By Daniel Kiefer
Before and After experiences are a part of life. There is before and after your driver’s license, before and after college, before and after kids, before and after supper, and before and after Jesus. Life changes all the time, and change usually comes from a before and after experience. The biggest life change comes after we meet Jesus.
The cross is no different in this experience. Think about what the cross symbolized before Jesus. It was the means of capital punishment for the Romans. Those who were crucified carried a stigma of being outcasts and criminals with them as they were lead off to be crucified. The cross was a symbol of death, torture, rejection, shame, guilt, hopelessness, and punishment. But when an innocent Jewish carpenter was sentenced to death by way of the cross, people began to see the cross in a different way. After Jesus believers see the cross as a symbol of life, love, acceptance, forgiveness, innocence, freedom, transformation, and hope. Jesus steps in and creates a before and after experience. He drastically changes how people view the cross.
Murderer, zealot, informant, persecutor of the innocent, liar, cheat, foul mouthed, and violent are words and phrases that could be used to describe a man who had his life radically changed after he met Jesus. Saul (or as he is known in the New Testament: Paul) persecuted Christians, looked on as Stephen was stoned to death, sought to stamp out the Christian faith. Then, one day Paul met Jesus. He had a before and after experience with Jesus and was changed forever. Paul became a great leader of the early church. He lead countless people to Christ and wrote 13 letters to believers that are now in the New Testament. Paul describes how his life changed after Jesus in Philippians 3:7-14…
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NASB)(bold emphasis added)
Paul’s life was radically different after he met Jesus. Paul no longer lived his life for himself but he left everything behind to follow Jesus. All Paul wanted to do after he met Jesus was get to know Jesus more and tell others about him. He was Saul before Jesus and Paul after Jesus. Jesus dramatically changed Paul.
So many people have a before and after story with Jesus, the woman at the well: Peter, Zacchaeus, the blind man, the deaf man, the lepers, Nicodemus, and countless others. All these people have a before and after story with Jesus. Over and over again we see Jesus meeting someone and their life is radically different after they meet Jesus. What is your before and after story with Jesus? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (ESV)
If you are a follower of Jesus, he has made you a new creation. You now have a before and after story. How has Jesus changed you? How does he want to continue changing you? What victories do you have over sin? How are you different? Who can you share your before and after story with today? As we begin to contemplate the story of Easter and how this event changes everything, what a great opportunity you have to share about resurrection and your before and after story. Before and after Jesus has the power to change any story.