In advance of reading this Easter message, please read Acts 10:34-43.
One commentator has said that these nine verses in Acts 10, Peter’s sermon to the Roman centurion Cornelius and his family, are the finest summary of the gospel. I call it the “crux” of the gospel. The thesaurus gives the following synonyms for “crux”: root, heart, core, nitty-gritty, bottom line. What Peter shares is the bottom line of the gospel.
Though brief, Peter’s sermon is powerful and contains the very essence of the gospel of Christ. That message is still relevant for us today:
- Verses 36-38 affirm that Jesus was sent by God and given the ability through God’s Spirit and power to bring salvation to all humankind.
- Verse 38 affirms that Jesus’ power was manifest in acts of healing, deliverance, and resuscitation of people from the dead.
- Verses 39-41 affirm that Jesus was crucified but, on the third day, rose in power to show that he could conquer even death.
- Verse 42 affirms that Jesus commands us to preach to the people and tell them that he has been appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
- And verse 43 affirms that, because Jesus rose from the dead and conquered sin and death, we now have forgiveness of sins and a new relationship with God.
This is the crux of the gospel. This is the bottom line. The word “crux” can be used as an acronym. If one wants to sum up the gospel, it would be
X—Christ (“Chi” or “x” is the first letter of the name Christ in Greek)
We who embrace this good news believe that Jesus was crucified for all, he was raised from the grave, and he is the long-awaited Messiah of the world. This is the crux of the gospel. Do we believe it? Do we really believe it?
In the drama, The Trial of Jesus, John Masefield has the centurion Longinus report to Pilate after the crucifixion of Jesus. Longinus was the officer in charge of the execution. After his official report, Pilate’s wife Procula calls the centurion to come and tell her about how the prisoner had died.
Once the account is given, she asks, “Do you think he is dead?”
Longinus answers, “No, lady, I don’t.”
“Then where is he?” asks Procula.
Longinus replies, “Let loose in the world, lady, where neither Roman nor Jew can stop his truth.”
Crucified, Risen, Undeniable Christ. The crux of the gospel is that we are forgiven and set free by Christ to be a people of joy.
In the strategic plan adopted in February, the mission of the Presbytery of the James is “to support leaders, congregations, and ministries in growing followers of Jesus Christ who joyfully live out God’s mission in the world.” As the pandemic has unleashed sickness and death, fear and hopelessness, we believe it is more crucial than ever to share the good news with others—at home, in our towns and villages, in our nation, and in our world. We have good news that death does not have the final word. In Virginia Beach, Atlanta, Boulder, Parkland, Minneapolis, Louisville, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech… death does not win. Love wins! Hope wins! The good news of the gospel wins! Christ embraces all people “of all times, places, races, nations, ages, conditions, and stations in life” (Book of Order F-1.0302c).
It is such a blessing to serve with you in the Presbytery of the James. Each of you, in your churches and ministries, are Easter people who joyfully offer the crux of the gospel to the world. As you step through the intimacy of Maundy Thursday, the grief of Good Friday, the vigil of Holy Saturday, and the wonderful gift of Easter, believe and bear the gospel: Crucified, Risen, Undeniable, Christ.
Nicole, a three-year-old, was as anxious for Easter to come as she had been for Christmas to arrive. Nicole had picked out a new dress and her mother had gotten her a new white bow for her hair. As her parents stopped at a store to buy a new pair of shoes to go with her outfit, Nicole once again said, “I can’t wait for Easter, Daddy!”
He asked her, “Do you know what Easter means, honey?”
She replied, “Yes.”
“Well, what does Easter mean?” In her own sweet three-year-old way, with arms raised, a smile on her face, and at the top of her lungs she shouted, “SURPRISE!”
What better word could sum up the meaning of Easter? Surprise, death! Surprise, sin! Surprise, grieving disciples! Surprise, world! Surprise, Jesus is alive!
In Christ’s Service and with Easter Joy,
Fred A. Holbrook
Interim General Presbyter & Stated Clerk