When I walked out of my Year 12 maths exam I was feeling confident. I certainly wasn’t the smartest in the class, but there was one particular type of equation that I knew back-to-front, upside-
down and inside out. Quadratic equations were the one thing I was the best at (at least in my class).
Every time we ran through these problems in class I was able to solve the equation quicker than anyone else. But more than that, I managed to do so almost by looking at the equation and instinctively knowing the answer. My teacher at the time said he had never seen someone so proficient in solving them, yet he cautioned me not to rely solely on my instinctive knowledge and that I should ensure I follow the steps we learned in class.
When it comes to many people’s expression and understanding of Jesus it, too, can be a thing of beauty, something some people just instinctively “get”. Yet it’s often presented, taught and expressed in an incomplete way. The problem is, sometimes data is missed and the “equation” simply doesn’t make sense without it.
You might have seen an idea or equation like the following. It looks right but it’s missing a key component that makes it incomplete. Let’s see if you can pick it up.
Jesus’ Life + Death = Salvation
The truth of the Christian faith cannot be adequately expressed in this manner. One key aspect is missing: Perhaps even the key aspect—Jesus’ resurrection. Yet the resurrection is often talked about less than those other elements.
Now I’m not suggesting the whole world is forgetting about the resurrection—it may just be assumed knowledge.
But I’m a bit of a stickler for the rules, so I can’t understand why people would abbreviate the beauty found in the full expression of this belief.
One of the risks of not verbalising this belief in full is that, over time, by omission, a new “doctrine” or teaching is created that “cheapens” the full beauty of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s like the old adage that “if you tell someone something often enough, then soon enough they’ll believe it”.
The resurrection is (in my mind) the key aspect to this equation, yet is often the missing part of the formula. The formula simply doesn’t make sense without it. If Jesus was a man who lived, so what? If Jesus was a man who died, so what? But if Jesus was the Man/God who was resurrected . . . wow!! Now that’s something to talk about. That’s something God-like, the ultimate clickbait.
There is a song titled “Man of Sorrows” by Hillsong Worship that shows this wonderfully. The final verse of the song is often sung with much more passion, emotion and joy—the music peaks as the narrative of the lyric reaches its turning point, the reason for the story. The former verses speak of the life and death of Jesus, but all of this was just building to the apex of the story . . . the resurrection.
See the stone is rolled away
Behold the empty tomb
Hallelujah God be praised
He’s risen from the grave*
This single aspect, the resurrection, is the thing that truly sets Jesus apart. It tells us something extraordinary happened in and through His life. It tells us that if He was able to “defeat death” then surely there is something special about Him and the way He lived.
The resurrection makes the investigation of His life even more important. It makes the investigation of His death more urgent. When we recognise that it is claimed that this Man defeated death it makes us wonder who He really was, it encourages us to go further into the story, further into the history, further into the man Himself. And on that journey we find this Man was not simply a man but He was God . . . the promised and prophesied Messiah; the one John the Baptist spoke about when he said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
By pointing to Jesus and proclaiming Him to be the “Lamb of God”, John was pointing toward the role Jesus would play according to the sacrificial system practiced by Jews at that time. John was letting his readers know that this Man was the promised Saviour they had all been waiting for. The phrase itself is found uniquely in the gospel of John and people often skim over it. Yes, Jesus is the Lamb of God. Yet He is more than that: He is God—the only One who could defeat death.
As we investigate the life of Jesus we find One who not only “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), but we find in Him One who clearly stood out from the crowd, who not only communicated with God but walked with Him daily and exampled for us the type of life a follower of God is called to live.
We find One whose life so exemplified the desire God had for His people that we can’t help but question what was special about Jesus.
As we understand the nature of Jesus (as if we ever really can!) and begin to investigate the predictions pertaining to Him, the plan of God from the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis right through the Old Testament history, we come to recognise that this Jesus came at the perfect time in history (Daniel chapters 8 and 9) to fulfil a specific purpose.
When I studied these predictions, these prophecies of Daniel in my early 20s and began to get my head around the specificity of this prophecy in Daniel 8 and 9 and came to understand the accuracy of it (not so much in relation to the birth of Jesus but the death and resurrection of Jesus), my mind was made up . . . there simply was nothing that could convince me otherwise as to the truth of this Jesus and the task He accomplished for my salvation. There was no changing my mind that this good news, this gospel and the gift offered to me through Jesus was a plan set in place by God Himself, a plan so perfect He revealed it to Daniel more than five centuries before it was to even take place right down to the very timing of the sacrificial death of this “lamb”. I couldn’t deny it any longer. The life and ministry of Jesus gave me direction; the death of Jesus restored me; but the resurrection of Jesus gave me hope that forevermore I can be counted as a child of God.
Unfortunately, sometimes we “exit” our “exam” thinking we’ve done well when in actual fact our “knowledge” has let us down and we’ve unintentionally misrepresented the beauty of the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
You see, when I exited my mathematics exam, ecstatic I had done so well, it was only after some quiet reflection and discussion with others I realised my mistake. In using the “Josh method” of solving the equations I realised I had skipped a crucial step in the process, resulting in the wrong answer to each and every equation. That’s why I prefer to write this out and express this most wonderful truth in full, so I don’t make another mistake—this time a fatal one.
Salvation doesn’t come through just the life of Jesus. It doesn’t come through just the death of Jesus. Rather, it is present because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Life + Death ≠ Salvation
Life + Death + Resurrection = Salvation
What an exciting idea—why would we even want to try to “simplify” this, the most perfect of equations with absolutely no errors to be found!
Perhaps you’ve been considering who this Jesus is and uncertain as to the validity of the claims of Christianity in relation to Him. If you want to find out more, the “Steps to Spiritual Freedom” Hope Channel online course might be for you.
Josh Wood is a pastor in Melbourne, Australia.
* The same could be said for a range of songs on this theme both traditional and modern: “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (Wesley), “In Christ Alone” (Getty), “Because He Lives” (Gaither), “Forever” (Jobe) et. al.