We have seen how Christ’s resurrection announced peace for the disciples, but we haven’t completely answered the question of why the resurrection means peace for the disciples. Also, we have seen that the resurrection itself was prophesied in the Scriptures, but we haven’t fully answered the question regarding to what purpose the Scriptures foretold the resurrection.
As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, we find our answers:
45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.
50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53and were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:45-53)
The Proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection
So, what are we chiefly to learn from Christ’s resurrection? Jesus explains that the proclamation of his resurrection is to center on the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins.” Jesus commands that this message “should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Of all the things that Jesus could have explained that his resurrection meant, he insists that the gospel has to do with repentance and forgiveness of sins. This is a critical observation for the Christian church.
Throughout the church’s history, there has always been an ongoing “mission creep.” Christians grow tired of hearing the good news of repentance and forgiveness of sins preached week after week, so they begin to search for something new, better, and more exciting to place at the center of their faith.
In some ways, this isn’t surprising. Jesus does tell us that we are to care for the poor, and John assures us that a new heaven and a new earth are on their way because Jesus has been resurrected from the dead. There is much work to be done, and there is much cause for hope.
Repentance and Forgiveness of Sins
But Jesus himself teaches us the central message of the gospel: the repentance and forgiveness of sins. This is the main message, the main news, the main gospel of what Jesus has accomplished by his death and resurrection. If we mention nothing else, we must focus on these twin, inseparable facets of the gospel message.
First, the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection is a message of repentance. In other words, we are not allowed to come to Jesus while rejecting his Lordship. To repent is to “turn.” When we come to Jesus, we come to him by turning away from our sins, and turning toward Jesus. We are giving up our old, sinful lives so that we can have new, abundant life in Christ.
Second, the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection is a message of the forgiveness of sins. That the forgiveness of sins is good news presupposes that our sins are serious in the eyes of a holy God, and that we are justly deserving his wrath and displeasure. The gospel news–the message that Jesus Christ commanded that we preach–announces that Jesus Christ has stood in our place, bearing our sin, guilt and shame, so that we ourselves could be forgiven.
This twin message of repentance and of forgiveness of sins comprises the gospel. When we proclaim Christ’s resurrection, we are (1) urging all people to repentance in the name of Jesus; and (2) assuring sinners that the promise of the gospel is true–namely, that Jesus’ death and resurrection secures the forgiveness of our sins.
The Mission of Christ’s Resurrection
But proclaiming this message isn’t a purely human task. Jesus isn’t the professor who gives his students the assignment, and then shows up to the next class expecting the students to have accomplished the task on their own. Jesus, instead, promises that he will send the divine help that we need: “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus was promising to send the Holy Spirit, which he would do in 40 days at the Feast of Pentecost. Why should the disciples need the Holy Spirit? Well, just as the disciples did not understand the prophecy of Christ’s resurrection apart from Jesus’ opening their minds, so sinners in the world cannot understand the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection apart from the Holy Spirit.
This is the mission that we in the church inherit today. We are called chiefly to proclaim the message of Christ’s resurrection, which urges all to repentance by promising the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. This gospel is not simply our only hope (although it is our only hope), but this gospel is also our only message. We are called to announce to good news of Jesus as the primary work of our ministry.
This Easter, may we refocus ourselves to the task Jesus himself gave us when he rose from the dead. May we preach nothing but Christ and him crucified–and resurrected!–so that the world may repent to find forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ the Lord.