Easter is coming up, and I have been invited by Slipstream, which is the Evangelical Alliance’s leadership resource, to post about the resurrection of Jesus, and what it means to me. This is supposed to be part of a synchro blog, whatever that means. I admit that I have not listened to the Gary Habermas and Tim Keller podcast to which the synchro blog is linked, although I have read the tasters. So these are just my own thoughts. Anyway, here goes…
My first point about the resurrection is that it validates Jesus’ ministry. It is this that proves decisively that he was not just a good teacher, or a crazy one, but the one sent by God, indeed more than just a man.
Yes, the miracles Jesus performed also validated his ministry, but it is hard to prove that these are genuine especially after two thousand years. However, there is one miracle which cannot be doubted: that a man officially executed and formally declared dead by the Roman authorities, and buried by Jewish leaders, rose again and was seen alive by hundreds of witnesses. Even in modern times sceptical lawyers who have examined the evidence have been forced to conclude that there is no other explanation for the records, that Jesus must have truly risen from the dead. And if this can be accepted, then there should be no problem with all the other miracles.
From this evidence we are also forced to believe that Jesus really was sent by God, not just as a teacher of truth but also, according to the content of his teaching, as the one who would save us from our sins and bring us to eternal life.
Jesus’ resurrection was far more than a validation of his ministry. It was also the culmination of his work of bringing salvation to humankind.
God sent his Son into the world to defeat the powers of evil which had taken over so much of it, which had brought men and women down to the depths of sin and despair. God’s purpose, which is still being worked out, is to bring the world fully into his own Kingdom, where evil and sin would no longer have a place. He sent Jesus to fight and win the decisive battle to achieve this purpose.
Throughout Jesus’ time on earth he was attacked by evil, in demonic and human form. Eventually the devil thought that he won the victory, by having Jesus put to death on a cross. But he had no idea what was really happening on that cross, that Jesus’ death as a sacrifice for sins was, in a way which is beyond human as well as demonic full comprehension, a key tactic in the final defeat of evil. Three days later the powers of evil were taken completely by surprise when Jesus rose from the dead, and it became clear that they had been completely defeated. The resurrection of Jesus is both the final act and the public demonstration of his complete victory over death, sin and all forms of evil.
It was hard to find a third “V” to summarise this third aspect of what the resurrection of Jesus means to me, not just as a past act but also as a living reality today. But certainly one aspect of it is that he gives me vision for what to do with my life.
After Jesus rose from the dead, he didn’t die again, as Lazarus presumably did. His resurrection was not just the resuscitation of a corpse. His resurrection body was taken up into heaven and so is no longer visible to us today. But he is still alive, as we celebrate every Easter. And this means that I can and do have an ongoing daily relationship with him.
In that relationship I mustn’t forget that Jesus is not just an ordinary man, not even as he was when he walked in Galilee. He is still filled with the power of his resurrection life. And, amazingly, those of us who are “in Christ”, who are Christians with that same relationship with Jesus, are also, through the Holy Spirit, filled with this resurrection life and power. In the words of a recent worship song from Hillsong (the link is to an MP3 of just one chorus):
The same power that conquered the grave
Lives in me, lives in me.
Your love that rescued the earth
Lives in me, lives in me.
Because Jesus is alive and working, demonstrating his love, in and through me, I can do even greater works than he did when he was on earth. And the same is true for you, if you truly believe in Jesus. We can do more spectacular miracles than he did, healing and even raising the dead – as long as this is not just as a public spectacle but to show God’s love and bring him glory. But probably more importantly we can continue and bring to completion the work of Jesus in reconciling the world to God.
Yes, Jesus in rising from the dead won the great victory which made this reconciliation possible. But we still see a world far from God as people allow themselves to be dominated by evil. The kingdom of God is here, but it is not yet here in its fullness. Jesus as one man on earth could only reach and bring his personal touch to a few people. But now he has a community spread throughout every nation, and he calls every one of this community, that includes you and me, to bring that touch of love in one way or another to needy people, those far from God, all around the world. This is the purpose which God has for us, his people, and the vision which he sets before us.
Of course, in our own strength we can do little to solve the great problems of the world. But as we are filled with Jesus’ resurrection power there is no limit to what we can achieve, to bring about God’s great purpose of bringing the world fully into his Kingdom.
I didn’t really mean to write a sermon, and I won’t be preaching this as one, at least this Easter. But if anyone reading this still needs an Easter sermon and wants to use this material, you are welcome – but I would prefer if you let me know.