It would be a sad day, should it ever come, when the resurrection of Jesus is passed over for other topics in the Christian life. Yet the temptation is familiar. It is all too easy to assume familiar truths like “Christ died for our sins” and “was raised on the third day” — as if these teachings were not “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4).
But if Jesus were only crucified and buried, then we would have no salvation from sin, no good news to speak about, and no sure hope for the future. The disciples would have quietly returned to their fishing boats and tax booths. Jesus of Nazareth would be just another inspiring teacher and controversial leader whose followers scattered after his death (Acts 5:36–37). But because Christ walked out of Joseph’s tomb on the third day and “presented himself alive” to his disciples (Acts 1:3), everything is different.
When Christ was captured, condemned, and crucified, his followers fled. The normally outspoken Peter even denied his Savior to strangers. How did these fearful, unfaithful followers turn the world upside down with their bold preaching? What moved these doubting, disputing, denying, disappearing disciples to declare good news to anyone who would listen? Their 180-degree transformation happened when they saw and spoke to the living Lord Jesus.
The resurrection confirms that Jesus is in fact the long-awaited Savior and King who now lives to intercede for his people (Hebrews 7:25). It offers a preview and guarantee of our resurrection on the last day. It also gives us death-defying joy and means that we need not dread the diseases, disasters, and disappointments of this life.
Confirming Who Christ Is
Jesus’s opponents claimed that he was a rebel against the authority of God and Caesar, since he “made himself the Son of God” and also claimed to be a king (John 19:7, 12). The notice nailed to the cross — “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19) — openly mocked Christ’s kingship and sent a bloody public statement that Jesus was an imposter and a fraud.
The Romans sealed his tomb and secured it with armed guards (Matthew 27:65–66), yet no stone or soldiers could keep the Lord of life lying in the grave. No one broke into Joseph’s tomb that Sunday morning; the living Lord himself broke out. As Peter proclaimed on Pentecost, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).
The resurrection reversed the judgment that Jesus was a blasphemous rebel deserving a criminal’s punishment. And it proved that Jesus was no messianic pretender with delusions of divinity. No, he really was — and is — the promised Messiah, the true Son of God, the Lord of life, who came to save his people from their sins and overcame the grave (Romans 1:4). The apostles preached with clarity and conviction because Christ is everything he claimed to be. His indestructible life gives us courage to face even the darkest days.
Guaranteeing a Great Future
The prophets spoke of a day when God would make dry bones live, raise his people from their graves, swallow up death forever, wipe away their tears, and remove their reproach (Isaiah 25:8; Ezekiel 37:11–14; Daniel 12:2). Jesus’s empty tomb offered a preview of coming attractions. Paul explains that Jesus was “the first to rise from the dead,” but he will not be the last (Acts 26:23).
The apostle calls Christ “the firstfruits” from the grave and “the firstborn from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:23; Colossians 1:18). Firstfruits is a farming term for the initial yield that anticipates the full harvest. And as “firstborn,” Jesus is the preeminent King who reigns forever and the first of “many sons” to enter resurrection glory after suffering (Hebrews 2:10–13). Because Christ emerged alive from the grave, he guarantees the same future for his friends. We still weep when loved ones die and our hearts break, but we are not undone by death because we have a living hope. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
The resurrection is the great hinge of history. As Jesus broke out of Joseph’s tomb, the future age of life, restoration, and joy broke into this age of death, brokenness, and sadness. The Lord’s resurrection did not abolish death, sadness, and pain altogether, but it signals that these “former things” have an expiration date and that God is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:4–5).
Freeing from the Fear of Death
Death is the original sentence for disobeying the divine word: “You shall surely die. . . . You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 2:17; 3:19). It has haunted human beings for thousands of years, and the world’s leading hospitals and medical providers have found no cure for what Paul calls “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Yet the Lord Jesus through death has saved his people from death’s oppressive terror and secured ultimate victory over death.
Christ’s life-after-death dealt the fatal blow to death itself and enables us to live without fear. Jesus died to destroy the devil’s power and “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14–15).
On resurrection Sunday, the living Lord found his dismayed disciples hiding from the Jews and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). He didn’t simply give them security from their foes, but comforted their troubled hearts by showing up in-the-flesh. These disciples who witnessed their Lord’s bloody execution on a Friday beheld him alive on a Sunday. They saw the risen Christ himself, touched his scarred hands, feet, and side, ate fish with him, and heard him teach. Christ broke out of the tomb, and then broke the bolts of fear. The risen Lord has freed his friends to fearlessly speak genuinely good news.
Our Unbreakable Hope
The apostles did not cling to vague hopes of “a better place.” They did not travel the globe preaching about a life well-lived. They did not just feel forgiven or learn to cope with their social anxiety. Their hearts burned and they spoke boldly about glorious good news because their Lord was alive. They confidently endured slander, beatings, threats, and chains “because of the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20), knowing that our living Lord embodies and ensures that indestructible hope.
The resurrection proves that Christ is the longed-for Redeemer and Ruler of God’s people who lives and loves us with an undying love. His resurrection previews our future life on the last day and secures God’s promises. Because our Lord lives, we know that death is not an undefeatable enemy, and we can have unbreakable hope and death-defying joy now even as we pray, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).