The first part of these bits of interview between Kel Richards and John Chapman is here, 'On dying'. The second part is here, 'And what's the best thing about the Christian life'.
Kel: John let’s talk about your new book, Making the Most of the Cross.
John: Yes, nobody thinks more highly of my work than I do, brother.
Kel: (Laughs) No-one happier to talk about it than you.
Kel: Can I say one of the things that really struck me about the book is that you spend half the book on the cross and half on the resurrection, and you say we shouldn’t think of them as two separate events, they’re two halves of the one event.
Kel: What do you mean by that?
John: When Jesus dies, there’s a sense in which his death is like everybody else’s. But there’s a sense in which it’s absolutely unique. What Jesus did when he died on the cross, I could not do. That is, I cannot bear the punishment for the sin of the whole world, because I’ve got to bear my own punishment. But Jesus, who is sinless, takes upon himself the sin of the world. OK. So far, so good.
In other parts of the Bible it says, the wages of sin is death. If you sin, you will die. So if your sins are dealt with, shouldn’t we expect the opposite of death, that is, undeath—resurrection. So because Jesus is—in terms of the old prayer book—a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, how do you know that it worked? Because he rose again from the dead.
In fact if he doesn’t do the opposite to death, it didn’t work.
Kel: So when God raises him from the dead, he’s saying, I accept the payment, it has all worked.
John: Yes. That’s exactly right. It says lots of things. Like the death of Jesus says lots of things.
Kel: Well let’s unpack the different things that it says. Talk about the death and then we’ll talk about the resurrection.
Kel: In the first place, it’s about salvation, and you say in your book, that’s even in his name. Someone said that the name of Jesus, translated out of Greek into Australian would mean something like ‘God to the Rescue’.
Kel: Does it mean that?
John: Yes. It means exactly that. And, when I became a Christian at the age of 17, which is too far back for me to calculate now, but we used to talk about ‘being saved’.
It’s dropped off the vocabulary of most people, they don’t like it, because it always appears to them to be radical and fundamentalist nonsense. But it’s a good description of what happened to me. It says in the Bible of people who put their trust in Jesus that they were ‘delivered from the coming wrath’. [See 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10] The judgement of God is real, and our age of course never thinks about death. If you want to bring a dinner conversation to a crashing, grinding halt, just whisper to your hostess, have you given any thought to your death lately? See how that goes down.
Kel: (laughing) You won’t be invited back, will you John.
John: You’ll be struck of the Chrissy card list, brother. But you see, the Victorians, they were so close to death, and every Victorian novel’s got a deathbed scene, and then a scene on the wake. Most people are not with their loved ones when they die now.
Kel: It’s all in hospitals, it’s all medicalized.
John: And they’re removed away, you’re in the way as it were.
John: And our age pretends it’s never going to happen. Which is the great fad of everybody trying to look younger.
Kel: So we need to face the fact that there’s something we need to be saved from.
John: Yes. You see, I am not ready to meet God unless I’m forgiven. If I stand in the presence of God unforgiven, and he says, what is this man’s track record like? they say, in terms of loving you and serving you, he was careless.
Now when you are forgiven, and God says, what is his track record like, they say, there’s nothing written against him.
They say, how is that possible?
And Jesus says, I erased the record when I died for him. And there’s a verse in the Bible which says exactly that. [Colossians 2:14 ?]It comes from the root word ‘to wash away’ and it says, the record of our sins are washed away. It’s why we can be right with God. And Kel, it’s very good. It’s good to know that you’re right with God
Kel: Fixed up forever.
John: Yes. I was surfing once in Avoca, and the waves were breaking further out than I normally—I body-surf—you can’t actually see my full extent here.
Kel: I’ll try to imagine it.
John: Well you’ll have no trouble imagining it. I caught one of those brilliant waves, you know you’re rocketing, I was going to say, like a dolphin but I think more like a whale in my case. I’m coming towards the shore, the waves are curling up round my cheeks, and it was just brilliant.
There is no fool like an old fool, is there. I thought I’ll go one more time.
So I swam out. I’d been treading water I suppose for about five minutes, and I looked around and the beach had drifted quite a long way away, and I said to myself, old man, you’d better get closer in to the beach.
So I turned around and I swam carefully for as long as I could; I flipped on my back to catch a breath, and I looked and the beach seemed just a little bit further.
At that stage I looked over my shoulder to see if I could see New Zealand, I didn’t want to waste time going in the wrong direction.
And a head bobbed up in front of me in the surf, he said you alright mate? I said no. He said d’you need a hand? I said yeah. He said, Gimme your hand I’ll drag you in.
And we worked together for a long time and the feet hit the bottom, it’s a lovely feeling. Mind you they’re only there for a split second and the next wave lifts you up, it doesn’t matter.
He said to me, old man, you’re too far out for an old man like you. And I made the understatement of the century I said to him, well actually I wasn’t out that far when I started.
But you see, can you imagine anybody being so stupid as to say, no I don’t need help, I’m alright, I always swim out here.
Kel: So Jesus is that rescuer.
Kel: He’s the ultimate life saver
John: Of course!
Kel: You also say, because there’s a whole lot of things that the cross accomplishes, you also say what’s important it’s that Jesus being a substitute. Talk to us about that for a moment.
John: Yes. Jesus substituted himself in my place.
Tell you what, I was at the doctor’s on Monday, and driving home past the little church at Condell Park there’s a notice up and it says Jesus did a trade. He traded his life for yours.
See, somebody’s got to take the consequences of my sin. I’ve done them. They’re there. Something’s got to be done. And I can take the punishment, or I can accept the gift that Jesus did when he took the punishment.
So you can say, I should’ve been there on the cross, but Jesus is there taking my place.
I often say when I’m teaching little children, say in side your head while I say it out loud, Jesus Christ died for me. Jesus Christ died for me. You’ve got to be an important person if God lets his son die for you. You see and that’s what he did, he substituted himself in place of me.
We’re used to that idea. Parents always substitute themselves for their children, when they’ve committed crimes, by paying their fines. You see, we’re used to that idea.
Kel: You said to me once, that it’s only the star of the movie who has a stand-in to take the risks.
Kel: And God has seen us as being that important that he sends his own stand-in.
John: Yeah. And a very good one he is too, I might say.