20 March 2023
In the calendar of the church, the season to observe ‘Good Friday’ and ‘Easter’ is around the corner. Easter, to the church, is not about easter eggs – it is about the observance of an actual event in history – the resurrection of Jesus Christ, following His crucifixion, death, and burial. Many books have been written to marshal the evidence for the resurrection – but at this juncture, it may be helpful to just summarise the main lines of evidence.
There is first the disappearance of the body – everybody agrees that the tomb was empty, but the question was what became of the body? No satisfactory explanation (despite rumours, numerous claims, explanations, and denials) has been given of its disappearance, except for the resurrection.
Secondly, there is the reappearance of the Lord Jesus – He was reported to be reappearing during a period of nearly six weeks – and He showed Himself to many, including His disciples, and on one occasion, to more than five hundred individuals at the same time, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this in about AD 54, and could therefore be cross-examined.
Thirdly, there is the emergence of the church. Something happened to change the apostles and to send them out on the mission to the world. When Jesus died, they were heartbroken, confused and frightened. Bdut, within less than two months, they came out of hiding, full of joy, confidence and courage. Only the resurrection can account for this dramatic transformation, and how a bunch of disillusioned nobodies has grown into a universal community numbering one-third of the population of the world.
Why is the resurrection so significant?
The resurrection speaks to the needs of our human condition, and it is the mainstay of our Christian assurance.
Firstly, the resurrection of Jesus assures us of God’s forgiveness – forgiveness is one of our most basic needs and one of God’s best gifts. The head of one mental hospital overseas has been quoted as saying that he could dismiss half of his patients the next day if they could be assured of forgiveness. As a medical practitioner, I can attest to this reality that many of our patients with mental problems have one of the root problems as relationship problems with the need for forgiveness as an essential part of treatment.
Jesus spoke much of forgiveness and peace in His public ministry on earth, and in the upper room, He referred to the communion cup as His ‘blood of the covenant…poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. He linked our forgiveness with His death. In Scripture, death is always welded to sin as its just desert and wage, Jesus can only have meant that He was going to die in our place the death which we deserved to die, in order that we might be spared and forgiven.
How can we be sure that He was right, that He achieved by His death what He said He would achieve, and that God accepted His death in our place as ‘a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world. If He had remained dead, if He had not been visibly and publicly raised from death, we would never have known. In fact, without the resurrection, we have to conclude that His death was a failure.
Apostle Paul saw this clearly when he wrote:
“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith.” Again, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” (1 Cor. 15:14,17-18). The resurrection validates the cross!
The resurrection of Jesus assures us of God’s power – we need God’s power in the present as well as His forgiveness of the past. Is God able to change human nature, which is so wretched, cruel, selfish, immoral, and intractable? Can He change people with such nature into kind, unselfish, self-controlled and ‘sweet’ people, in the image and likeness of Christ? Yes, He can, yes He is able! And this can only substantiated by the resurrection – the power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that can operate in the lives of believers.
Becoming and being a Christ is nothing less than a resurrection from the death of alienation and self-centeredness, and the beginning of a new and liberated life. The same God who raised Jesus from physical death, can raise us from spiritual death!
It does not stop with this: we will not only survive death but be raised from it, for Christ is the firstfruit; and our hope for the future is also cosmic. Christ is going to return to bring history to its fulfilment in eternity, and those who believe will be part of this regeneration of the universe, for He will make all things new!