Pastor John, this weekend we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday. In a nutshell, what is the significance of Easter?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came into the world from the Father, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, did wonderful miracles, loved people, blew all of our categories, but nevertheless, he was crucified for our sins, and then on the third day — this is Easter, the celebration of that Sunday — he was raised from the dead never to die again.
And Luke tells us, having done all of his historical research, that for forty days, Jesus gave many infallible proofs, and Paul himself, who was a kind of Johnny-come-lately to the apostles, said that five hundred people had seen him alive, and some of those are still alive, if you want to go talk to them (1 Corinthians 15:6). That is the kind of historical control they had.
He was raised physically. They recognized him. They could put their hands in his wounds. He ate fish in front of them precisely to say a spirit, a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see that I have (Luke 24:39). And yet it was more than physical, because he seemed to go and come at will. Locked doors didn’t get in his way. There is this unusual new dimension to his body.
He ascended to the right hand of the Father. He sits on the throne with God. He intercedes for us there, praying for his people every day. He is reigning until he puts all his enemies under his feet. The end of Matthew says he has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He will never die again. He has the keys of death and hell in his hands.
Why Does Easter Matter?
So for starters, that is what happened. And the question then is: What is the implication for us of the stunning claims and reality of Easter?
"The resurrection vindicates Good Friday, Jesus’ death. His death really did cover the sins of his people."
And I would say: One, it means my sins are forgiven, because Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that if Christ was not raised, we are still in our sins. This implies that if he is raised, our sin problem is over. And that is because the resurrection vindicates the event of Good Friday, namely his death. His death really did cover the sins of his people. It really did provide a perfect righteousness for us.
As it says in Romans 4:25, he “was delivered up,” — that is, to the cross — “for of our trespasses and raised for our justification,” meaning that just as our sin brought him to the cross, the finished work of taking care of our sins brought him out of the grave. God looked down and said, “Oh, my Son’s work was perfect. He is not staying in the grave.” And he raises him from the dead to vindicate all that he had accomplished for us.
So, practically speaking, one thing you could say of Easter is that every day, the promises of God to me to help me every minute of my life are secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because the resurrection vindicates the cross when those promises were bought for me.
And then, because of Easter, Philippians 3:20–21 says that Jesus is going to give me a body like his resurrected body. When I die, and I am raised from the dead, Christ will give me a body like his glorious body. So Jesus’ risen body is a forerunner, it is the first fruit, it is a kind of paradigm of the way all of his people are going to have new bodies.
"Paul put all of his eggs in the basket of resurrection. If that didn’t happen, then Christianity is just a sham."
And then, as if that were not great enough, Romans 8:21 says that “when the freedom of the glory of the children of God” comes to pass and they are raised from the dead and given glorified bodies, the whole creation gets made over as a suitable galactic playground for those of us who have been given bodies that will never sin again, will never get sick again, all tears wiped away.
The implications of Easter are simply staggering. They are personally precious for every day’s life of struggle, and they are globally, even galactically precious because the resurrection guarantees that this whole created order is going to be made new.
The Galactic Hinge of the Resurrection
So everything hinges on the reality of the resurrection.
That is exactly the reasoning of 1 Corinthians 15:17 and following. If Christ has not been raised, our gospel is in vain, your faith is in vain, we are found to be preaching a false gospel. We might as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Paul put all of his eggs in that basket. If that didn’t happen, physically, bodily, permanently, then Christianity is just a sham. We may as well pack it up and just be gluttons the rest of our lives.