Thursday, September 15, 2011
Preaching Christ Crucified
Matthew 27:51-54 (ESV) And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.  The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,  and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.  When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" “After his resurrection” It is peculiar placement in the story. This passage constantly baffles me. Most of what happens is said to have happened in conjunction with his death. The curtain is torn, indicating that final atonement had been made. That occurs with his death. There is a lot here. A lot! But the curtain being torn is significant. Massively significant, and that it happens with his death had massive implications for Christian preaching. Paul says among the Corinthians he knew nothing but Christ Crucified. In fact he equates the gospel to “Christ Crucified.” Certainly he doesn’t exclude the resurrection without which no one would know what had happened when he died. But it was his death that paid for sins, not his resurrection. The gospel is the sacrifice. Too often this is forgotten today. I just reviewed a book on Amazon.com. my ratings are taking a hit their because people are so opposed to what I wrote. A few have given me popular votes. But the book was supposed to be about preaching Christ, and the man doesn’t know how to preach Christ. He mentions Christ once or twice in the course of six sermons I read of his in the book, but even there he fails to bring out Christ’s death and resurrection. Instead he preaches Christ as if Christ had nothing to do but regurgitate Moses, and Solomon and the other authors of Wisdom Literature, not where these men hit upon the coming Christ who would rise from the dead, but on the law. I suppose it is an easy mistake, but still not one a Pastor or under-shepherd of Christ should make. Wolfhart Pannenberg makes the point poignantly clear in Faith and Reality, when he says “In particular, the teaching of Jesus cannot in itself be the ground and content of faith.” Certainly the teaching of Jesus is very much a living part of the faith, but if divorced from the death and resurrection of Christ, of the person who taught it, it is no longer Christianity! You have to wrestle with what it means that this curtain is torn with his death, to do anything less is to just miss the point of Christ coming at all. Christ Crucified must be preached if what you are going to preach is to be Christian. However it is true that this death would be meaningless without his resurrection. All the other events here happen with his death, including the opening of tombs. But the proleptic resurrection of the saints happen after his resurrection. The bodies were raised Matthew says. He is the only gospel writer that records this. It appears in the text an enigma. One wonders, who were raised, recently dead? I suppose it would have to be if their testimony would have any weight with their friends. Any body could claim to be someone raised from the dead, if you hadn’t ever known him before, hadn’t seen him dead and buried. Christ laid a lot of ground work for the Pentecost proclamation. 3,000 in one day, one wonders how many of those were still in the process of pissing their pants from an encounter with a friend, and not his ghost mind you, but him/her in the flesh a few days after they had been buried. That’ll rock a boat or two.