Resurrection (#39)

My God has broke the serpent’s teeth,
And death has lost his sting.
Isaac Watts

“He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:6-7, ESV)

The crucifixion of our God is an everlasting shock, and his resurrection is a continual surprise. The crucifixion represents the worst thing conceivable; the resurrection represents the best. Just as Jesus’ followers could not grasp the reality of the cross, they nearly missed the reality of his resurrection, and had to receive a rebuke from the angels: “Remember how he told you…!” Jesus told them he would be crucified, and they didn’t understand it; he said that he would be raised again, but they forgot, and prepared to embalm and inter him, along with all their hopes for the future.

Many of us believe in the historical resurrection of Christ; we simply forget about it. Our culture over the past few centuries has progressively neglected it because it lacks emotion for us. Death, however, always tugs our heartstrings. Jesus’ death elicits us to feel for him, and hopefully, vote for him.

For the same reason, the Friday on which we commemorate Jesus’ death has been called “Good Friday” in the West. In the East, it is named the opposite! In Russian it is “the Friday of Mourning” and in Arabic, “Sad Friday.” Only in the light of his resurrection is that day transmuted into Good Friday. The happy ending is not Jesus’ death—it is life everlasting!

The New Testament rarely if ever mentions the death of Jesus without mentioning his resurrection. Yes, the death of Jesus achieves atonement for sin; but if he stayed dead, then his work was incomplete. Paul makes this clear:

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, ESV)

The resurrection of Jesus provides all hope for life beyond the grave. He preached to “the spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19); he “brought life and immortality to light.” (1 Tim. 1:10) The afterlife itself was something of a mystery until Jesus explained it. Only in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus do we see the guarantee of a life that supersedes this earth, this blood, this time, and this world of sin.

The resurrection of Jesus provides all hope, not only for life beyond the grave, but for victory over sin in the present life. There would be no benefit to being crucified to this world if we were not also “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

And that is the beauty of the resurrection: You cannot be resurrected until you have died. We cannot take on a new life while holding on to the old one; we must let go of the old to take hold of the new.

Jesus, thank you that you have promised as that because you will live, we also will live. Thank you for offering us a new life in your Spirit.

Amen.

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