Adapted from a talk given at Reformation Fellowship on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010.
For many of us, the story of Jesus’ resurrection is an all too familiar story. Not only do we know the main outline and many details of the story itself, but we have rehearsed its implications over the course of many Easters. Today, I want to review briefly yet one more time four of the more important implications of Jesus’ resurrection.
The First Implication
Because God raised Jesus from the dead, I can know that Jesus has become qualified to fulfill his destiny as King over all God’s creation in the eternal age to come.
From before creation itself, God had set as His purpose to become a human being and rule over His whole creation in and through that man who embodied His person and rule. Jesus was that man. He was the “Son” of God—destined to be the human image of God Himself, the human embodiment of God’s sovereign rule. But the Jesus of history never realized his destiny. He came, he taught, he was crucified. There was no evidence of his sovereign rule over creation. The corrupt and arrogant power of Rome seemed to prevail over him.
That is one of the reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is significant. It is no slight thing that God, the one who can speak things into existence, called the dead Jesus forth from the tomb and brought him into an entirely new order of existence—an existence completely beyond death itself.
God has always been capable of raising human beings from the dead. But Jesus was a first. To this day Jesus is absolutely unique. No human being throughout the whole of human history—save one—has ever been raised to this other order of existence. Why Jesus? Why then? Quite simply because Jesus, having submitted to the purposes of the Father by willingly going to his death for the sins of mankind, had proved himself worthy to inherit the destiny that had been set for him. He did and could serve as the human image of God because the love he manifested for us in his death was an act of God-like love. It pleased the Father greatly. Therefore, God granted him the right to rule as His proxy. He granted Jesus the right to fulfill the role of Son of God. This was his destiny from before creation, of course. But his resurrection marks that point in history when Jesus first enters into his authority to rule over all creation. The apostles describe it as Jesus being seated at the right hand of the God on high.
Accordingly, because of the resurrection, we are fools if we refuse to bow our knee to Jesus. He is our Lord, our Master, our King. He will be so for all eternity.
The Second Implication
Because God raised Jesus from the dead, I can know that the eternal Kingdom of God is near; little else remains before God brings this age to an end and inaugurates His final Kingdom.
If Jesus has been raised to the right hand of God, God’s purposes for cosmic history are almost complete. Only two significant things remain. God must fulfill His unique promises to Israel, His unique people. And God must put all of His enemies “as a footstool” under Jesus’ feet. In terms of the plotline of history, the resurrection brings us very near the end of the present age, no matter how long it might take.
Accordingly, because of the resurrection, we are fools if we invest too deeply in our lives here and now. This whole order is passing away. All the trivial pursuits of our present existence are about to become totally and utterly irrelevant. We must strive to stay focused on that which is forever, on that which is permanent, and to hold loosely any and all that this present age has to offer me.
The Third Implication
Because God raised Jesus from the dead, I know that Jesus’ appeal to God for mercy on my behalf will be an effective appeal, heard and accepted by God.
Jesus and his apostles claim that I am a creature worthy of destruction. My end will be condemnation unless God mercifully grants me a blessing I do not deserve. Jesus, serving as my high priest, offered his own body as a propitiatory offering, appealing to God to be merciful to sinners like me. How can I know that Jesus’ intercession was anything other than a futile gesture? I can know it because of the resurrection. God would never have performed the unique act of raising Jesus to newness of Life if He had not been pleased with Jesus. God would not have made him the trailblazer into another order of existence if Jesus did not have the authority to intercede for us and be heard by God.
Accordingly, because of the resurrection, we can be confident and secure that we have an able advocate who, at the final judgment, will secure for us mercy, forgiveness, and Life.
The Fourth Implication
Because God raised Jesus from the dead, I know that death cannot prevent God from blessing me with the blessing He promised.
Thousands of years ago, God promised a man, Abraham, that those who belonged to his people—a people that would include individuals from every people group throughout history—would be blessed. They would not be condemned to the curse of death that Adam proved mankind deserved. Rather, they would be granted the Life that they did not deserve. Was that promise a sham? A deceit? A fantastical myth? Abraham succumbed to death and was laid in a tomb. Isaac died and was buried. Israel died. Moses died. All those who believed God’s promise succumbed to death. Were they all fools? Is human mortality the fatal defect that brings to nothing all of the promises of God? The resurrection of Jesus says “no.”
Because Jesus was successfully and triumphantly called out of the tomb, Abraham will be blessed with the blessing of Life just as God promised. Because Jesus was raised, Isaac, Israel, Moses, and we will be raised. If Jesus’ tomb could not thwart God and His purposes, then there is nothing in the whole created order that can thwart God and His purposes. If God has called us to receive what is good, then nothing in all of reality will prevent Him from giving us that good. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims that most emphatically.
There are no doubt other important implications of Jesus’ resurrection. These are four of the more important ones. We would do well to learn these, to understand them more clearly, to believe them more confidently, and to live them more consistently. We would do well to study the story of Jesus, especially the story of his death and resurrection, until we understand as well as can be understood the full meaning and significance of that story.
I am afraid we live in a time and place where it seems more interesting to those who purport to be Christians to know the history of Middle Earth and to study and memorize the Silmarillian than to know and understand their Bibles. We would rather read the latest adventures of Harry Potter than read the teaching and wisdom of Jesus, the Messiah.
This is understandable enough. Many of us are all too familiar with the stories of Jesus and of the Jews of ancient times. In our case, familiarity with these stories breeds a certain sort of contempt. We have had enough of messiahs, prophets, and apostles. Let us hear of wizards, hobbits, dragons, vampires, werewolves, and magic. These are far more interesting and intriguing.
But we must not lose sight of what it is that we have in the Bible. The Bible is not fiction. It is reality. It is not there to entertain us. It is there to enlighten us. We seek to know and master what it says not because it is unsurpassed in its ability to fascinate us. We want to know the Bible because it is unsurpassed in the depth of the truth it will tell me about God, human existence, and the final outcome of my being.
We have all become entertainment junkies. Accordingly, we believe we have outgrown the Bible. It can no longer excite. It no longer entertains. But this is a huge mistake. To lack interest in what the Bible tells us is to lack interest in my own existence. To lack interest in the story of the Bible is to lack interest in the outcome of my own life. The story of the Bible is the story of my salvation. If that story is not interesting to me, it can only be because my own salvation is not particularly interesting to me. And that would be grievous indeed.
So today, Easter, let us not hold in contempt the well-rutted story of Jesus’ empty tomb because it has stopped intriguing us as a story; because it no longer excites our interest and fascination with its details. Rather, let us remember that it is not as a story that I must value it. I must value it as fact. Easter is important because it really happened. And because it really happened, the whole course of my existence has been explained. Because of Easter, I have a real and actual hope. Easter is not fantasy. Easter is the reality of our existence.