Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Every year around Easter something sensational about Christianity seems to pop up in the news. As every good marketer knows, sensationalism sells (see “Nick and Jessica”). This year the news item was the “discovery” (it was actually discovered in the 1970’s) of a “Gospel of Judas”, a new translation of which purported to “shed new light” on the ministry of Jesus, to wit, that Jesus told Judas to betray him so that Jesus’ spirit could escape his mortal flesh.

This is old news spit-shined to look new. The Gospel of Judas was the creation of a sect known as the Gnostics (there were actually many strains of this sect, so that it appropriately could be called a “philosophy”), whose teaching claimed that the material universe was evil, and who denied that Jesus was both human and divine (hence Jesus wanting to “escape his body”). The teaching promised its adherents special, secret knowledge and spiritual fulfillment, was denounced by mainstream Christian leaders, most notably Irenaeus around 180 A.D., and over time faded out of history (though it persists in bits and pieces in numerous modern philosophies).

Here is my take on this, since you asked. The story of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection has lost its “luster” in America, in the sense that most people (though an increasingly fewer percentage) are familiar with its basic contours. In that sense we are a “Christianized” nation. For Christianity’s cultured detractors, anything that can “shed new light” and perhaps cast doubt about the ancient story is newsworthy in America (e.g., the Jesus Seminar [remember them?], the Da Vinci Code with its assorted “assertions”, et al.).

In the meantime, the simple, powerful story of God sending his Son into the world (“and the Word became flesh” – John 1:14) to live among us, to reveal God to us, to teach us and enact for us the Kingdom of God, to die for our sins on the Cross so we could be forgiven and redeemed into a new kind of life, to be raised from the dead to reign with God as “judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42) and through his Spirit to empower and guide his followers to advance God’s redemptive work in the world; this simple story continues to change tens of millions of lives each year. It continues to break addictions, to heal wounds, to reconcile enemies, to give hope and meaning in an often fickle and harsh world. It continues to assure people their lives are not an accident, that God loves them enormously, that he has a purpose for them, that he wants them to be with him in heaven after this life, and that there is joy and peace through Him now.

It is called in one song Christians sing “the old, old story” and indeed it is. But it is also fresh and new, because “God’s steadfast love and mercy are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).”

It changed my life twenty-three years ago and it continues to change and sustain anyone who will adopt the story as his own. Nothing sensational necessary. Just Good News. Happy Easter. He is risen.


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