Tuesday, May 20, 2014

No Gospel without the Resurrection - Michael Ramsey

We are tempted to believe that, although the Resurrection may be the climax of the Gospel, there is yet a Gospel that stands upon its own feet and may be understood and appreciated before we pass on to the Resurrection. The first disciples did not find it so. For them the Gospel without the Resurrection was not merely a Gospel without its final chapter: it was not a Gospel at all. Jesus Christ had, it is true, taught and done great things: but He did not allow the disciples to rest in these things. He led them on to paradox, perplexity and darkness; and there He left them. There too they would have remained, had He not been raised from death. But His Resurrection threw its own light backwards upon the death and ministry that went before; it illuminated the paradoxes and disclosed the unity of His words and deeds. As Scott Holland said: “In the Resurrection it was not only the Lord who was raised up from the dead. His life on earth rose with him; it was lifted up into its real light” (On Behalf of Belief, 12).

It is a desperate procedure to try and build a Christian Gospel upon the words of Jesus in Galilee apart from the climax of Calvary, Easter and Pentecost. If we do so we are professing to know Jesus better than the first disciples knew Him; and the Marcan record shows us how complete was their perplexity before the Resurrection gave them the key. Every oral tradition about Jesus was handed down, every written record of Him was made only by those who already acknowledged Him as Lord, risen from the dead.
It is therefore both historically and theologically necessary to “begin with the Resurrection.” For from it, in direct order of historical fact, there came Christian preaching, Christian worship, Christian belief . . .
The Gospel of God appears in Galilee: but in the end it is clear that Calvary and the Resurrection are its centre. For Jesus Christ came not only to preach a Gospel but to be a Gospel, and He is the Gospel of God in all that He did for the deliverance of mankind.
- from Chapter 1 of The Resurrection of Christ (1945)

Michael Ramsey 1904-1988

(Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974)


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