“Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion,” wrote John R. W. Stott. “The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.”
In his commentary on Luke, Colly Caldwell offers this observation regarding Jesus’ resurrection. “This singular event establishing His divinity forms the unique aspect of Christianity which rises about all other world religions.” The remains of all other religious founders remain buried. But the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is empty.
As my preaching colleague and fellow blogger, Roger Shouse wrote, “The resurrection of Christ is God’s exclamation point. It is the defeat of Satan. It is the crown jewel of the entire Bible.”
Indeed, the importance of Jesus’ resurrection cannot be overstated. Not only is it found in Luke’s narrative, but also in the other three canonical writers, as well as Paul’s epistles.
The resurrection is so important that critics of Christianity have sought to discredit and undermine it with all kinds of fanciful theories. One said the apostles stole Jesus’ body. But that makes no sense in view of their lack of understanding and their surprise when it occurred.
Another says Jesus’ enemies stole the body. That makes even less sense. Why would His enemies want to perpetuate a hoax, make Him a hero, and give birth to a movement they disavowed?
Another says Jesus really didn’t die. He simply swooned on the cross. Appeared to be dead. And when he revived, escaped from the tomb and left the country, never to be heard from again. This may be the most ridiculous theory of all. No man could ever endure the merciless beating and the torture of crucifixion, not to mention a spear thrusting his side and survive.
Luke was meticulously careful in his research to provide evidence to Theophilus “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Lk. 1:1-4). From Luke we get a glimpse of resurrection morning, see the mighty messengers and hear the powerful message.
For three days, the official word in Jerusalem about Jesus was “He’s dead.” The soldiers at the cross saw it. The women watching realized it. The dispersed crowd knew it. And Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and prominent council member who came to claim the body for burial observed it personally. “He’s dead.” There was no doubt.
Now the angelic messengers herald this shocking message to the women who came to the tomb, “He is not here, but is risen!”
Luke records that the women were perplexed and afraid as they gazed into the open tomb. As per Matthew’s account, the women followed the angelic instructions, “go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead.”
When the disciples heard the womens’ news, “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” However, Peter ran to the tomb and found it empty, “marveling to himself at what had happened.”
This brief narrative and the subsequent appearance of Jesus to the apostles, and over 500 people at one time, provided the impetus for the apostolic message. “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3).
“Resurrection is what the gospel is all about,” affirmed Dee Bowman on the final evening of the 2012 Florida College Lectures. “It was the theme of the apostles’ preaching–and in fact, should it not be the theme of what is preached today?”
And so what practical significance does Jesus’ resurrection offer to you and me today?
The resurrection of Jesus…
…Is the foundation of our faith and the cornerstone of all Christianity (1Cor. 15).
…Is both the basis and symbol of our salvation when we are buried in baptism and raised to walk in the newness of life (Rom. 6:1-6).
…Provides for us the power to accomplish His purpose, labor for the Lord, and fight our spiritual foes (Eph. 1:18-20; Col. 1:29; Eph. 6:10-11).
…Offers encouragement when we’re discouraged, disheartened, or depressed (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
…Makes meaningful the Lord’s Supper each Sunday as we eat and drink in communion with Him (Matt. 26:26-29).
…Assures us of victory over sin, death, and the devil (1 Cor. 15:57; Heb. 2:14-15).
…Fortifies our hope of life beyond the grave (1 Pet. 1:3).
Because of the resurrection, I can face death’s reality, hold the hand of Jesus, and look the devil square in the eye and say, “You lose.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman