With Easter in the air it is worth recalling that the Cross of Christ set in motion a whole series of revolutions. It was not just a tragic end to a Great Life, but the dawning of a revolutionary New Day. And quite honestly, if the revolutions have not got around to you, you are living over 2 000 years out of date.
The revolutions are well set forth in Paul’s words: “Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic Law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for. But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe – Christ’s life, the fulfilment of God’s original promise. In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous ‘descendant,’ heirs according to the covenant promises” (Galatians 3:24-29). (The Message translation).
I see here in this wonderful passage at least four revolutions which started at Calvary.
1. A Religious Revolution. For the Chief Priests and Co. who had had Christ condemned, the predominant religious requirement in life was a meticulous observation of the Mosaic Law and all its external duties. Salvation was by merit. But at the Cross, the basis of Salvation becomes divine mercy in Christ, not human merit. Now, says Paul, people are ‘justified’ and pronounced innocent, by faith in Christ, not by faith in the law and its duties. For the Law was just a governess or Greek tutor to bring us to Christ. This was revolutionary indeed, as the guilty robber was privileged to discover right away. In spite of monumental guilt, he could find mercy and forgiveness at the Cross.
“Today”, said Jesus to him, “you will be with me in Paradise.” Forgiveness is the greatest blessing humans can know. On a tombstone in a New York cemetery is an Epitaph with only one word: “Forgiven.” No name or date of the deceased. Just the one word – “Forgiven.” We each need to know this revolutionary spiritual experience in our lives. Then it is incumbent upon us to forgive those who offend or hurt us.
2. A Racial Revolution. Says Paul: “In Christ’s family there can be no distinction between Jew and non-Jew” (Galatians 3:28). The world Paul and Jesus knew was profoundly divided racially between Jews and Gentiles, but at the Cross the ground was and is level. The Jewish disciples, the Roman Centurion and Simon of Cyrene, the African, stood equal in love, honour and dignity beneath the reconciling sacrifice of Christ. The distinction was gone. Anyway, it was gone in His eyes, embarrassing as it is to be reminded of the fact. In South Africa, as possibly never before, we need to keep this reality in mind. Especially now when there seem to be new forces at work to re-racialise South Africa, just when we thought we were moving towards de-racialising ourselves. The church needs to lead the way in reminding South Africans, especially at Easter, of the racial revolution which began at the Cross.
3. A Cultural Revolution. ‘Gone in Christ is the distinction between the slave and the free man.’ In Christ high and low, educated and illiterate, poor and wealthy are caught up in supra-cultural bond which unites them across the artificial barriers of class and station. And so Paul sends Onesimus, the converted slave, back to his master, Philemon, urging the latter to receive him “no longer as a servant but as a beloved brother” (Philemon: v16). Master and servant? That’s right. In Jesus these distinctions vanish.
4. A Social Revolution. ‘Gone in Christ is the distinction between male and female.’ In a world where women were ‘inferior’ and nothing more than chattels, child bearers and pieces of property, it was joyously revolutionary for them to find equal dignity, status and value at the foot of the Cross. Now the age of chivalry is launched and the concept of the Christian Gentleman is born. Indeed, wherever Christianity has gone, women have been liberated and elevated. Observed John Bunyan, ‘When Jesus came, women rejoiced in Him before either man or angel.’ In our country we have fearful abuse of women, one of the worst records in the world. The Gospel of Christ condemns this, as it does all species of chauvinism.
Of course all this adds up to a personal revolution for any person who will stand long enough at the foot of the Tree. You see, if you do, you will find that He is no longer there, but loose in the world, starting revolutions all over the place, and longing to work one in you and me.
Why not this Easter come afresh to Calvary’s Cross and to the Empty Tomb and find anew the revolutionary and life-transforming power of our Lord Jesus Christ?