|Jesus' Dominance in the Resurrection|
Good Friday and Easter celebrate the central act of history - when God Himself became a man, and was brutally murdered by humans. He did this in order to take the punishment that we deserve for our sins upon himself. Because of this paradoxical sacrifice, those who give up on their own failed righteousness and rest the burden of their failure on Jesus are judged righteous by God. So, the importance of the death of Jesus is clear: He died so that we might be made clean. But what is the significance of the resurrection? If we were justified by Christ's death, then why did he need to rise again?
This is a question that my roommates and I have discussed from time to time, as in this blog post: http://kevinhubert.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/134/
Here are some quick thoughts (that aren't new or original) about why the resurrection is important:
First, it seems to me that Jesus' claims are only really be compelling if he did something like rise from the dead. Would you believe someone who came and radically challenged the culture and religious institutions, said some pretty crazy stuff, and then just died and you never heard from him again? The disciples weren't exactly doing a very good job of carrying on Jesus' words when he died. Peter had just repeatedly denied that he even knew Jesus (John 18), and the disciples were hiding behind locked doors because they were scared (John 20:19). If Jesus hadn't come back from the dead and convinced his skeptical (John 20:9) followers that he was infinitely more than just a human leader, I think that the church would have died right there. And what would separate Jesus from all of the other radical religious reformers in history? His words would just be a collection of cryptic sayings and stories.
|Thomas skeptically verifies Jesus' identity (Image Credit)|
Secondly, the resurrection serves as a model for the resurrection that all those who are saved will experience someday. 1 Corinthians 15 (Thanks, Austin, for pointing this out to us) is all about this. We can be sure that there is a resurrection and that Jesus will be there because of what he did on resurrection Sunday. Both here and in Romans 5:14-17, Jesus is compared to Adam. Just as Adam was the first man of the old creation corrupted by evil, Jesus is the first of the new creation in which evil will be vanquished.
Finally - and this is the main thrust of this blog post - the resurrection is important because Jesus' work, and the story that God has laid out for the universe is not over yet. The story isn't just about God providing a ticket for us to be justified when we die. It is about Him defeating the evil that has corrupted the world.
Jesus is the the new King, the Captain that will lead the forces of good to this victory. He is also the savior who has provided a way for sinful humans to be made new and live in the perfect new creation. There is still pain and suffering in this world; the ultimate defeat of evil and judgment has not yet come. The resurrection shows us that even though we see evil now, nothing can come between Jesus and the ultimate victory.
This picture of Jesus as the King, victorious against evil, is present from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Here are just a few examples*:
In Genesis 3:15, immediately after the first sin, it is said that the offspring of Eve, Jesus, will crush the serpent's, that is, Satan's, head.
In Psalm 110, David speaks of his Lord, Jesus, who, in addition to being our eternal priest, will "shatter kings on the day of wrath", and have his enemies become his footstool.
In Isaiah 9:6-7, one of the most cited Old Testament verses about Jesus, it is said that "the government shall be upon his shoulder", and that there will be no end to this reign.
In Hebrews 2:7-8, we see that, though Jesus was made "lower than the angels for a while", everything will be put in subjection to him. This is something that we don't see yet, but we will.
Finally, in Revelation 19, we see a prophetic picture of the fulfillment of Christ's victory. John hears the multitudes declare "the Lord our God the Almighty Reigns." and this picture of Jesus is given:
After this arrival, Revelation says Jesus will reign for a thousand years before a final judgment and defeat of Satan.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.
He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.
And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
I think that if we think of Jesus' sacrifice to save us as the sum of all the work that God has laid out for him, we miss a great deal of the beauty and grandeur of His plan for the world. It seems to me that Jesus' task is to defeat evil, and to provide a way for some humans to experience this existence free from the evil that we brought upon ourselves. There is still abundant evil in the world. Jesus' work is not yet complete. That is why the resurrection is important.
* If you are a skeptical reader, you will notice that most of these verses clearly also reference something besides, Jesus. However, I think that the double meaning is in fact how God has chosen to reveal his plan to us in a way that is intriguing and beautiful.