Wednesdays Word - The Resurrection
The resurrection of Jesus is surely the most astounding event in the history of the world. A man who died and was buried smashed through death to the other side. He walked out of the tomb with a completely new kind of life that is perfect, powerful, and never-ending.
It is awesome, but I wonder if sometimes we don’t really get it. When we come to Easter, we might be celebrating and singing along, but it’s almost as if we’re just glad for Jesus. ‘Good for you, Lord! Big win in the face of unbeatable odds; sucks to be the devil! Let’s party!’ So we’re happy, but we’ve not really appreciated what Jesus’ resurrection means for us now.
In 1 Corinthians 15:17, Paul writes ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.’ In fact, in v19, Paul is even stronger: ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.’ Without the resurrection of Jesus, Christianity is pointless, we are still stuck in sin, and any hope we might squeeze out of Jesus is limited to this life right now, and once we’re dead, that’s it. Being a Christian looks pretty pathetic in that light.
The next verse begins with a beautiful big ‘but.’ ‘BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead’! The Lord is alive again! And so (big implication): there really is hope for us Christians beyond this life alone. There is something about the resurrection of Jesus that secures for us our own eternal life: a life for you and me that is perfect, powerful, and never-ending.
So how does Jesus getting resurrection life mean that you will too? How does it work? 1 Corinthians 15:20 says that Jesus is ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.’ (‘Fallen asleep’ is a gentle way of saying ‘died’.) ‘Firstfruits’ is a reference to the annual harvest of food. Farmers eagerly look out over their fields in the early autumn to see if their hard work over the year has paid off. They are looking for the literal first fruits: the initial batch of their crop which promises the rest is soon on its way. Paul is saying that Jesus is the firstfruits emerging from death itself. He is the first human being ever to come into resurrection life, and his resurrection is the promise that there’s a whole crop of us yet to follow in his slipstream. ‘In Christ, all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him’ (v22–23).
This little phrase ‘in Christ’ is really important. It’s similar to the idea of ‘belonging to him’ at the end of v23. But the best way to think of it is to stick with the agricultural picture. Imagine that Jesus is a fruit – say, a pomegranate – and those who belong to him are actually ‘in him’, like seeds inside the pomegranate. That means whatever happens to the pomegranate happens to all the seeds inside it. If you took the fruit to the USA, that’s where those seeds would grow (or be eaten!).
What Paul’s telling us is that Christians are united to Jesus, or are ‘in him’, so that whatever happens to him will happen to us. Jesus has come to sinful, lost, and dying human beings and bundled us up to himself. When he died on the cross, we were seeds in him that went with him into death. When he rose again on the third day, we were seeds in him that emerge into resurrection life. We are united to him in his death and his resurrection.
That is the guarantee that because Jesus has burst through death to resurrection life, you will too. As sure as those pomegranate seeds end up in the USA, Christians can look forward to life beyond death.
Just like Jesus
Remember the third day of the creation in Genesis 1? On that day, God made all the plants and vegetation. ‘The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.’ (Genesis 1:12) That first ever ‘third day’ is worth remembering when we think about the ‘third day’ after Jesus’ death. , Back in Genesis, all those first plants contained within themselves their seeds – the means to produce more life just like themselves. In 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus is a ‘firstfruit’ who carries seed in him too, so that he can produce life just like his own. Jesus even spoke about himself as being like a seed. He said, ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds’ (John 12:24).
This is why Jesus’ resurrection makes a difference for you today. It is the promise that yours is coming too! The Christian life and eternal life is nothing less than sharing in Jesus’ own resurrection. It’s life after his kind. This means you can say with Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).
Jesus didn’t just die for you in an abstract way or rise again for you in an abstract way. He did those things with you ‘in him’, united to him, and carried close to his heart. Like a rugby player diving over the try line with the ball, there was no way he’d let you go as he scored the winning points. His resurrection was more than a fancy way to come back to life. It was him bringing you with him through battle with the biggest, baddest, darkest enemy you could ever face. He smashed death forever, and we share in his victory now.
If you’ve ever feared death (and perhaps right now you do more than ever), this is brilliant news. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re really safe for eternity, this is sweet comfort. If you’ve ever had a nagging concern that your salvation depends on you or your performance at being a ‘good Christian’, this will take the weight off. Jesus’ resurrection says you are safe, you are held, you are united to the Son of God, and you have his life coursing through you today.
One with himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased with his blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Saviour and my God
1. How might you have explained the importance of Jesus’ resurrection before today?
2. What do you make of this idea of ‘union with Christ’? Have you heard it before?
3. What difference does it make to you that Jesus’ resurrection is the promise of yours?
4. Think of your fears and concerns. How does guaranteed eternal life help you face them