The news is that this rescue operation has happened! Jesus, who died and was raised, is Israel’s Messiah and when he returns he will be Lord of he whole world.
You can see why the gospel was considered scandalous by most. But in essence Paul was just sharing good news; it is the news that something has happened and as a result the world is a different place. It wasn’t a new religion, moral system, or philosophy.
One can debate the merits of a religion, moral system, or philosophy, but a news event is discussed in a different way. Either the event happened or it didn’t; if it did happen, either it means what people say it means, or it doesn’t.
Paul was telling the people that Jesus death and resurrection had changed the world, that the world was now a different place, and that he was summoning them to be part of that new, different reality. This event would cause them to adjust their entire lives in order to come into line with the way things now were.
When Roman heralds came into a city like Thessalonica announcing that a new emperor had been enthroned, the didn’t mean, “Here is a new sort of imperial experience, and you might like to see if it suits you.” They meant, “Tiberius (or any other emperor) is the Lord of the World. You are lucky recipients of this good news; he demands your loyalty, your allegiance, and of course you taxes.” That’s how Roman good news worked.
Paul uses the word ‘herald” to talk about his own mission sharing the good news. He wasn’t offering people a new type of torch so they could see better in the dark. He was saying that the sun had risen, and that if you would only open the curtains you’d see that you don’t need torches anymore.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” – C S Lewis.
That is what is written on his memorial tablet in Westminster Abbey. That is what Easter does for us. When we let the message of Easter get inside of us and then we look out at the world, then suddenly you see everything else in a new way. “A way that makes sense of everything- startling, shocking sense, a sudden and scary clarity. This is what Paul means by the “power” of this “good news.” It does things to people. It transforms.”
Easter is at the center of the gospel. The Messiah died, was buried, was raised, and was seen. Take that away and Christianity collapses. Put it in its proper place and the whole world is different. This good news about what has happened points to the good news about what is yet to happen. Death’s defeat. Eternal life. Resurrection. Heaven. That’s what Easter is about. Come celebrate with us this weekend!
PS – I have borrowed heavily from a book by N.T. Wright “Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What makes it Good” to write this little blog. And by ‘borrowed heavily’ I mean straight plagerism in some parts. I decided to read this book during holy week and have been so inspired. I highly, highly recommend it to everyone. Get it here: Simply Good News.