The cross has been universally accepted as the primary symbol of Christianity, but I wonder if this has led us to overlook the resurrection.
When we focus on the cross, forgetting the resurrection's empowering message, we focus on what was done FOR us and how our sins were forgiven. We see primarily the benefits we gain from Jesus' sacrifice and overlook the call that his victory on death implies.
The danger is that we may reduce Christianity to the religion of a great man with great teachings who died as a martyr. Many in history have done that. Many have lived exemplary lives, passing on great teachings, and dying to remain faithful to those teachings (Gandhi, Martin Luther King).
What makes the Gospel the Good News is the resurrection. And the resurrection makes me accountable to God's power and to the authority he has given his son. It is what makes my faith worth dying for. It is the most challenging belief to accept in our "enlightened" society (and not only in ours because Paul also drove people away when he started talking about the resurrection).
Acts 13:32-33 presents the Gospel in these terms:
"We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus."
In Romans 1:1-6, this is how Paul summarizes his Gospel:
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."
Paul continues saying that, because of THIS Gospel and through its preaching, he was to bring the Gentiles to the obedience of the faith.
Seeing Jesus alive is the experience that changed Paul's heart!
The Centurion in the Gospel of Mark saw Jesus die and recognized that they had made a mistake. He acknowledged that Jesus was who he said to be. But seeing Jesus resurrected changed totally and drastically Paul's life from enemy to servant of the Gospel. It produced much more than a mere acknowledgment.
It was Jesus resurrected that called the disciples to their mission and by giving them the Holy Spirit he changed them from scared and confused disciples to bold and powerful apostles.
We need to start thinking of our Christian identity not only as forgiven sinners whose sins have been paid for at the cross but also as accountable servants of a risen Lord who can empower us to live a faithful life for a future hope.
May this lead us to a life of purpose, service, and commitment