April 10, 2012
Scot McKnight is an American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, theologian, speaker, author and blogger. He is currently teaching at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.
A Connected Gospel
Anyone who has gone to church for any amount of time has likely noticed a strange phenomenon around Good Friday and Easter. Depending on what kind of church, one of two things probably happened.
One, at a Good Friday service, which is supposed to be a somber reflection on the death of Jesus, the minister instead figuratively winked at the congregation and ignored the pain and humiliation of the cross, with a proclamation of, “Jesus died ... but the story doesn’t end there!” before a choir burst into a giant chorus of “Up from the Ground He Arose.” The meaning was clear: Sure, the death of Jesus was important, but there’s no point dwelling on it. After all, He rose again!
Or two, the church emphasized the crucifixion and its meaning to the point where the resurrection became an afterthought. What Christ did on the cross and how His sacrifice saves Christians from the wrath of God became the primary lens through which to understand faith. The resurrection becomes an almost forgotten, if pleasant, afterthought.
But neither of these is the Gospel. The full Gospel of Jesus Christ is an intertwined story of life, death and resurrection. Easter Sunday is meaningless without Good Friday, but Good Friday is equally as meaningless without Easter Sunday.
Perhaps one of the most befitting images for the Gospel story is that of a Celtic knot. In a Celtic knot, every strand is completely interlaced with every other strand. There is no beginning or ending to a Celtic knot.
Until we see the Gospel as a Celtic-like knot—completely interwoven with no definitive start or finish—we will always have an incomplete picture.
Reclaiming the Resurrection
In particular, today’s Christian has a tendency to reduce the Gospel to Good Friday. The result? Grace is also reduced to one theme: atonement—to Christ shouldering and then reversing the wrath of God.
But the Gospel knot must include Easter Sunday—there’s no Kingdom without resurrection. Jesus’ life leads to crucifixion, which leads to the resurrection, which leads to exaltation, which leads back to His life with a new view of the whole.
So central to Paul was the resurrection of Jesus he even says, without it, our preaching is a waste of time, our faith is useless, our message becomes false witness, our hope is disastrous and our sins are not forgiven!