The early Christian message is not well summarised by saying that Jesus died so that we can go to heaven. That way of looking at the gospel and mission both shrinks and distorts what the Bible actually teaches. It ignores Jesus’s claim to be launching God’s kingdom “on earth as in heaven” and to be bringing that work to its climax precisely on the cross. It ignores the New Testament’s emphasis on the true human vocation, to be “image-bearers,” reflecting God’s glory into the world and the praises of creation back to God. Christian mission means implementing the victory that Jesus won on the cross. Everything else follows from this.

The “powers” gained their power because idolatrous humans sinned; when God deals with sins on the cross, he takes back from the powers their usurped authority. Sin matters, and forgiveness of sins matters, but they matter because sin, flowing from idolatry, corrupts, distorts, and disables the image-bearing vocation, which is much more than simply “getting ready for heaven.”

To say yes to Jesus’s resurrection is, by that very thought and deed, to say yes to the new world of forgiveness that was won on the cross, the world that was then launched into heaven-and-earth reality on Easter morning.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (12 mins)
Sunday 5, Lent, Year A. John 11 – the raising of Lazarus.