Did Mark’s Jesus HAVE to Die on a Cross?

Did Jesus, in the Gospel According to Saint Mark, have to die on a cross? Brian K. Blount, in his remarkable book Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Resurrectiondoesn’t think so.

He argues that the real action of God through Jesus in Mark is the inauguration of God’s kingdom over and against the forces of the world. While his ministry and life does make suffering necessary and inevitable, he claims that:

“Theoretically speaking, God’s invasion could occur, and in fact does occur in Mark without a cross moment. To be sure, death is necessary – it is an obligatory prerequisite for resurrection – but death on a cross? Consider the narrative presentation. God’s invasion ignites in that striking moment when Jesus tears into the narrative world and engages John the Baptist at the Jordan. God’s invasion flares divine intent for the future when Jesus turns up missing from the tomb. If, theoretically speaking, Jesus had died from cancer, or old age, or a broken heart, the invasive realities of the incarnation and the empty womb would remain real and viable. The cross showcases more about us than it does about God. It confirms the deadness that writhes within us and fights desperately against the promise of future life that Jesus reveals in his present behavior. Given who humans are – the living dead – and who Jesus is, the representation of future life in the midst of a present age consumed by the influence and power of death, the cross becomes an apocalyptic inevitability. Because of us. Not because of God. Because of what we are. Not because of who God is. Who God is stands exposed the moment Jesus is revealed as God’s Son and God’s mission is revealed as Jesus’ ministry. Who God is stands clarified the moment the man in the empty tomb alleges that Jesus’ promise to rise from the dead and restart his ministry through his disciples was fulfilled. In Jesus’ coming, God is the one who breaks in on the powers of death who rule this present age. God is the one who offers a preview of future life to the living dead who populate this age in Jesus’ ministry. God is the one who raises up a working demonstration of that future life in Jesus’ empty tomb. In a desperate, futile attempt to counter all of these revelations of “life,” the living dead offer up a cross.”

Do you agree with Blount? What are your thoughts on this quote?

A God who Raises the Dead!

I am writing my thesis on Galatians. There are various reasons why this book captivated me enough to decide to spend 3+ years researching and writing on it…and one of the main reasons is the opening verse:

Galatians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through men, but through Jesus Christ and God our Father who raised him from the dead…

This is the only explicit mention of the resurrection in Galatians and many assume that the resurrection has no real part in the trajectory of Galatians. But its importance does not come from the number of times it is mentioned, rather from its placement. Paul’s first point, as he tries to convince the Galatians that there is only one gospel, is that God raises Jesus from the dead.

For those of us who grew up in church and have heard this in sermons, seen it in passion plays, spoke it through songs this is not all that surprising…but it does not mean it is any less amazing. Just take a moment wherever you are reading and say these words out loud, “God raised Jesus from the dead.” He was not asleep, he was not just buried in a tomb, he was dead…and God RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD!

For Paul, however, it does not stop there:

Ephesians 2:4-6 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

All those saved by the grace of God have been made alive! This is not something we have to wait for, it is something we have right now in Christ Jesus. The God who raised Jesus from the dead has made us alive together with Christ! Do it one more time, wherever you are say this out loud, “I am alive with Christ!”

In Galatians, Paul is facing disappointment and even anger over their decision to turn to another gospel. His first response is to lean on God’s ability to raise the dead. The gospel he believes and preaches requires this – to be brought from dead to life, from dead to alive requires a God who can raise the dead.

I do not know the problems facing you, nor do I know the way God will choose to comfort you in them and deliver you from them…but like Paul I do believe that we worship a God who raises the dead. No matter your situation this is the truth of the gospel. The God who empowers the gospel is a God who raises the dead.

Let us trust in that promise!

A God with No Limitations (Kingdom of God Week 6)

Note: This is the first blog post about the current study, but it is the last week of the study…so just  like Paul’s letters if you haven’t heard what has come before some of the allusions, echoes may be missed.

Just to give a quick recap, this study of the Kingdom of God covered six characteristics of the Kingdom of God which Jesus announces has come at the beginning of his ministry. The study focused on Isaiah and the ways it predicts the Kingdom will come. It was an attempt to not jut learn about what Isaiah prophesied but to begin to believe that with Jesus’ announcement these have become reality…that the promises of God are not just true (will happen) but his promises are real (are happening).

The six characteristics most common in Isaiah are:

1. Deliverance/Salvation – God has acted to deliver us and now reigns over our life, and is present to us and with us, and will be forever.

2. Joy/Rejoicing – Joy is the product of abundance, and is comes as we feast on the goodness of Christ.

3. Peace – Peace is not the result of eliminating conflict, but of believing the battle has already been won.

4. Authority/Rule – God’s kingdom is wherever God is King.

5. Justice/Righteousness – God’ judgment reveals his righteousness, they are moments leading us to see his majesty.

And finally, tonight:

6. Comfort/Shepherd

The Bible talks a lot about sheep and shepherds and it has become ordinary to describe sheep in a particular way…stupid. While it is true that sheep will never be confused with a Rhodes scholar or Nobel price winner it is somewhat of a mischaracterization to consider them just stupid:

-Yes they do keep their heads down and eat most of the time but when called to move they go

-And as they go they often get in some form of a line looking at nothing other than the sheep in front of them and will follow it wherever it goes (even off the cliff to its death for example, one example of why they are considered stupid)

But there is something interesting here also…sheep follow the shepherd not just because they are to stupid to do anything else but because they completely trust the shepherd.

-If they are eating and the shepherd calls to move, they don’t question, “Why? The grass is fine here.” They trust that the shepherd will lead them to greener pastures and they go.

-And as they go they don’t question, “Is this really the best way? I think we should have turned left back there.” They trust the shepherd will lead them to the destination.

And in Isaiah this is what God’s Kingdom looks like – there are greener pastures, places of abundance and rest, but ultimately God’s Kingdom promises are his plea that we can trust him…he will take us to the greener pastures…he will guide us along the path…he is our shepherd. Can we believe his promises are real so we can trust in him like sheep?