On the passing and rising of Jesus

Earlier this week, as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave his “gift” of returning captured British hostages to their homeland, he cited his reason for his generous gesture:

“On the occasion of the birthday of the great Prophet (Muhammad) … and for the occasion of the passing of Christ, I say the Islamic Republic government and the Iranian people — with all powers and legal right to put the soldiers on trial — forgave those 15.

“This pardon is a gift to the British people.”

Indeed, Christians do celebrate the passing of Christ. Good Friday finds Christians focusing on the crucifixion Jesus, where the wrath of God against sin (which we deserved) was poured out upon the innocent Son of Man. Ahmadinejad, of course, leaves out the crucial rest of the story — the fact of the resurrection.

While a Christian’s justification depends upon God’s gift of the cross, the hope of a follower of Christ lies in a truth that seems odd to verbalize in today’s modern world. This truth is none other than the fact that the fully human Jesus of Nazareth — likewise fully dead — got up and walked out of his tomb. And (as dead men are never good candidates for walking around) we conclude, along with the biblical writers, that Jesus is no longer dead.

A real dead person really came back to life, and continues to live today. As Christ said as he began his ministry, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”