Because He Lives

February 14, 2024
Mark Kolchin

The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Without it, “we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:19). Without the truth of a risen Savior, there would be no empty tomb. If there is no empty tomb, there would be no hope for the future. If there is no hope for the future, there would be no joyful anticipation of seeing our friends and loved ones again who have passed from this scene. There would be no triumphant song as we stand over the grave of a fellow believer, singing the words of that great hymn: “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be, when we all see Jesus, we will sing and shout the victory!”

Without the resurrection of Christ, it would not be worth the sacrifice and commitment of following Him. It would be a sad situation indeed if Christ had remained in the grave. Instead, as 1 Corinthians 15:20 declares: “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” He is risen, just as He said. He told His disciples, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). Consequently, we have hope and can sing the encouraging words of the familiar chorus, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” And it is not just tomorrow, but the day after that, and the day after that. We have sure hope because we have a risen Savior!

The Reality of the Resurrection

But despite the clear proclamation of God’s infallible Word and the hope that it provides, the truth of the resurrection continues to be attacked by the enemies of the cross. Though convinced that they will succeed, their futile arguments to discredit the resurrection are like throwing pebbles at the rock of Gibraltar. It would be laughable if it were not so pitiful.

When Paul was preaching in Athens (Acts 17), he was mocked when he spoke on the resurrection to the crowd at Mars Hill. But that did not dissuade him. He knew by personal experience the life-changing effect it can have when someone genuinely encounters the living Christ. He was a prime example of that. He went from being an ardent persecutor of the church to an avid defender of the faith (Gal. 1). He was proof positive of the great things that God can do in someone’s life when they believe in the truth of the resurrection. This is why Paul was so determined to preach about the empty tomb. By the time he left Athens, some had already trusted the Lord through his preaching (Acts 17:34).

The Reason for the Resurrection

Why is the resurrection of Christ so important? First, it validates the claim that Christ conquered sin, death, and the grave. This is what makes the Christian faith so unique. The founders of the world’s religions make no such claim and are still in their tombs. By contrast, Romans 1:4 states that Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” He was the Son of David in His humanity (v. 3), and the Son of God in His deity. He was God manifest in the flesh. As such, He can identify with fallen humanity and sympathize with us in our infirmities and yet remain sinless. Some even say that He did not actually die on the cross but that He was unconscious when taken down but that He revived afterwards. However, this would have been impossible given the sufferings He endured as detailed in the gospel accounts and prophetically revealed in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. He plainly said, “I AM He who lives and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Rev. 1:18).

Make no mistake about it – the Lord physically died at a place called Calvary and He rose from the dead three days later. It was foreshadowed by Jonah’s experience of being three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. It was portrayed by Isaac when he figuratively laid down his life on the altar in submission to his father Abram and then figuratively received it back again (Gen. 22; Heb. 11:17-19). It was the conclusion of a seven-step journey downward that started in glory and ended at the grave following His death on the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). But that death was followed by His resurrection and will culminate with a seven-step exaltation when every knee will bow to Him (vv. 9-11).

Secondly, the Lord’s resurrection makes way for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Because Christ rose from the grave, He could then ascend to the Father. He said: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7). It was necessary for Him to rise from the grave and go to the Father so that He could send the Holy Spirit, another Comforter, to help and strengthen His people.

Before that happened, the Lord appeared ten times to His disciples in post-resurrection ministry to exhort, encourage, comfort, and restore them in their walk with Him. It took place at various times and in various places – in a garden, on a mountain, at the sea, on the road, in a room. It was to deal with a variety of issues like doubt, worry, fear, conflict, and confusion (Luke 24; John 20-21).
These are reminders to us that no matter what issues we are going through, and no matter where we are at the time, we have a Man in the glory interceding on our behalf, and we are aided by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When Paul felt forsaken by his friends, and was all alone in prison, the apostle affirmed “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Tim. 4:17). All of this underscores the resurrection ministry of the Lord. Not only are we saved by His life (His resurrected life – Rom. 5:10), but we are also strengthened by His life, the ministry of the risen Savior to help us in our need.

The Result of the Resurrection

Living in the light of the resurrection can make a radical difference in the life of the Christian. It did with Peter, who was dramatically affected when the Lord restored Him in John 21. It made a difference to Thomas who declared, “My Lord and my God!” when he touched His wounds. There was never again a “doubting Thomas.” It changed the disciples on the road to Emmaus who made a “u” turn and went right back to Jerusalem with an exciting story to tell of a risen Lord. It is what Christians should be doing all the time – living in the light of His resurrection and setting their affections on things above (Col. 3:1-2). We have been “buried with Him” in His death and raised with Him in the likeness of His resurrection to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). Like Aaron’s rod that budded, we are like the dead branch that came back to life, budded, blossomed, and bore fruit – a wonderful picture of Christ in His resurrection, and a picture of fruit-bearing Christians who walk in the likeness of their Savior.

The Christian faith hinges on the truth of the resurrection of Christ. When understood and lived out, it can have a powerful effect in the life of every Christian. May it be so for His glory.