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  • Writer's pictureH. Wayne House

Tragedy or Triumph? The Importance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to Believers

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is one of the most important miracles that has occurred in human history, and recorded by each of the writers of the Gospels in the New Testament. Had this event not occurred, the death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of humanity would become meaningless, because if the giver of eternal life could not conquer the grave, then the hope that we have who believe in Him would have been meaningless, and our confidence in the Savior would have been dashed to the ground. Paul the apostle says it this way: "If the Messiah had not been raised, then our preaching has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. Yes, we would be found to be false witnesses of God because we witnessed that God raised Him, whom He did not raise up . . . and if the Messiah has not been raised , your faith is in vain and you are still in your sins." (1 Cor. 15:13-15, 17)

This truth of the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is at the hallmark of the Christian faith, and if it is not true, then the story of the life and death of Jesus found in the Gospel accounts is a dramatic tragedy, as in a Shakespearean play. It would be such in his life because this man we call Yeshua, or Jesus, declared to his disciples that He would die. They retorted to him that this could not be true (the standard Jewish perspective), because Messiah cannot die. Jesus responded that He would because it was for this very reason that He came into the world. It seemed inconceivable to those men and women who traveled with the miracle worker, the forgiver of sins, and the great teacher that this could be true. If this were the case, they were at a lost to make sense of His ministry, His person, as well as their place in respect to Him. They thought, how could He die because they believed that He would become the king over Israel, and as the Messiah, lead the Jewish people to freedom from the Roman yoke. This hope, most likely, brought the attraction of Simon the zealot, and hope for position and wealth brought the attention of Judas, who would betray Him. Both hopes were frustrated, when it became obvious that Jesus meant what He said. This made no sense to the disciples at this time, yet it made perfect sense to Jesus and His Father, who sent Him into the world (John 3:16-17). Jesus saw beyond the cross—and the death that bound all men and women from the time of the fall of Adam—to the resurrection that would take away the sting of death, that would deprive the grave of the victory it had from the beginning of human existence. Only if He faced this enemy and conquered it, could there truly be a future for those who identified with His message of forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

The apostle Paul came to understand this message of Jesus, expressed in his first letter to the Corinthians. He had moved beyond the Jewish recoil of a Messiah who could or would die (they not knowing the "deep magic" in the words of C. S. Lewis), and the derision of the wisdom of the Gentile philosophers who considered the death on a cross a badge of shame and defeat: "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God . . . but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor 1:18, 23-24).

The Jewish misunderstanding of the Messiah's mission (see Isa 52:13-53:12) and the Gentile bias, however, would be true had it not been for the event that follows Good Friday, namely, the resurrection of Jesus, the Son of David, from the tomb. Yet this resurrection is not of the character of the raising of the nobleman's servant from death, or even the resurrection of His close friend Lazarus from the tomb four days after his death. The resurrection of Jesus is a resurrection for all time, and was of a different character from any other resurrection. His resurrection is a conquering of death. Lazarus died again, but Jesus rose to live forever, and not as a spirit but in the same body in which He died. The nature of the resurrection and of the resurrection body is laid out for us in the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians that Jesus is the "first fruits of them that are asleep. For since by man [Adam] came death, by man [Jesus] came also the resurrection of the dead. For all who are in Adam die, so also all who are in Christ shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ is the first fruits and then those that are of Christ when he comes" (1 Cor 15:20-23) When Jesus rose, and when all believers in Jesus arise at His coming, we will share the same kind of existence we see in the resurrection accounts of the Gospels and the teaching of the apostles Paul and John, "When we comes, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2-3).

In the next blog, I will discuss the nature of the resurrection body of Jesus, and consequently the body of believers at their resurrection when He comes, one that has been unduly distorted in some contemporary theology affected by western existentialism and eastern influence, and even embraced by some contemporary evangelical theologians and preachers.

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