In many churches and Christian circles today, the gospel-centered movement has made a significant impact. There is a laser-focused emphasis on the cross of Christ. The beauty of the hideous cross is preached, discussed, adored, and magnified from Sunday to Sunday. And that’s a very good thing. Gone (for many, at least) is the self-help sermon or the lift-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality. The cross is the message.
The cross is the center of the gospel – the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. It is not, however, the totality of the gospel. I’m so grateful for our gospel-centeredness, but I am afraid for many, gospel-centered is cross-centered. But the cross is not the end of the gospel.
To hear many sermons and to read many books and to listen to many presentations of the gospel, one could come away with the idea that Jesus’ death on the cross is the only part of the gospel – that the good news extends no further than the last desperate breath. Good news, by definition, needs to be good, and while atonement is certainly good news, death is not. Furthermore, we would not see that atonement is effective without the open grave. A crucified Messiah is a failed Messiah unless he is raised from the dead. Only a risen Lord can prove that God is for us, not against us.
What I am attempting to emphasize is that the resurrection matters just as much as the cross. The gospel is not a 140-character tweet but a full-length book of good news. That’s not to say it can’t be summarized; it just takes all of history to show its goodness and bigness.
Imagine you have a new watch. You purchase it and take it out of the packaging. You immediately open it up and admire the gears inside. You analyze it and figure out which gear turns that way, and which gear turns this way. You understand how it’s put together and how it keeps track of time. You notice how the dials are tied into the gears and how precisely it can be set – down to the second. You’re in awe.
You love the watch. You take it everywhere. You tell all your friends about it. But you never put the watch on. For all the admiration you have, you’ve never even used it. It’s a great talking point, but not a very functional item. It doesn’t make it into daily life.
Some of us have a theology like that watch. We understand the cross. We can get from Isaiah 53 to John 19 as easily as you get home from work each day. But do you know what time it is?
The resurrection helps us to see the time. We are living in a new kingdom. King Jesus is reigning and ruling. If my stomach starts growling and I look at the watch to see it’s noon, I understand why I’m hungry. If my soul starts growling and I look at the Bible to see the resurrection, I understand why my longings are there. This life will not last forever; the resurrection is coming.
Let us not stop too soon for our comfort. Let us go on to the to the fullness of the gospel. Jesus was raised for our justification. He is reigning and ruling now. The kingdom of God is at hand. The cross wasn’t the end; it was only the beginning of the end. The consummation of history is coming. Do you know what time it is?