March 29, 2010

They All Lived Happily Ever After

Don’t you love it when a story ends that way? The couple gets married; or the princess is rescued; or the right team makes it to The Final Four … and all is well with the world. ‘They all live happily ever after.’

Sometimes it’s easy to treat the resurrection of Jesus that way, too … merely as a kind of pleasant postscript to the story; but not really part of the main plot. You know … Jesus lived a perfect life of love – always obeying God, always helping people, confounding the religious smugness of the big shots, working miracles, never failing in anything He attempted, and even dying on the cross for our sins. What a story! And, oh yeah, at the end of the book, He rose from the dead. ‘And they all lived happily ever after.’

I think I myself have sometimes been guilty of treating the resurrection that way … as a happy tag-on to the main events that all happened prior to Easter Sunday. But every year, Easter Sunday is a good reminder that the resurrection is not just a happy epilogue to the life story of Jesus. It’s a vital part of the actual story! In fact, without it (the apostle Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15) our faith is vain! Without the resurrection, in other words, the rest of the story would be of no value! For – just to give one example – how would we know that Jesus really was who He said He was if He had stayed in the grave? Or if the resurrection (as will be preached from many pulpits this Easter Sunday) is merely ‘a spirit of hope and new beginnings’ rather than a literal, bodily description of what happened to Jesus?

Do you see? If Christ is not actually alive today, then we are all wasting our time with this Christianity stuff! For, if His bones are decomposing in some cave outside Jerusalem, then he was no greater than any other religious leader that ever came down the pike. Maybe He was an influential teacher (like Gandhi, or Mohammad, or Mother Theresa). But if He is still in the grave, He is clearly no more than that – and certainly not the One who can save us from sin, and answer our prayers, and rule the nations, and return in glory. Not if He never rose from the dead! So the resurrection is not just a nice ending to the story … it’s the climax! It’s the proof that the rest of the story is true!

And let me point out, from Romans 6, another reason why the resurrection is so indispensable as a part of the Jesus story. Because, as Paul says of those who believe in Jesus (v.4), “as Christ was raised from the dead … so too we might walk in newness of life.” In other words, if Jesus rose from the dead, so will His people … and in a couple of different ways.

First, Jesus’ bodily resurrection is called “the first fruits” of our own bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15.20). After He rose from the dead, He ascended, bodily, into heaven. And from heaven He will someday return to resurrect His people from the dead, so that we will ever be with the Lord.

But also, Jesus’ resurrection means that we have new life here and now. We used to live for ourselves. We used to be “slaves to sin” (Romans 6.6). We used to kick against God’s good will for us. But now, because “Christ was raised from the dead” (v.4), we have “newness of life”. We don’t have to keep sinning. Jesus has made us new; reborn; alive from the spiritual dead.

Alas, we sometimes do continue in sin. But, because “Christ was raised from the dead”, we do not have to! If we believe, we have new life in Him. So, if you are a believer in Jesus … “consider yourself to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6.11). And if you are not yet a believer in Jesus … turn to Him now. Trust Him as the one who died for your sin and was raised so that you, too – both in the here and now, and in the there and then – “might walk in newness of life.”

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