Someone once remarked that the whole of Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Either it was a fabrication or a fable, or the greatest event that ever happened in the history of mankind.
Many people have had the good fortune to be resuscitated, and in the Bible we can read about several people who were brought back from the dead to live longer on the earth through the power of God and the faith of Jesus, the apostles, or the prophets of the Old Testament.
But, something very special happened when Jesus died. There was a great earthquake, graves broke open and Old Testament saints appeared to many, and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. Such was the power that was released when Jesus overcame sin and death itself.
An extraordinary event
To begin with, Jesus died beyond all dispute, on the testimony of several witnesses. The chief priests even placed a guard over the tomb to make sure His followers didn’t remove His body from the grave.
But on Easter morning, when several of Jesus’ followers came to the tomb, the stone had been rolled back – and there was no body. There had been a great earthquake; an angel had come to roll back the stone. The guards had fled in fear, and when they reported to the chief priests what had happened they were given a large sum of money and told to say that the disciples had stolen the body.
Then Jesus showed Himself to His disciples – alive, risen from the dead! He invited them to touch Him, examine the wounds in His hands and feet, and He ate together with them to prove He wasn’t a ghost, but had a body that wasn’t dead. (Matthew 27-28)
A physician called Luke later questioned all the witnesses, brothers and sisters, and as far as he was concerned, Jesus had presented Himself alive from the dead by many unmistakable proofs over the course of 40 days, after which the disciples saw Him ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives. (Luke 23-24, Acts 1:1-11)
The true message of Easter
Many Christians believe the essential message of Easter is that Jesus died in our place, so that we could be forgiven for all our sins. But, this forgiveness was also available in the Old Covenant, through the sacrifice of an animal without blemish in the place of the sinner. No, Easter means something much more than just forgiveness. It means that we too can come to the same “resurrection life” that Jesus lived. This is the new life that comes from putting to death my old life, which is the sin that dwells in my human nature. (1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 4:7-12)
The root of all sin is that human beings choose to do their own will instead of obeying God’s perfect will, with the inevitable consequence of death. The fact that Jesus overcame death itself was because He always denied His own will to do His Father’s will, in a body like ours with the same desires and passions to live for our own pleasure and gain. With the power of God’s Spirit He suffered these passions and desires to death and lived completely for God’s pleasure – without once committing sin, despite being tempted in every way like us. (Hebrews 4:15) This was the way of the cross that He made for us to follow.
To believe fully in Jesus Christ and His resurrection is to believe in the work that took place in His body here on earth, when He destroyed in His mortal body everything that was in conflict with God’s will and His Word. He was obedient unto death, every day of His life, and completed the work on Calvary when He cried, “It is finished!” At that moment, all of the indwelling sin in His human nature had been defeated and the way back to the Father was opened up for mankind.
A resurrection life
A great many people have found peace knowing that their sins have been forgiven before they died. Others have been willing to be persecuted and martyred for their faith in Jesus. But, only a few have been willing to give up everything to become true disciples of Jesus and take up their cross daily to live a “resurrection life,” an overcoming life.
How is this possible if Christ hasn’t risen from the dead to be a living Savior who can help us to suffer sin to death as He did? He invites all who want to live a good life to come to Him. And those who have done that have not been disappointed. They can testify to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is not dead. He is arisen!
Jesus died as a perfect lamb without blemish, so that all who recognize their need for forgiveness, and help to live without sinning, can find the way, the truth and the life in Him.
The story of Easter is no fairy tale or religious device. It is a demonstration of the love and power of God and His Son for people who are suffering because of sin. God yearns to give each one of us true happiness and peace, but the sin that we have inherited in our human nature robs us of this. Do you have a longing to be set free from the slavery of sin, and come to the peace God wants to give you? Jesus has made it possible through the way of the cross, overcoming the power of death by conquering the sin that caused it. Become a true disciple, and follow Him on this way by bringing the sin in your own life into death in obedience to God’s Word! Then you too will experience a life of resurrection!