The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are more than inspiring stories. They recount a historical event of life-altering magnitude. Jesus died and came back to life. The resurrection proves Jesus was sinless, for if he had sinned, death would have the right to hold him. It proves he is divine, for who but the creator of life has power over death? Truly human and truly divine, Christ is able to take on and die for the sins of humankind and to give sinners his righteousness in exchange for their unrighteousness. Because of who Christ is, the resurrection is an event, unlike any other in history, which has the power to fundamentally change us because it gives a new identity, purpose, and hope.
The Resurrection Gives You a New Identity
Chances are that you’ve been asked you if you are “born again,” but it’s probably unlikely that anyone has asked, “Are you resurrected?” This second question might seem kind of odd to ask someone, yet the Bible uses both the metaphor of rebirth and Christ’s resurrection as ways to describe the start of the Christian life.
Before we come to know Christ, the Bible describes us as spiritual corpses (Ephesians 2:1-2). The Bible does not diagnose humanity with a spiritual sickness; it pronounces us dead. We are totally cut off from relationship with God. The reason for our separation from God is not merely because of what we have done in sinning but because of who we are. Paul writes that we are “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). It is our sinful nature, not only the sins we commit, that render us guilty before God. In other words, our identity apart from Christ is sinner, spiritual corpse, object of God’s wrath. What we need is not a way to fix ourselves or a spiritual “medicine” to take. We need a miracle. We need a spiritual resurrection.
The Gospel is such amazing news because it tells us that God has made a way for our identity to be completely changed and renewed. Paul puts it this way: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). When we put our faith in Christ, believing he died for our sins and rose from the grave, the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus. We are connected with him in such a way that Paul can say that our sins have been nailed to the cross with him and the old man has died along with Jesus (Colossians 3:3). In like manner, we are united to Christ in his resurrection and we have been raised with him (Colossians 3:1). Our spiritual resurrection gives us a new identity. We are a new creation, a new man or woman with a new life, children of God, born again. With this new identity our lives are given purpose.
The Resurrection Gives You Purpose
Paul told the Corinthian church that the importance of the resurrection cannot be understated. He said, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). In other words, if Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead, then Christians are a sad lot. To live a life following Christ and his commands rather than a life of pleasure and instant gratification really is a pitiable thing if there is no afterlife. As Paul says later in the same letter, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1 Corinthians 15:32). But the resurrection did happen, and that is why it gives purpose to the Christian life. There is meaning and value in what we do for the kingdom of God because Jesus rose from the grave.
At the end of Paul’s description of the resurrected bodies believers look forward too, he closes with an exhortation: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Based on the future hope of the resurrection, Paul encourages believers to be firm in their faith and in godly living. Knowing that we will one day rise again, we need not fear the sting of death but are empowered to courageously serve God however and wherever he calls us. Knowing that one day we will receive imperishable, glorified bodies, we can seek to serve the goals of God’s kingdom first and foremost in our lives. The reason our labor in the Lord is not meaningless or vain is that it will last beyond the grave because we will last beyond the grave. If this was not the case, there would be no point to our lives. As the book of Ecclesiastes states: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-4). Death renders our lives meaningless, but the resurrection restores purpose to the work we do for the sake of God’s kingdom.
The Resurrection Gives You Hope
Even if the resurrection gives purpose and meaning, that doesn’t change the fact that life is hard, sometimes unbearably hard. The truth is, even in life’s darkest and most difficult circumstances, there is hope because Jesus rose from the grave. The resurrection gives us more than purpose: it gives unquenchable hope.
This was true, even for Jesus himself. The author of Hebrews tells us that Christ, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Christ willingly went to the cross to die a violent, agonizing, and humiliating death because he knew that it was not the end for him. There was joy to be found on the other side of suffering. Christ knew that if he obeyed the Father he would be resurrected and raised to the right hand of God (Philippians 2:8-11). This pattern is the model for the Christian life. It has been said that the cross comes before the crown. Suffering before glory. After all, Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). The Christian life is one of service, and at times, one of suffering. If it wasn’t for the resurrection, this would be a profoundly depressing, even masochistic life. The resurrection gives hope because it is the Christian’s hope. We look forward to the day when we will not only be with our Lord, but we will be like our Lord:
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven… For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality… then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:49, 53-57).
The resurrection of Christ means the resurrection of believers. The resurrection of believers means freedom from sin, sickness, weakness, dishonor, and even death itself. The resurrection truly gives the Christian an immeasurably great hope to cling to through every trial and tribulation!