(Given on Easter Sunday)
He Is Risen! Today, all over the world, people are celebrating Christ’s resurrection from the grave. They are rejoicing because Jesus is alive. He lives forever. Even in places like Pakistan where radical Islam is on the rise, I find it interesting that a large segment of society acknowledges Easter.
But this raises a question. How do we know that Jesus rose from the grave? There are a lot of reasons to believe that Jesus rose. I’ll just briefly mention two proofs of the resurrection which the Apostle Paul gives in 1st Corinthians, chapter 15. He writes in verse 4 that the resurrection was “according to the scriptures.” What he means is that the resurrection is a fulfillment of prophecy. In the Old Testament there are promises that a Savior would come, He would suffer and die, and He would rise again. If the Bible really is God’s word, as it claims to be, then the resurrection had to take place because God does not lie.
The second proof of the resurrection Paul mentions is that of eyewitness testimony. Too many people saw Jesus after He rose for it to have been some sort of mistaken identity or a hoax. The Apostle John put it this way, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1 NIV)
It is not my place to judge, but I find these and the other proofs of the resurrection so persuasive that I find myself questioning the honesty of those who question whether it happened. To my mind the real question is not whether the resurrection took place, but what the meaning of it is.
In short, the importance of the resurrection is that Christ broke the power of death. Since Jesus rose, it gives us the assurance that death is not the end. There is life beyond the grave.
However, this morning I want to point out something obvious, but something we don’t give a whole lot of thought to: In order for there to be a resurrection, there first has to be a death. Jesus could not have risen from the dead without dying. Yes, we are here to celebrate the resurrection but our celebration implies that Jesus died. In fact, it is His death which Jesus asked us to remember. Why? Because it is Jesus’ death which paid our debt. It is His sacrifice which ushered in the New Covenant through which our relationship to God can be restored. It is by His suffering that we are healed.
There is another corollary to Christ rising from the dead. If we want to rise, we also must die. In Romans 6, starting in verse 4 Paul writes, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:4-13 NIV)
In this passage Paul makes it very plain that our rising to live a new life is conditional upon our dying. If we haven’t died with Christ, we won’t live with Him either. If we want a new life in Christ, we have to die to the old one. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t have the new life Jesus offers us while still holding on to the sins which put Jesus on the cross. No, we must die to those things, we must crucify self, if we are going to rise with Christ. We will never be free from sins while we still hold on to them.
Jesus asked us to remember His death by eating bread which represents His body which He sacrificed for us. He asked us to drink of the cup which represents His blood which cleanses us from sin. Today as we eat and drink let’s ask ourselves the question, “Have I died with Christ, so that I might live with Him.? Have I died to sin so that I can be freed from it?”