Somehow, the death of Jesus, far from unique in the Roman world, is the means through and by which God forgives sins. It is because Jesus died that I am forgiven. And for that, I’m truly thankful. I’m thankful that, because Jesus died, my relationship with the Father is open, restored. I’m thankful that, because Jesus died, all the monstrous things I have ever done, all the horrid and impure thoughts I have ever had, and all the nasty attitudes I have ever communicated, have been expiated, wiped away. These things need never dominate my life to the point of consolidating my identity as a ‘sinner’, and it’s all because of the death of Jesus – a death for which I’m truly thankful.
But as thankful as I am for the fact that Jesus died, I’m even more thankful for his resurrection. I can’t help but wonder if, in the twenty-first century, the real stumbling block for people is not the painful execution of a first-century Jewish teacher, but the resurrection – an event in which the physics of the age to come are made manifest in the present age – the resurrection of the same man. Granted, it’s not easy to stand up on a street corner (not that I do) and proclaim the death of Jesus as the means through and by which forgiveness is extended; but, in these Dawkinsian times, it’s even more difficult to stand up and announce: “Jesus is alive! And what’s true for him will be true, and is true, for all those who are in him!” It’s the preposterous truth on which Christian faith depends.
Thus I find it easier to accept that my sins are forgiven than to believe in a coming unparalleled age. But why? The death of God’s Son more obviously impacts the here and now; it’s because God forgives me through the cross that I can enjoy the benefits (and suffer the struggles – oh, the struggles!) that come through a genuine relationship with God. But the life of the age to come, which the resurrected Jesus now lives at the right hand of his Father, can be experienced only through the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit, who mediates the risen Jesus through the Eucharist. And so it’s easier, at least for me, to accept that my sins are forgiven than to taste the future in bread and wine.
The cross of Jesus means my sins are forgiven; but the resurrection promises the undoing of my fallenness, the reconstitution of my very being. Forgiveness secures my relationship with God; but resurrection builds on this security and gives me hope, genuine hope. And for that, I am truly thankful.