I want us to celebrate the resurrection today by thinking about why it matters so much. The resurrection changes everything. Together, Jesus’ death and resurrection are the centre point of history. I don’t want to try and cover all the implications of the resurrection as there are so many wonderful things which flow out of it. I simply want us to see together what difference the resurrection makes to our past, our present and out future. That’s pretty comprehensive, in one way.
As we think about Jesus rising from the dead, it’s important that we realise that this was a historical event. This is something which actually happened. Jesus truly died on the cross. When he was pierced in the side, blood and water flowed out, proving that he had died. This is a fact. He was placed in a tomb which was closed off with a huge stone, a seal and guarded by soldiers. There is no way that the body of Jesus could have been stolen. Then, on the third day, we read of the women going to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. They’re stressed out about how on earth they will gain access to Jesus’ body, knowing there’s a huge stone blocking the entrance: ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ (Mark 6:6-7)
Had you been with the women that day, you too would have seen the angel and the empty tomb, because these things really happened. The gospels are a true and historical and verifiable account of what happened to Jesus, and what happened on that first Easter Sunday morning changes everything.
1. The resurrection deals with our past
What do I mean by that? I mean that the resurrection deals with the sins of our past. That’s good news for me, as I have quite a past. There’s a long list of times when I have hurt people, let them down, been a bad example, failed, broken God’s commands, and not loved God as I ought to have. Sometimes our past failures can be overwhelming. How can we ever get rid of the guilt we carry?
Here’s a question: does the sin of my past have to define my future? Is there anything that can be done so that the past doesn’t matter any more in the sight of God? Yes, there is. There was one way in which our sins could be rubbed out, and we can be seen as righteous in God’s sight. Righteous? Yes, there’s a way God can look at our past failure and not be angry, and it is bound up with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Listen to Romans 4:5: ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.’
What does it mean that Jesus was ‘raised to life for our justification’? It means when God raised his Son from the dead, this was a sign of his total approval and acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. By raising Jesus from the dead, God the Father was saying – I approve of what you have done. Sin has been dealt with. There is no penalty left for sin. There is no more wrath of God to bear. There is no more guilt or liability to punishment as all has been completely paid for.
When athletes take part in the long jump at the Olympics, there is always a judge watching on, to make sure that jumper has not crossed the line, and that everything has been done in the correct way. If accepted you get a white flag, and you get a red flag when the jump is rejected. Jesus’ resurrection is, as it were, the Father holding up the white flag. Jesus’ work of dying for sinners has been accepted. This is wonderful news for us, as it means the sins and failures and rebellion of our past will not define us. God has stepped in so that this will not be the case.
Wayne Grudem: “By virtue of our union with Christ, God’s declaration of approval of Christ, is also his declaration of approval of us.”
The resurrection changes everything. If you place your trust in Jesus, and believe that he died for your sins, God says to you immediately, all the penalty for your sins has been paid for and I find you not guilty, but righteous in my sight. But what if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead? What if there was no Easter Sunday?
Paul tells us that no resurrection would mean no forgiveness. It is as simple as that: ‘And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.’ (1 Corinthians 15:17)
I like to have proof that something has been paid for, don’t you? My insurance company emailed me saying that I hadn’t paid for my house insurance, and I was a bit concerned as I thought I had. So, I went to look at bank statements, and found proof that I had paid for it and sent that proof and then they apologised for their elementary mistake. We need to know- has something been paid for or not? When it comes to the massive debt I owe to God then I really have to know – has the debt been paid for or not? Jesus’ resurrection gives us a cast-iron guarantee that the best of all news is true- Christ has paid our debt and set us free.
2. The resurrection gives us new life and power for the present
‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…’ (1 Peter 1:3)
Here, Peter links Jesus’ resurrection with our spiritual new birth. Jesus famously said to Nicodemus that everyone must be born again, meaning that we receive new spiritual life from Jesus. Before we are Christians, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We have no hope of life in and of ourselves. This can only be received through a supernatural work of God. He must give us this new spiritual life.
