Of first importance – the cross and the empty grave

This time of year is an exciting time for Christians. We’re building up to the central dates in our calendar – Good Friday and Easter Sunday. These days are important because they remind us each year of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Both of those events should make us ponder. What type of religion commemorates a man’s death by remembering all the grisly details of his final hours? What type of crazy belief system then celebrates that same man coming back to life? It’s a bit odd if you hear this for the first time. What on earth is Christianity all about?
One of the earliest Christian preachers, a man named Paul, wrote that the most important thing for us to know about Christianity was “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures ” (1 Corinthians 15: 3-4). This makes things even odder. Paul tells us that these events were in some way the fulfilment of promises made in an ancient book. This is craziness. It’s absurd. Unbelievable.
And yet it is the centre of the Christian faith. And the clue to the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus is in these words of Paul. The reason why we commemorate the death of Jesus is because he died “for our sins”.
The Bible tells us that the world and everything in it was created by God. But that human beings rebelled against their creator. That rebellion is called sin and all of us are guilty of it. Have you told a lie, pinched something without asking, got angry at someone and called them names? Many of us have. And all of us have thought about those things. This is sin – ignoring God and his ways in his world.
But the cross tells us that Jesus died for our sins. Jesus took the punishment that we should have as lawbreakers and represented us. He substituted himself for us so that our sins would be put to death and we could come into relationship with God again. And that’s why the resurrection is so wonderful – it proves that this is what happened and that sin has been conquered. Because the ultimate consequence of sin is death – but thanks be to God, Jesus has beaten death.
So please don’t dismiss the events of Good Friday and Easter. They’re the only hope we’ve got in this world.