In my early memories, the resurrection’s role in the Gospel message sounds something like this: Jesus died a painful and horrible death to pay the penalty for your sins. But don’t worry, don’t be sad, he didn’t stay dead, he came back to life!
It’s hard to tell now if this was just the filter of my young ears or the Gospel poorly presented. But it is safe to say that if the purpose of the resurrection for us is to make us feel better about Christ’s death, or offer us the therapeutic comfort of a happy ending, our view of the resurrection is insufficient.
For as long as I can remember I’ve heard the Gospel proclamation of Christ died, Christ risen, Christ coming again. But it wasn’t until I was in seminary that I had to stop and ask the question “Why the resurrection?” Why does the resurrection matter? What did it accomplish for us? Why is it an essential part of the Gospel?
In large part, this is what I’ve been exploring over these last several weeks. But in this last post in this series, I want to give us one more thing to think about.
We read in Romans 4:25 that Jesus was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” I’ll let Wayne Grudem translate that for us:
“Jesus’ resurrection insures our right standing before God…When God raised Jesus from the dead, he was affirming Jesus’ work on our behalf. He was demonstrating his approval of Jesus’ work of suffering and dying for our sins. He was affirming that Jesus’ work on our behalf was complete; the penalty for sin was paid…”
- Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know
According to the Jewish tradition, anyone hung on a tree what under God’s curse. In the Roman world, crucifixion was the worst and most demeaning punishment, so demeaning, in fact, that it was not permitted as a form of execution for a Roman citizen. In both of these worldviews, Jesus’ death “proved” he was a criminal, one forsaken, one under a curse.
Jesus’ resurrection was proof that he was not under God’s curse. It proved he was who he said he was—the divine promised Messiah. It proved his death accomplished the forgiveness of sins. It proved his authority to release us from sin’s bondage. The resurrection proved his sacrifice was sufficient, that the Cross was a victory, not a defeat.
This is why Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 15:14,17, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
But thanks be to God, Christ has been raised. He has been raised and now sits at the right hand of God, in authority as the risen Lord. His life proves the validity of his death and of our redemption. It is the flesh and blood proof of the salvation won for us.