Our over-emphasis (again, I know - not a popular opinion) on the death and resurrection of Jesus is not just troublesome for a world in need of His love; it's hard for us, too. It's actually one of the reasons that it is so easy for many to walk away from the church.
That sounds strange. Nowhere else do we have a promise of eternal life, and yet, that promise of eternal life is often the very thing that drives human beings away from Jesus. And it's because in times of trouble, in times of need, in times of pain and wondering and aching, a Jesus who promises we can live with Him for eternity is not enough. Not when we're barely living now.
The Jesus that we have, on a Cross and in grave clothes, is so often not the Jesus we need, no matter how much we tell ourselves that He is supposed to be enough.
And that, by the way, is our theology, not His. That's something we've done to ourselves. We don't see it anywhere in the Gospels, yet we've taken it as the entire message of Christ.
When the blind men call out from the side of the road, Jesus restores their sight. He doesn't tell them that He has good news - that in just a short while, He will die on a cross and walk out of a grave so that they can live eternally with Him. No. He just...heals them.
When the demon-possessed are brought to Him, He never speaks to the demon and tells it that its time is coming, that He's going to defeat the powers of Hell on the cross and put the final nail in their coffin by walking out of the grave. No. He casts out the demons.
When the woman caught in adultery is brought to Him, He doesn't proclaim that one day, her sins will be washed white as snow. No. He forgives her right there.
Not once in all of Scripture does Jesus tell the people who come to Him that He has good news for them...tomorrow. Not once does He tell them the day is coming. No. Every time, He responds to their need right then, right there. He helps them, He heals them, He restores them, He forgives them today.
So when the hurting are among us, when the blind are with us, when the sinners are in our midst...when the broken are in the mirror looking back at us...how dare we proclaim an eternal promise. How dare we tell them their vision is too small. How dare we shout with joy that Jesus has conquered death.
Jesus knew He was going to conquer death, but that was not the heart of His ministry. The heart of His ministry was His life.
That's the Jesus we need.
And when we preach that Jesus's death and resurrection is the very most important thing, we don't get that. And then when we need that, we don't have it. And when we don't have it, we don't need Him. We don't need a Jesus of tomorrow in our brokenness today. That eternal promise means almost nothing when it comes up against the very real ache of being human today.
It's why so many think they have plenty of time to come back to Jesus once they've taken care of their real problems. It's why it's so easy to walk away from Him in search of something that's meaningful now. And it's our own selective remembering that has gotten us here.
It's why we need to remember more of Jesus than just a Cross and a tomb. It's why we need to call to mind the Gospels as often as we can. It's why we need all the stories of Him and not just the ones we think are the 'very most important.' Because the truth is that the very most important thing about Jesus is not His death; it's His life. That's what we need of Him.
And He gave it to us.
So why do we keep pretending that He hasn't?