Someone has observed that Christians seem to talk more about Christ’s death than we do about His resurrection.
Is this true? And if so, why? Is the empty tomb less important than the cross? Maybe we should ask why the Apostle Paul devoted the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 to the subject of the resurrection? A closer look at that chapter reveals a whole list of reasons why the resurrection is fundamental to our faith.
1. The resurrection of Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures (v. 3). Had Christ not been raised, neither the written Word (Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:8-10) nor the living Word (i.e., Jesus himself–see Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:34) would be trustworthy.
2. The resurrected Jesus was seen by more than 500 individuals in a variety of settings (vss. 5-8). Certified as dead (John 19:33) by professional executioners, Jesus returned to life (in a physical, yet glorified body). Hundreds attested to this fact. The people mentioned by Paul conversed with, walked alongside, touched, and even dined with the risen Christ. And at least two of these witnesses (Paul himself and James, the half-brother of Jesus) were originally hostile to Christ and not at all inclined to believe or make “resurrection” claims . . . unless, of course, they were true.
3. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was proclaimed eagerly and continually by the early church (vss. 1-4). This miracle was regarded an essential part of the gospel message. Christ had died on the cross in our place to atone for our sins, to be sure, but just as importantly, he had been raised from the dead. More than just a suffering Savior, Jesus–because of the resurrection–is the living Lord of all! As you read the New Testament, consider how often this fact was trumpeted by the apostles. Go back and read the first sermons preached by Christ’s followers in the book of Acts. All of them emphasize not just Christ’s sacrificial death, but also His glorious triumph over death.
4. The resurrection of Jesus is required for defeating sin and death. According to Paul (v. 17) “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” The implications of this statement are staggering–it was Christ’s resurrection (together with His death on the cross) that secured our justification (see Romans 4:25). In short–no resurrection equals no forgiveness!
Theologian D.A. Carson has noted that we see God’s ultimate verdict on Jesus, not at the cross, but in the resurrection. In other words, the empty tomb is God’s vindication of Christ–the divine “stamp of approval” on Jesus’ sacrifice for the sin of the world.
5. The resurrection of Jesus was designed to give the world a preview of “coming attractions” for those who have put their trust in Jesus (vss. 20-57). Paul called Christ “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20). This Old Testament imagery (see Exodus 23:16-19) means that Christ serves as both an example and a guarantee of what we can expect. Because Jesus has conquered death (v. 26-27; 54-57), believers (who are united to Him by faith) need not fear. Because Jesus now enjoys a glorified body, we also can expect to inherit a “spiritual body” (vss. 44-46) after our mortal bodies wear out.
Clearly, the resurrection of Christ is one of the most sublime of all theological truths. His substitutionary death for sinners is one side of the “salvation coin.” His conquering of death and the grave is the other side. As one man said it, “His death dealt with our old life; His resurrection supplies our new life.” In Paul’s words, apart from the resurrection, “we are of all men the most pitiable” (v. 19). But because He lives, we experience “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 57).
If you live in the “greater Ruston” (LA) area, I invite you to join us this Sunday (3/31/13) at The Bridge Community Church as we celebrate our risen Lord and what his death AND HIS LIFE mean for our lives! We’ll have three services (a 7am outdoor “sunrise service,” and indoor services at 9 and 10:30am)–all at our N. Ruston campus. We will have NO services on Easter Sunday Downtown.