On Sunday morning we finished our “Dimensions of the Cross” series with a talk called “Good news for the fearful.” What follows is a brief summary of that talk and some questions to help you reflect either on your own or in your small group. You can also listen to the talk or download it from our Sunday talks page (the talks are usually available a bit later in the week).
When I was a child, I had to sleep with a night light on because I believed that there were evil creatures or beings in my room. As I grew older, I learned that some monsters are actually people. I grew up in a country filled with survivors of a protracted and bloody civil war and heard stories of atrocities committed by both sides. Most people lived with the fear that war would return, including those in power. The security forces were used against the people they were meant to protect. People who opposed the injustice would be abducted, tortured, imprisoned or murdered.
I am a product of that environment. I am naturally a fearful person. I want to be brave and courageous but for some of us, admitting to others that we struggle with constant fear is the bravest thing we can do. So when I write about the cross being good news for the fearful, I hope you will be brave enough to admit it means good news for you too. But, how is a story about an innocent man being tortured and killed good news for us?
Let’s look at some of the things written by Paul, a founder of many of the first Christian churches. He himself was persecuted for his faith on many occasions and it is highly likely that he was martyred. Many of Paul’s worst fears in life came true and yet, in a letter to Christians in the city of Corinth, Paul writes about evil and death in a way that implies that they have been conquered, not in this life but beyond it.
If this life is all there is then hope in Christ is meaningless because he’s dead and buried, along with our hopes, and the cross was nothing more than just another example of unjust suffering and death. But according to Jesus disciples, that’s not how the story of the cross ended. They confirm Jesus died and was buried and even admit that they lost all hope but then they make the astonishing claim that Jesus was raised from the dead! You might find that hard to believe. You might think his disciples were either mistaken or spinning a tale, but just imagine for a second that it’s true- what would it mean for your greatest fears?
I don’t have time this morning to go into all the reasons that Christians believe that the resurrection of Jesus really happened but I’ll give you just one that’s pretty convincing to me. Here it is: The belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead totally transformed his disciples so that the very same people who had scattered in fear and deserted Jesus when he was arrested now suddenly became bold and courageous evangelists, willing to face hardships, endure persecution and even to be killed for their claims about Jesus having risen from the dead. All they had to do to avoid this was admit that Jesus was still dead. But they wouldn’t. Why would anyone willingly face persecution and death for something they weren’t utterly convinced about or that they knew was a lie?
Paul was a Pharisee, an expert in the Jewish law and traditions, a highly educated, intelligent and logical individual. You can see that in his writings. Yet Paul was so convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead that he believed and taught that there is life beyond the grave, not just for Jesus but for all who follow him as his disciples. If you believe that, it changes everything. It means that whilst we still face evil and death in this life, and whilst we might be fearful of those things, evil will not get the last laugh because death isn’t final and we aren’t hopeless anymore.
The cross is a place where the kingdoms of earth and heaven are juxtaposed and where our current fears are both realised and conquered simultaneously! We see evil being unleashed on Jesus on the cross and we see injustice, torturous suffering and death but then we see God’s power to raise the dead to life again. If you are living in fear in this world, the cross says that evil and death will never win in the end because Jesus triumphed over them. He did that for you, so you no longer have to be plagued by the fear of what lies ahead. As bad as things can get, the story ends well for everyone with the faith to trust in Jesus.
Questions for reflection and small group discussion
What fears are preventing you from living your life to the full?
Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead, and what does that say about your fears?
What does Jesus’ victory over evil and death mean for us when we encounter demonic powers, evil spirits or wicked people?
- Christians are called to confront evil and injustice in the knowledge that whatever opposition we face, nothing can separate us from God’s love or stop his victory over death. Is there a cause God is calling you to stand for or an injustice he wants you to speak out about, despite what it may cost you?