Why did Jesus rise from the dead?
In my experience most Christians can’t answer this question very well. I suspect that the reason is that they have hardly ever heard it taught. One of the most common answers I’ve heard over the years is that Jesus rose ‘to prove that he is God’. But the Bible never identifies this as the reason, and there was surely ample proof already available for Jesus’ divinity given the number of miracles that he performed in his public ministry.
The Trinity, miracles, predestination, the resurrection… We spend most of our time trying to prove that these things are true rather than explaining what they mean and why they are important.
The problem is that some of the more difficult Christian doctrines tend to be reduced to apologetic hurdles to get over rather than being treated as central, interconnected parts of the Christian message. The Trinity, miracles, predestination, the resurrection… these are the kinds of topics that present difficulties to our secular worldview and logic. We therefore spend most of our time trying to prove that these things are true rather than explaining what they mean and why they are important. They become mere facts to prove, not Christian truths to cherish. There is no depth or content to them.
This is what has happened to the resurrection. Like Hollywood’s addiction to thoughtlessly regurgitating high-grossing movies as sequels, the resurrection becomes little more than a sequel to the cross. It’s there but it isn’t really necessary since all the important things happened in the first movie.
Seven Reasons Why Jesus’ Resurrection Is Crucial
So why is the resurrection of Jesus absolutely essential to our salvation? Here’s a few things that the resurrection shows us:
1. Jesus is Lord
The most basic confession ‘Jesus is Lord’ is nonsense without the resurrection. Ruling creation involves being alive to do the job. Thus, it is in the resurrection that God ‘made Jesus both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36)
2. Jesus is holy and God is just
Israel’s final verdict on Jesus was that he was deserving of death. If Jesus stayed dead then it would appear that God agreed with them, since anyone who hangs on a tree is under God’s curse (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13). If Jesus is a sinner deserving of death, then his death is of no worth to the rest of us (1 Corinthians 15:17). It’s only with the resurrection that Jesus’ perfect holiness is decisively announced to the world. “Jesus is accursed” is not God’s final word on Jesus. The resurrection shows that Jesus is holy and that God would not let his ‘holy one see decay’ (Acts 2:27, 31). Thus the resurrection also shows that God is just. It is God’s reversal of the unjust sentence on Jesus; the replacement of the lie with the truth. The high court of heaven came down and stamped all over the world’s injustice. In the resurrection Jesus got what he deserved.
The resurrection also shows that God is just. It is God’s reversal of the unjust sentence on Jesus; the replacement of the lie with the truth. The high court of heaven came down and stamped all over the world’s injustice.
3. Jesus lives to intercede
Jesus is alive and presently serving his people by standing in God’s presence. He is our mediator who lives to ensure our salvation. If Jesus isn’t alive then he can’t intercede, and he can’t save (Hebrews 7:25).
4. Jesus will return to save and to judge
The resurrection announces that Judgement Day is coming and that Jesus is the judge (Acts 17:31). That’s a wakeup call to the world to repent. For Christians it changes from warning to hope since Jesus will bring the fullness of our salvation with him only when he returns (Hebrews 9:27). If he isn’t alive he won’t return to end injustice. If he isn’t alive he can’t return to bring salvation.
5. Jesus has eternal life to share
Jesus is the only human being who possesses eternal life. But he’s willing to share it with you. The Holy Spirit, ‘the Lord the giver of life’, is the source of life of the resurrected Jesus (1 Peter 3:18). When people turn to Jesus we receive Jesus’ Spirit. We are united to Christ by the Spirit. It’s as though the lifeblood of the resurrected Jesus flows through Christians now too. That means that we share in what Jesus has. If Jesus is dead, we are dead. If Jesus is alive we live. If Jesus’ future is eternal joy, life, and authority, then we can expect to share that future with him. Praise God!
6. God’s plan for history will succeed
Revelation 5 records a vision of the Apostle John of the end of the world. He narrates how God’s plans are all but impossible to achieve since there is nobody in heaven, earth or history who is able to do what must be done. So John concludes it is hopeless and bawls his eyes out. But then Jesus, the crucified and now resurrected lamb of God, turns up and sets God’s plans in motion. He alone is worthy. He alone can bring history to it’s completion in the Kingdom of God. The resurrection shows that this plan has already begun and it’s completion is inevitable.
7. Death is defeated. Death will die.
Death is a truly awful thing. Jesus defeated it. Now we wait for the time when he returns to overthrow death entirely (1 Corinthians 15:26). Jesus defeated death. We can therefore be confident that Jesus is capable of killing off death completely, and we have his promise that he will do so.
‘Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins’ rolls off the tongue easily in evangelical circles. But ‘he rose to conquer death’ is not so common. It should be.
Photo: James Emery, flickr