This morning, the Easter series at church continued, this time with the theme “imagine a world where death wins”. In some ways we all live in a world where death at least appears to win the mortal battle. As they say, the only certain things in life are death and taxes! Though, for those of us who believe we know that death has not won the war and we delight in the fact that it has lost its sting and will therefore not have a lasting impact on us for eternity. The reason it has lost its power is because of the glorious resurrection of Jesus, who nailed our sin to the cross, fulfilled the death penalty on our behalf and then conquered death itself by rising again. In the words that follow I hope to unpack just a few thoughts about the significance of Resurrection Sunday.
The purpose of the resurrection is somewhat different to the purpose of Christ’s death, though the two are inherently linked, of course. On Friday I wrote about Jesus’ death making sinners right with God, satisfying the requirement of divine justice and paying the price for the sin-debt that we could never perfectly repay. Romans 4:25 says:
[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. – Romans 4:25 (ESV)
What does this mean? Was it His death or His resurrection that justifies us before God? Matthew Henry puts it this way:
Christ did meritoriously work our justification and salvation by his death and passion, but the power and perfection thereof, with respect to us, depend on his resurrection. By his death he paid our debt, in his resurrection he received our acquittance, (see Isaiah 53:8). When he was discharged, we, in Him and together with Him, received the discharge from the guilt and punishment of all our sins.
By His death, Christ paid the price for our sin, and in his resurrected life He showed His power over sin and death to be perfect by defeating the consequence of death itself. During His life Jesus had claimed that he would rise again (see John 2:18-20) and in doing so He showed himself to be true and his promises to be sure. He showed His word to be trustworthy and His power to be greater than sin, death, the Roman empire and the devil himself. As if this wasn’t enough, the resurrection also points us to another great truth as outlined in the book ‘Life by His Death’ – a summary of John Owen’s treatise on the atonement (The Death of Death in the Death of Christ):
…in the actual work of salvation there are two actions that Christ has done… These two historical acts of Christ are:
- His offering of himself in the past, and
His intercession for us now,,,and in Christ’s intercession for us, I include also his resurrection and ascension, for these are the basis of his intercession. Without them, no intercession would be possible.
Owen, J,, 1992. Life by His Death, p.10-11, Grace Publications Trust, London England.
In other words, He was our representative in His death and is our advocate in His resurrection life:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:1-2 (ESV)
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. – Hebrews 7:23-25 (ESV)
This is amazing news! Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, the spotless sacrificial lamb, the perfect Prophet, Priest and true King prays for us! He prays that we will be kept from the evil one, that our sanctification (process of becoming more like Christ) will continue and that will will one day be taken to be with Jesus in the new heavens and the new earth. As you reflect on Jesus’ death-conquering, identity-proving resurrection, take a few moments to read the words of the prayer that He prays to the Father in John 17. It is my hope that you will find joy in the fact that the true Saviour, Lord and King is so full of love for His people that He not only died to save them from sin, but also lives, having broken the power of death itself – and prays for us, that our salvation will be sure and will continue until His return when the dead are raised and those who believe enjoy eternal life with God.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17 (ESV)
In closing, I point you to the words of one of the verses of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty that speaks of the wonder of the central, soul-satisfying truth of the resurrection and the victory that is found ‘in Christ alone’:
There in the ground His body lay, light of the world by darkness slain:
then bursting forth in glorious day, up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
for I am His and He is mine – bought with the precious blood of Christ.– By Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, 2001 Thankyou Music