“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
– 1 Peter 2:21
This Easter, many preachers will get into their pulpits and tell their congregations that the appropriate response to Jesus’ death and resurrection is gratitude. We must be thankful for forgiveness. We must be thankful for assurance. We must be thankful for salvation. You get the picture. While I certainly believe in our being grateful for what Jesus’ death and resurrection offers humanity, is gratitude really the primary response that God is looking for?
If you tend to prioritize ‘Sunday School’ answers over Jesus’ clear and straightforward teaching, this next paragraph is probably not for you.
Contrary to popular opinion, the primary response in scripture to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is not gratitude (though we should certainly be grateful). The primary response to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is imitation. Over and over again, Jesus invited those around him to follow him and imitate his way of life which inevitably leads to crucifixion. Jesus’ primary call to become his follower has always been about taking up the cross. This is primarily an ‘opting out’ of the worlds way of being and doing. Opting out of its violence, oppression, greed, apathy, selfishness and then ‘opting in’ to God’s kingdom of servanthood, justice, holistic peace, forgiveness, and courageous love not known by this world. Imitating the Way of Christ, in direct confrontation with this world, even to the point of death is what we have been called to as disciples of Jesus.
Christ’s teachings and Christ’s death on the Cross are not two separate issues. Christ’s WAY, the narrow path, is the road of loving and forgiving even unto death. And he didn’t say; ‘Let me do that for you.’ He said, ‘Come die with me.’
So, this Sunday, as we celebrate Easter and the Resurrection of our Lord, let it not be a comfortable and complacent remembering, but may that memory of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection inspire and invigorate us to participate in the New Humanity and the New Way that Jesus has provided for us.