Pastoral Perspectives

Why is the resurrection necessary?

On Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Jesus Christ’s resurrection forms the central event of Christian history. The resurrection is the most spectacular of all the biblical miracles and from a human perspective the most incredible of Christianity’s claims. We can envisage someone sacrificing himself to save another, even to the point of death, like in the case where your loved one is about to be harmed and you jump in to bear the brunt of the blow and in the process lose your life. From a human point of view, this is still a possibility, but when the sacrificed one comes to life again, that will be mind-blowing! If such a scenario happens in the movies, we will be relieved, even elated. To say that it has happened in real life – Christ did rise from the dead – it might indeed be too farfetched for the human mind. Yet the Bible confirms this truth: ‘3Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me [Paul]’ (1 Corinthians 15). Many of these disciples went on to die for their faith and their martyrdom is another proof that Christ has indeed risen. It would be utterly foolish for them to die for a lie!

Why is it so important that Jesus resurrected from the dead? Jesus is God and his resurrection proves that He is God and vindicates him from any sin and wrong doing for God is perfect. Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity who, ‘being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped’ (Philippines 2.6). Otherwise, he would not have taken the downward path of coming into our world to become a servant, a man, and then stepping even further down into the shoes of one who had to die a criminal’s death. When Jesus was on earth, He was fully God and fully man. Even as he died as a man in our place, He is still God, and death cannot hold God down because God is eternal. Resurrection not only attests Christ’s divinity, it also defends Christ’s perfect righteousness! He did no crime but He died a criminal’s death. His resurrection is a form of vindication that what nailed him to the cross were not his sins but the sins of the whole world.

Why is it so important that Jesus resurrected from the dead? His resurrection guarantees our forgiveness: 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Corinthians 15). It is not enough that Christ died for us; it is equally important that he rose from the dead. If Christ had not been raised, then his death did not pay for sin. Why is Christ’s death alone not good enough to guarantee our forgiveness? Why does it have to take both His death and resurrection to secure our salvation?

Sin is rebellion against the revealed purposes of God. This rebellion is an insult to God’s holiness, and God declares all such behaviour and attitude to be worthy of death: ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23) and ‘The soul who sins shall die’ (Ezekiel 18:4). From this aspect, Christ’s death was essentially a judicial matter – paying the prescribed penalty for all of mankind’s rebellion against God: ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us’ (Galatians 3:13) and ‘The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’ (Isaiah 53:6b). Christ’s resurrection on the other hand is a proof that God accepts this sacrifice that Christ has made on our behalf. If the sacrifice is not acceptable to God, for example, in the Old Testament, if the Israelites were to offer up blemished animals, it won’t do any good for the atonement of their sins because the offering would not be acceptable to God. The proof that Christ’s death was an effective substitutionary sacrifice for sins lies in his resurrection from the dead.

Why is it so important that Jesus resurrected from the dead? This is so that in him we can experience the newness of life, and that reality begins the moment we put our trust in him and receive him as our Saviour and Lord: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6.4). We don’t need to wait until we die before we experience resurrection power. We can know the power of Christ’s resurrection right now because the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit who dwells in us (Romans 8.11). He is the One who empowers us to walk in newness of life. We therefore have great power, equivalent to that of resurrection power, to break sinful habits, overcome addictions, and withstand temptations; we have great power to stand firm in our faith, persevere in our afflictions, and be transformed into Christ-likeness. We are overcomers because the victory has already been won by the empty tomb.

We see that Christ’s resurrection is significant for our justification and sanctification. Does Christ’s resurrection also play a part in our glorification? Why is it so important that Jesus resurrected from the dead? Christ’s resurrection guarantees our own resurrection. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15). We will experience physical resurrection when Christ returns. We will be given new bodies just like what happened to Christ. We will have bodies that are recognisable just as Christ was recognised by his disciples. We will have perfect bodies where there will no longer be pain, sicknesses or death. That is why during Christian wakes or funerals, although we will miss our loved ones who have passed on, we can look forward to the day of great reunion for all who have put their faith in Christ.

On Easter, we celebrate life, life abundant and life eternal. Life that is justified; life that is gradually sanctified; life that will be glorified – all these is possible because of the cross and the empty tomb. Blessed are those who hear these words and believe!

Rev Lee Kien Seng

April 5, 2015