Easter has just passed and everyone has been posting about the death and resurrection of Jesus which is fantastic. The cross is at the center of our faith, it is at the heart of scripture, it is foundational to the gospel and it is the ultimate revelation to man of who God is and what His creation means to Him.
Originally I planned on getting in on this as well but at the last minute I decided to do something different this year and instead write something about the life of Christ. Now I know people generally celebrate that at Christmas time but I want to go beyond the birth story and say something about the entire life that Jesus lived while on the earth because I believe it was hugely significant as well. Consider this; most people believe that God needed a sinless person to die as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. But if this is all that was required then the thirty-three years that Christ walked the earth become relatively meaningless. Why did God not just let Jesus die as a baby? Why did He send an angel to warn Joseph in a dream of Herod’s evil plan to have all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem killed? Why could a mob that wanted to throw Jesus off of a cliff not touch Him? Clearly, the life of Christ matters and should be included in the story that covers the death and resurrection as well.
So while many people have posted this week about the meaning behind the death and resurrection of Christ, let me share a few thoughts as to why I believe the life of Christ was equally important to us as well.
1 – Christ reveals God to us
The prophet Isaiah said that a virgin would give birth to a son and call him Immanuel which means, ‘God is with us’. Jesus was not just another prophet, sent to deliver a message to a certain people at a certain time in history. No, Jesus revealed something far greater; He showed us what God is truly like. God walked the earth as a man; He exemplified holiness as He went about His daily life, obedient in every way to the will of His Father. Jesus healed the sick, He lifted up the lowly, He gave power to the powerless and He befriended all the wrong people. He also warned the people of the destructive nature of sin and the need we have for God, His life stood in contrast to the religious leaders and kings of the earth. Jesus revealed a God to both the Jews and the Gentiles which many had never dreamed existed.
2 – Christ set up and established His church
More than anything else Jesus spoke to people about of the Kingdom of God and simultaneously, He invited people into its reality. Nowhere would God’s reign be more manifest than through the life of Jesus and then by extension through those that He called into His assembly. Kingdom teaching was more than the pulpit style transfer of information. Jesus chose twelve disciples and for three years invested everything He could into them, showing them how to live in and through Him. Pentecost is often pointed to as the birth of the church but certainly the foundations were laid during the earthly ministry of Christ.
3 – Christ left us an example to follow
I have heard it said that the word ‘Bible’ stands for ‘Basic instructions before leaving earth’ which is not entirely false but not entirely true either. In reality, the Christians call is to abide in the vine and to be imitators of Christ; nothing more and nothing less. If we take a look at some of Christ’s most famous teachings like the Sermon on the Mount, we don’t just read about a set of instructions but we see a living example of how to carry this out. In Jesus we see the poor, the humble, a suffering servant who hungers for justice. He is merciful, His heart is pure and He is called the Prince of Peace, He was persecuted for righteousness sake (see Matthew 5:3-12).
4 – Christ fulfilled the Torah
One thing often pointed to in Christian apologetics is that Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies about Israel’s coming messiah. Those who knew the scriptures would have known exactly who Jesus was by the signs He fulfilled. But Christ also fulfilled the scriptures in other ways as well; in His own words he also fulfilled the Law of Moses. Then there are all of the Old Testament types and shadows, He was the new Adam, the bridegroom, the rock that gushes life giving water, the kinsman redeemer, Israel and so much more.
5 – Christ’s death was a continuation of His life’s work
One day when Jesus was in His hometown of Nazareth He went to the synagogue and read from Isaiah, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring God News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that the captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free and that the time of the Lords favor has come” (Luke 4:18-19). The gospels record how during Christ’s earthly ministry He healed many sick and blind people (physically and spiritually) and set free those who were tormented by demons. In a sense you could compare Christ’s life and death to that of Samson’s. Where His calling was carried out throughout His life and completed on a larger scale in His death.
There is a view of the atonement known as Christus Victor which basically says that Christ, through His death and resurrection, conquered sin, Satan and death. I would say that His life demonstrated the same (though on a smaller scale) as prostitutes became followers, tax collectors became liberators, Satan was overcome through the temptations in the wilderness and demons were forced to obey His commands and finally dead people were raised back to life demonstrating His power of the grave.
There are probably a dozen other things we could point to about the importance of the life of Christ, these were just the first five that I could think of, I would love to hear what else you think should be on this list as well.