What's really important to you? What matters? Here's God's answer to that question. `For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures' (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
This book is about what it means to follow the Christ who died and who was raised. How should the cross and resurrection shape our lives? What difference do they make on a Monday morning?
One of the phrases the New Testament often uses to describe Christians is `in Christ' or `united to Christ'. You and I are in Christ. This means his death is our death and his life is our life. It means his cross is our model and his resurrection is our hope.
Perhaps rather surprisingly, when the New Testament writers tell us how we should live, they don't often point back to the life of Jesus. Instead they take us again and again to the cross and resurrection. Whether they're talking about marriage or conflict or community or money or opposition or leadership or temptation or work or suffering, they look to the cross and resurrection. So if you want to know how to live as a Christian, you need to understand how the cross and resurrection shape our lives. The pattern of the cross and resurrection needs to become our reflex, our habit, our instinct. We need to live the cross and resurrection.
I've tried to write without jargon words. But there's one exception, a technical word it's very difficult to manage without: the word `eschatology' or `eschatological'. Eschaton is the Greek word for `the last things', so `eschatology' is the doctrine of the last things or the future age. The complication is that the last things have already begun in history with the resurrection of Jesus. We already live in the last days. Paul says we are those `on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come' (1 Corinthians 10:11). Most Jews expected a last day, the day of the Lord, when God would intervene in history, defeat his enemies, raise the dead and vindicate his people. But with the coming of Jesus, this one event became two. Jesus has come and he is coming. The new age has begun, even as the old age continues, so that they overlap. This means the future is now and not yet. It means a past event can be `eschatological'. The resurrection of Jesus was an eschatological event: it took place in the past, but it was also the first act of the coming age. The church is an eschatological community: we live under the reign of the coming King. We're the place on earth where the future is already taking shape. So it's an `-ology' word, but we can't really do without `eschatology'. It's very hard to avoid it without replacing it with a couple of sentences each time. Sorry.
The death and resurrection of Jesus are the most extraordinary events in human history. That God's promised Saviour King should die was beyond comprehension for the people of his day. It was unthinkable. That the Son of God, God incarnate, Emmanuel, God with us, should die is extraordinary. And that he should be crucified, cursed, shamed, and die under God's judgment, abandoned by the Father - for the Jews this was weakness; for the Greeks it was foolishness. Yet this is the power and wisdom of God. It's the pivot of history, the centrepiece, even the purpose of history.
And then Jesus rose again. Whoever heard of a dead man coming back to life? A dead man now living. A condemned man now vindicated. This isn't just an historical event. It's an event that pushes the boundaries of history. It signals the end of history. It's the future invading history.
But here's the point I want to make. The cross and resurrection are extraordinary events that create extraordinary lives. When we are shaped by the cross and resurrection, our ordinary lives become exceptional, special, heroic. We become ordinary heroes.