It’s all connected

I recently asked a group of young Christians to write a brief summary of the Christian gospel in a sentence or two. I called it ‘the crashing airplane’ conversation: you’re on a plane, it’s about to crash, and your neighbour leans over and says, “I saw you reading your Bible earlier… help!”

Unsurprisingly, no-one wrote down what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:8: Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel.

Most wrote more about Jesus’ death than his resurrection, if they even mentioned the resurrection at all. I’m certainly like that too; I much more readily talk about (and understand) the cross of Jesus. So I wonder if we as a Christian culture are a bit lopsided? After all, the apostles in Acts proclaim Jesus’ resurrection far more than we tend to.

John Calvin helped me to understand this a little better. He introduced me to a figure of speech called a ‘synecdoche’, where a part of something can be made to represent the whole, or vice versa. So if I say “Australia won the World Cup final by three goals”, you know that (a) I mean the Australian Soccer Team, and (b) I’m lying, as Australia never even comes close to the World Cup final, let alone win it by that margin. Similarly, with the death and/or the resurrection of Jesus, it must be that when we think of one, we assume and include the other event. So we speak of the cross of the resurrected Jesus, or the resurrection of our crucified Lord. If you like, it’s the deathandresurrection of Jesus.

Like Peter Orr (see his article What is Jesus Doing Now?), I’ve been reflecting quite a bit recently on the letter to the Hebrews. Throughout the letter, the author keeps making this point about the connectedness of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He shows us exactly who Jesus is—the radiance of God’s glory and exact imprint of his nature who reveals the Father to us (Heb 1:1-4); the one who became human like us and therefore sympathises with us in our temptation (Heb 2:14-18)—but then he reminds us of both his death and his resurrection.

You might not have noticed it, because he tends not to use those exact terms, but it’s there all over the place.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Heb 1:3)

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. (Heb 10:12)

Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)

Jesus provided purification for sins by dying in our place as a true, perfect offering for sin—then he sat down. In his article, Peter points out the significance of the fact that Jesus is sitting. What I want to draw our attention to is how the description of who Jesus is and what he has done isn’t limited to his death; after he had provided purification for sins (through his death on the cross for us), he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Now dead people don’t go and sit down in places. Dead people don’t become anything, least of all ‘superior to the angels’. That he sat down points us again to his resurrection from the dead.

The church congregation that I’m a part of have endured my peculiar verbal mannerisms for some time now. Some of the younger folk mock me occasionally (lovingly, I choose to believe) about the ‘Sam Freney stock phrases’, especially in regards to prayer, because I often pray about the confidence we can have as God’s adopted children: that he loves us, hears us, and is ready and willing to answer. This assurance is, of course, on account of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus; his blood shed for us as a perfect, once-for-all sacrifice, and his resurrection as an eternal priest:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:19-23)

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