The painting beside this post is a painting by Diego Velazquez done in 1632. The depiction is of Jesus the Messiah being crucified. Today, commonly known as Good Friday, is the day which Christians commemorate the death of Jesus by crucifixion.
The historical veracity of the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Jesus have been questioned by some scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, the fellows of the Jesus Seminars, and a host of other critics such as Bill Maher. While I will not debate the historicity of the resurrection in this post, suffice to say that the evidence against the resurrection is not sufficient to provide a compelling case.
Instead, I thought I would spend a moment to talk about what Easter means to Christians. I find it intriguing that Robert Funk, in his decrying of Christianity, pointed to a sermon delivered by a pastor who continued to point to the empty tomb of Christ as a source of hope in the mundanity of life. Mr. Funk then decided from there that the resurrection was merely symbolism to provide hope for Christians that we would be okay. How sad that a man as educated as Mr. Funk could have much learning, but then miss the key points of what he learned. I agree that as Christians, we have immeasurable hope despite our circumstances. In fears of job loss, in fears of tragedy and malady, we have a hope that is not available for others, because we have the Lord as our inheritance. There are a host of bible passages that speak to this, such as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, where Jesus exhorts us not to worry about our lives, because the Lord sees our needs. There is the epistle of Paul to the Romans where he says that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)” The crucifixion of Christ offers us much more hope than that, though.
The crucifixion and resurrection is vivid, tangible proof that death has been defeated. No longer does the believer have to fear death, because death is no longer a finality, but is now only a formality. Death is now the passage from our life here to a life in the presence of the Father. More than that, we can look forward to the day when we will be reunited with our bodies, which will be resurrected themselves into a glorious state where corruption will no longer stranglehold our bodies and souls into submission. One day, my father will no longer be crippled by arthritis. His body will be transformed into an imperishable body. The ravages of age and time will no longer affect the believer. Instead, we will have an eternity to spend in the presence of God in worship (I keep hoping that in the resurrection, I will have more hair to cover my bald spot).
Another hope that we have in the crucifixion is that our sins have been forgiven. Much like the Israelites who were once slaves in Egypt, we have now been freed from our captor, Sin. No longer are we separated from God because of the sacrifice of this Jesus. As humans, we owe God our lives in payment for our sinfulness, for the wages of sin is death. However, Jesus lived the life we could not live, payed the debt we could not pay, and now freely offers His sacrifice for us so that we might have relationship with God. Without His sacrifice, we would still be estranged from God. As it is, we now have a high priest in heaven who intercedes with the Father on our behalf. Because of the painful death that our Lord suffered on our behalf, we are able to have community with God that would otherwise be impossible.
Mr. Funk is correct in that the spine of the Easter story is the recapturing of hope for humanity. In that aspect, yes, it could definitely be said that humanity has hope in the crucifixion. However, Mr. Funk was very far off in the assumption that this hope centers on such mundane things as our everyday life. Instead, this hope rests in the fact that our very eternal destinies were decided by that Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, who fills us now with His very presence, who instead of leaving us in a state of eternal depravity, took it upon Himself to condescend to be one of us, live the life we could not live, and pay the debt that was far too much for us to pay. The hope of the Cross in the resurrection of our bodies, the forgiveness of our sins, the restoration of complete fellowship with God, and the ability to forever commune with our Creator, the Lord of Heaven and Earth.