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TH 302 Lecture 9

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TH 302 Lecture 9



Cross and Resurrection / The Holy Spirit


Theologically speaking, the most unique thing about Jesus is not his birth, his life, or his death. We can find parallels - both mythic and actual - to each of these occurances. What is unique about Jesus for Christians is his resurrection.


First and foremest, we must remember that the resurrection is not something that we see. There is no account of the event of the resurrection in the Gospels - no "view from the cave" as Christ is transfigured into the resurrection body. Instead, what we have in the Gospels is an accounting of the effects of resurrection.


There are some claims that have been made about the crucifixion and resurrection to which Christian theology refuses to agree. Two examples are:


  • Jesus simply "swooned" on the cross- This claim holds that the trauma of the beatings and loss of blood that Jesus suffered caused him to pass out or go into a sort of coma on the cross. Then, when he was taken away and laid in the cool tomb, he revived and by the third day was able to walk and talk again. You will find groups claiming this position through the ages - from Rabbis writing in the Talmud in the fifth century to our times with the Jesus Seminar making it a main point of their books.


  • In contrast to the swoon theory, "orthodox" Christianity has maintained that, in the crucifixion, Jesus actually and absolutely died on the cross. To use the words of one of my theology professors from seminary, "Jesus was dead, dead, dead."


  • When Jesus died, he stayed dead- This is the opposite pole to the claim above, but it comes from a similar mindset. Both are attempting to provide rigidly "natural" explanations of the Gospel accounts, leaving out any trace of the divine or miraculous. So this view claims that, yes, Jesus died - and he stayed that way. It attributes the resurrection accounts to a variety of causes, including a vast conspiracy on the part of the disciples to lie and fabricate the resurrection, or the notion that the disciples were all having mass hallucinations of Jesus risen from the grave.

    In contrast to the notion that Jesus stayed dead, "orthodox" Christianity has maintained that Jesus died - but did not stay dead. The claim that Jesus lives again in the resurrection is, according to Paul, the cornerstone of our faith - the one thing we absolutely must believe.


    The Resurrection


    To think about the cross theologically,we must look beyond it, and realize that the death of Christ is (to the Christian tradition) absolutely and intricately connected with his resurrection.


    The first thing to establish is the matter if the resurrection is what it isn't: the resurrection is not a resuscitation. When a doctor revives a patient who is clinically dead on an operating table, that is not a resurrection. Similarly, the moments where Jesus or one of the prophets brings a person back to life are technically not resurrections, either. In each case, these are resuscitations. Why do we say this?


    First of all, because (for both Jesus and certain of the Jews living at Jesus' time) the matter of the resurrection - and how it was to occur - was pretty plainly understood. At no point do Jesus or the Pharisees (the main group of Jews who believed in the resurrection) think that the resurrection is something that will occur to an individual. The resurrection will be a one-time, general event, occuring at the same moment to all who are to be resurrected.


    Second, the resurrection will involve a transformationof the bodies that are raised. They will have a connection to the body that died, but there will be distinct differences. Chief among these will be that the bodies raised in the resurrection will not die. Since everyone who has come back to life so far (save one, Jesus, of whom we'll speak in a moment) - whether in the Bible or on an operating table - has died again, this fact alone would indicate that resurrection (as Jesus understood it) has not yet happened.


    Now, there is the matter that Jesus himself was resurrected, which seems to run counter to the claim made above. In fact, the matter of Jesus resurrection becomes a minor theological crisis for the early Christian tradition. So much so that Paul himself feels compelled to make an accounting of it. See, for example, 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul uses the individual resurrection of Jesus as a guarantee of the general resurrection - the "first fruits from among the dead".


    This general resurrection is both yet-to-come, but is also reflective of what is occuring right now, among us, in the church - which is, itself, called and known as the body of Christ.  This works in two ways: first, the resurrection body of Jesus (that is, the body that got up out of the tomb) is, at the same time, the Word of God (the second person of the Trinity), the physical son that was born of Mary, and every one of us in the church.  We are saved through Jesus Christ by being joined with him in his resurrection (See Romans 6, below).


