Famous author and critical thinker C.S. Lewis is quoted as having said that Christianity can either be true and vital or untrue and useless, it cannot be both and it cannot be somewhere in the middle, containing elements of truth and elements of falsehood.
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
The same can be said of the core Christian claim that Jesus, the perfect Son of God who was ‘in very nature God’ (Philippians 2:5-11
), died and rose from the grave on the third day, conquering death once and for all by taking the sins of his people upon himself, cancelling their debt before God and rising from the dead.
Today is Good Friday, 25 March 2016 – a day to pause from the busyness of life and remember afresh the significance of what Jesus has done for His people.
The title of this post might be confusing at first, particularly due to my use of the term ‘full justice’, but hopefully the meaning of this will soon become clear and you will see as I do the beauty in the truth of the title’s statement.
Following on from Good Friday’s thoughts about the beautiful collision between humanity’s depravity and Christ’s divinity at Calvary, I got to thinking about what it must have been like for the disciples during the Easter weekend. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions and experiences both leading up to that time and throughout Easter! They’d heard the prophesies about the Messiah, but they didn’t want to accept the fact that He had to die. They’d heard John the Baptist telling people to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand before Jesus started His earthly ministry (Matthew 3:1 – 6) and yet they were confused as they had been expecting an earthly political kingdom to release them from Roman rule rather than a spiritual Kingdom set up by a suffering servant. They were finally understanding who Jesus really was and then His life and ministry turned towards the cross. Within the space of a few days they experienced the last supper, prayer in the garden, betrayal by one of their close friends, the brutal floggings and mocking of Jesus by the soldiers, accusers that wanted to pin Peter down as a close friend of Jesus followed by Peter’s denial of that fact, the crowds demanding Jesus’ death, the disciples’ Lord and master carrying His cross and having to be helped by another on the side of the road because the brutality had already tortured his body to breaking point… and then the actual crucifixion itself with darkened skies during the day time, nails through flesh, immense bloodshed, earthquake and the temple curtain being torn in two. Then it is finished. Jesus’ body is buried, the stone seals the tomb and the disciples are left wondering what is to become of it all.
In arguably his most famous play, Shakespeare’s female protagonist asks a well known question about the substance of a name;
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
I haven’t really thought about this until now, but Shakespeare is like the king of the English language (other authors come and go but Shakespeare will seemingly forever be studied by English students) and yet in this very famous scene the character wants to disregard the word (in this case a surname) as a means of describing the idea or person that it represents. This of course goes against the grain of history in which names carried authority, tradition, and identity.
Similarly, 19th Century Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is quoted as saying
“Once you label me you negate me.“
Now without getting into a full blown discussion on post-modernity, relativism, ‘progressive social norms’ and ‘subjective reality’ (I know, this sounds like an oxymoron, but I’ll leave that for later), I have to say both men were ahead of their time with the notion of wanting to strip words of their definitive meaning, instead freeing up concepts, ideas and even identities to remain undefined and unrestricted. However, I also think this notion is, at times, extremely unhelpful.