Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
These words echo around the world on Easter Sunday. The name "Sunday" obscures the point, but it's clearer in some languages—Russians call Sunday "voskresen'e," simply meaning "resurrection." Every Sunday there is a resurrection celebration.
These words, "He is risen indeed," show why the story we tell is good news. Without Christ's resurrection, the story of His life ends in despair, with a failed leader and disillusioned followers. But the conviction of the church, indeed its whole basis for existence, is that Christ has been raised and that God's good purposes for His entire created order are thereby guaranteed.
God will fulfill His promises.
Christ's resurrection, along with the outpouring of the Spirit, are both the sign and pledge that the future is unfolding according to God's good purposes.
The resurrection of Jesus marks the beginning of the age to come. But because Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, it also draws the story of Israel forward into its realm and makes sense of it.
Briefly, the story is this. God called Abraham to be a blessing to all the nations. He chose Abraham's descendants to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. They were to represent God to the world—a light to the nations. They were to proclaim the holy name of the One who would bring the nations from darkness to light.
But Israel as a whole lost its way. Some remained faithful to this calling, but most didn't. As a result, they were exiled. Still, the prophets proclaimed God's faithfulness.
God would rescue Israel: dry bones would rise, the scattered people would be gathered, and the nations would come to His light. Hearts of stone would be turned to hearts of flesh and God's Spirit would be put within them. All of this would be in the future, the glorious age to come.
The conviction of all New Testament writers is that these promises, these hopes and dreams, find their fulfillment in Jesus. What the prophets expected God to do in the future has already been inaugurated in Jesus' resurrection. God has vindicated Jesus by raising Him from the dead, has honored His promises, and has continued to draw the whole created order into His future.
Paul is the most explicit about this. Jesus' resurrection, says Paul, is the first fruit of God's good purposes for the future already being fulfilled. Through Jesus' life of perfect obedience, and through His death and resurrection, human alienation is addressed and the power of sin and death are broken. Those who participate in Christ's crucifixion are dead to the old pattern of living in Adam and are now participants in the new way of living in Christ.
But is this more than a creedal statement? I think so! The consequences of Jesus' resurrection are all-pervasive and shape both the future hope and the present life of God's people.
First, the "sure and certain hope" of our resurrection is a source of comfort and solace in the face of death. Christians mourn the loss of loved ones, and grieve with all of humanity while maintaining the deep-seated conviction that death must not have the last word. And that is just what the resurrection of Jesus confirms—death is not the end.
No matter how bleak the current circumstances, evil and death do not have the final say.
This is good news when we are overwhelmed with grief, but it is also good news for our bleeding world and broken societies.
Second, we are to live in the power of the resurrection life now. Paul calls it walking in newness of life. We are invited to participate in Christ's death and resurrection now. We are to die to our old destructive way of living in solidarity with Adam—Paul speaks of being crucified with Christ—and to live in the new creation union of participating in the life of the crucified and risen Christ.
As a result of this, God's holy people now pattern their personal and community lives as inhabitants of the age to come. Love, forgiveness, justice, and peace are the hallmarks of our lives together, rather than the destructive patterns and structures of this present, quickly-passing age.
Third, because Jesus has been raised bodily, we know that God cares about the body. When Paul warns his Corinthian converts about inappropriate sexual behavior, he does so on the grounds that the body is important. Because God raised the Lord and will also raise us by His power, our bodies matter.
Paul's specific concern in Corinth is with sexual ethics, but the implications are far wider. We are people who refuse to separate care for the physical and social needs of people from their spiritual needs because God raised Jesus' body. And the bodily resurrection of Jesus signals God's redemptive concern for all creation.
Even now the new era has dawned. Our lives are being transformed into the likeness of the crucified and resurrected One. And our eyes need to be wide open to the signs of new life around us. We celebrate these signs, these resurrection stories.
So, we are resurrection people—dying and rising with Christ through being in Christ, the crucified and risen One. This defines our current lives and gives them meaning and purpose. As Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
On this basis we know that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ—not even death. That confidence is based on the resurrection of Jesus.
Kent Brower is vice principal and senior research fellow in biblical studies at Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, England.
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2010
Please note: This article was originally published in 2010. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.