Saturday, April 7, 2007

Good News Bad News

This is the season when we Christians celebrate Jesus Christ's resurrection. But the importance of Easter isn't that we celebrate, but rather what we celebrate. Unlike our Jewish brothers, there's no ordinance in the Bible commanding Christians to celebrate at this time of year. We do it, not because we have to, but because we can't help it. We're drawn to the empty tomb in awe, not driven to it by law.

The only people I know who object to Christians joyously celebrating Easter are PC Christians who fear offending their Jewish or Muslim colleagues. For the most part (radical Islamists being the obvious exception), people of other Faiths have no objection to Christians doing what Christians do. The chocolate bunnies and colored eggs aren't offensive. Jewish youngsters look for Elijah; Christian tikes look for a basket-toting bunny. Jewish children hunt for broken matzo; Christian kids hunt for colored eggs. Isn't it quaint that we have different traditions?

But let's be clear, the message of Easter (that Israel's Messiah was crucified on the eve of Passover and rose from the dead three days later) is extremely offensive. If Messiah came in the first century, as Christians claim (and as was foretold by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27), then for the past 2000 years Israel has been rejecting its Messiah and defying its God. That's a tough pill to swallow, because if we Christians are right about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, then Judaism has erred very badly. And that's bad news.

But if Christians are right about the identity of Jesus, and if Messiah has already fulfilled Isaiah 53, then we can also expect Him to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 54 and rescue the nation of Israel from an increasingly desperate geopolitical situation. And that's good news. Listen - you'll hear the rattling of bones in Israel (Ezekiel 37).

There's a funny saying that pretty well sums up the difference between Judaism and Christianity: Jesus saves - Moses invests. It's a good joke, but it also conveys an even greater truth. Judaism views works of righteousness as earning credit with God. But if we Christians are right and if deliverance from God’s righteous wrath is “not by works of righteous which we have done, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5), then all of Judaism's works for the past two millennia have been squandered on a foolish investment.

So, in this joyous season the good news for us Christians is: The Rock of our salvation lives! But to our Jewish brothers we sadly render bad news: our Rock is "the Stone the builders have rejected" (Psalm 118:22). I strongly urge you, my Jewish brothers (though you find my words offensive): Someday, on Passover, when you open the door for Elijah and he actually walks in, listen carefully to what he has to say about Messiah.

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