    Second, because the church is the place where the union with Christ in resurrection occurs, we are empowered, here and now, in the possibility and command of living the resurrection, here and now.  This means that the world, seen through the church, is radiacally different than the world we believe to be the "real" world - where scarcity, fear, hunger and death reign.  In the resurrection world, Christians attest to the abundance, acceptance, love and life opened to us through Jesus Christ.


    The sovereign power of God is the power that even ends death. As Guthrie puts it (p. 278), in resurrection, Christ is Lord. Whose kingdom is it but Christ's, who defeats even the bondage death holds over us?


    Romans 6:


    What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.


    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


    Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.



    The Kingdom as "Already / Not Yet"


    Christ's resurrection, theologically speaking, inaugerates a change in the cosmos. We are living, therefore, in an "in-between time" - between the bondage of sin (which we still see around us as a reality) and the hope of the Kingdom of God (which we know through faith in the assurance of Christ's death and resurrection). As-such, we can see moments in the Gospels when the Kingdom "breaks in" and transforms situations before our very eyes. To take but two examples:



  • Matthew 8:14-15 [NRSV] - When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him.



  • Matthew 9:2-7[NRSV] - And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Then some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? But so that you may know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he then said to the paralytic - "Stand up, take your bed and go to your home." and he stood up and went to his home.


    In both these passages (and others like them throughout the Gospels), the Greek word which is translated here as "stand up" (anastasia), is the same word used for "resurrection".


    So, while theologically we hold fast to the idea that there is one physicalresurrection, of which Jesus is the first fruits, we can also find evidence in the text that these first fruits are at work in the world, transforming and resurrecting our social relationships and drawing the lost back into community.


    In Christ's resurrection, the battle is won, but the war is not over. This is where Christian choice and responsibility finds its proper expression.







    The Holy Spirit


    Like the father and the Son within the Triune name of God, the Holy Spirit is a person- unique and distinct from the other two, while still remaining in unity. Very often, however, this is forgotten or overlooked. The Holy Spirit is not merely an abstract power in Christ or sent by the Father. It is with Christ, but distinct from Christ.


    We must recognize that the Holy Spirit, in the theological sense, is one of many spirits which vie for our concern and attention. Part of our task as those growing in theological understanding is to begin to discern the differences between the Spirit of the Lord and the spirits of this world. What are some of the hallmarks of the Holy Spirit?



  • Community- The Holy Spirit is not givien to me as an individual - it is, rather, that power which gathers and shapes the community of believers to which I belong as a Christian. We see evidence for this in the Pentecost, where the Church is first truly gathered and empowered with the Spirit.



  • New Life - similar to what we see in the work of Christ when he calls people to "stand up" (anastasis),we find the Holy Spirit at work transforming limiting or oppressive social relationships and restoring true community. The work of the Spirit is to take the dead of this world and make them alive again. This was the work the Spirit performed in Christ's resurrection, and it is the work we see evidenced in the "already / not-yet" Kingdom of God.


    What does this Kingdom look like? Is it a gated community? Like a suburban neighborhood, or a prison? No. The mark of the Kingdom in the Spirit is hospitality - the hospitality that prompted the Samaritan to stop and help the bleeding man, the hospitality that prompted medieval Christians to take care of those (believers and non-believers alike) who were sick, the hospitality of Jesus in the general resurrection of the dead to new life.


    John 20: 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

     21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."


    The Holy Spirit is bound up essentially with community.  As we see here in the passage above, the Holy Spirit is an integral part of the memebers of a community getting along together - in conflicts and in forgiveness.  The Holy Spirit empowers the community in these acts of reconciliation.


    In other words, if we seek to accuse those within a community of some wrongdoing, we must only do this when we are prepared to forgive them.  If we accuse without this willingness to forgive, we are in danger ourselves of judgement from the Father. 


    This is important, because we do not get to heaven alone.  In the same way that the Resurrection is general, so is our salvation.  We must work with each other, in community, forgiving and being-forgiven for the sins we commit against each other, in addition to the sins we have committed against God.



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