To understand the difference Jesus’ resurrection makes to our present lives, I think we need to understand the doctrine of ‘union with Christ’. What is union with Christ? It means that Jesus is our representative, acting on our behalf, so that whatever Christ did as our representative, God counted as something we did too. We’re not used to thinking that way, but we need to grasp this truth. Last Sunday we had a wonderful illustration of this in the story of David and Goliath. David was Israel’s representative, and Goliath was the representative of the Philistines. If David wins the battle, then all Israel wins with him, because he represents them (1 Samuel chapter 17). We could say that Israel was ‘in David’. Their outcome was determined by David. The same is true of Christians who are ‘in Christ’.
Wayne Grudem: “Believers were present in Christ only in God’s thoughts. God thought of us going through everything that Christ went through, because he was our representative. When Jesus perfectly obeyed God for his whole life, God thought of us having obeyed too. When Christ died, God thought of us as having died…. God thought of us as having been buried with Christ, raised with him, and taken up to Heaven with him in glory.”
The reason the resurrection matters so much is because it means that Jesus is the living Saviour, and so his life flows into us, if we are united to him through faith, And power also flows from him to us, enabling us to grow as Christians. The life of Christ flows into us. Remember the words of Jesus: ‘I am the vine and you are the branches; if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.’ (John 15:5). Think of the sap from the vine flowing into branches. If the vine was dead, the branches would be dead too.
It’s obvious that when we become Christians, our bodies remain the same. They still get sick, age and will eventually die. However, in our spirits, we are made alive with new resurrection power. Even in this life, the resurrection of Jesus gives us new life and power for Christian ministry and service and obedience to God. ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.’ (Colossians 3:1) In short, because Jesus lives, we live spiritually.
We know the tragedy of babies being born with foetal alcohol syndrome. Because the mother has been drinking too much during pregnancy, though the union of the umbilical cord, the baby is damaged in the womb. Conversely, in normal circumstances, if a mother is eating and drinking healthily, then her life will flow into the unborn child, through the cord, and the child will develop and grow. Our union with Jesus is a healthy one. We are united to Jesus through the cord of faith, and his goodness and power is available for us. How on earth are Christians meant to have the power to love our enemies, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, to get stuck into the work of our churches, to forgive others, to know joy? Will this power come from ourselves? No! We’re united, or joined to Jesus by faith, and so there’s a new resurrection power pumping through our souls – and that’s resurrection power.
You must stop trying to make progress in the Christian life in your own strength. Christ has been raised, and we have been raised with him, that we might walk in newness of life. Come to Jesus, then, in prayer in all your brokenness, in the wreckage of your lives, and with all your pain and confusion, and as we do so, he says to us: ‘I’m going to make all things new’.
3. The resurrection guarantees us a glorious future
‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.’ (1 Peter 1:3-6)
We have a ‘living hope’ to celebrate this Easter. This hope is not wishful thinking, like I hope Rangers win the Eufa Europa league. This is by no means a certainty. Or I hope that we don’t hear any more about covid in 2023. When the Bible speaks of hope it is something we can have a confident expectation in, as it is based on God’s promises. It is a ‘living hope’ because this expectation grows as we mature in the faith.
What exactly is our inheritance? It is a place in the new heavens and the new earth. It is where we shall dwell forever with Jesus and with the people of God down through the ages. It is where we shall have perfect bodies and perfect souls. It is where we shall know complete physical and psychological healing forever and ever. We will be the people God intended us to be. Our relationships will all be wholesome, and open and transparent and loving and joyous.
When the Israelites received the Promised Land of Canaan, they ended up losing it when they were taken into exile. Through their idolatry, the land became defiled. Through their disobedience their inheritance lost its glory, as covenant curses were rightly given out to them. Heaven shall not be like this. Our inheritance can never perish, spoil or fade. It can never be lost. It can never be defiled by our sin, as nothing impure will enter heaven. The things we have there will never decay or wear out or be lost, as everything we chase in this world ends up being. The resurrection guarantees us a glorious future.