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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

Jesus’s Resurrection Is Our Story-Changer {Lord’s Day 17}

by William Boekestein posted April 28, 2022

This article is part of our weekly series, “Our Life’s Comfort: One Year of Being Shaped by the Scriptures.” Read more from the series here.

(45) Q. How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?
A. First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death. Second, by his power we too are already raised to a new life. Third, Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.

Have you ever read a book with so dark and disturbing a beginning that you nearly quit reading before getting to the end? Some stories are so miserable that they seem not worth finishing.

This is how the first disciples read the story of Jesus up to the point of his death. So they quit reading. They quit the mission (John 21:3). Some quit believing (20:24–25). They “had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Those hopes no longer made sense. To appreciate Christ’s humiliation, it helps to interpret Jesus’s story from the angle of his closest friends. By bearing our sins, he allowed his life—by all observations—to become completely ruined.

But we have to read on. Jesus’s resurrection is the turning point in this dark story. After Christ accomplished salvation for his people, God raised him from the dead and restored to him the glory which he’d willingly laid aside when he took on flesh.

Sometimes our lives are like those stories that we no longer want to keep reading. Christ’s resurrection can change our story too.

The Event of Christ’s Resurrection

In asking about the benefits of the resurrection, the catechism assumes a real historical event. So should we.

Jesus was literally, physically raised from the dead. Remember, he was buried to testify “that he really died” (41). In a similar way, to prove that he was really alive, Christ showed himself to hundreds of witnesses after his death had become well-known (e.g. John 20:24–29, Luke 24:36–42; Acts 1:3). In a day when it was socially advantageous not to believe Jesus lived on, Luke the historian and physician researched the matter and found the proof of his resurrection “convincing” (Acts 1:3 NAS). On the first day of the week after his death, Christ’s “soul did truly return to his body . . . the very same body . . . which had fallen a victim to death rose again.”[i] The idea of a “spiritual” resurrection of Jesus—whatever that might mean—is totally useless to us who are not just spiritual. Being physical and spiritual, we’re liable to both physical and spiritual death. If Jesus wasn’t really raised from the dead, his saving benefits to embodied people would be imaginary. “If Christ is not raised then you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15: 17).

The Apostles’ Creed says that “the third day he rose again from the dead.” While the catechism doesn’t comment on the resurrection’s timing, this detail was important to Jesus (Matt. 12:40). He was not making a vague, uncertain prediction: “Someday I’ll come back to life.” Generic prophesies are easy to make but prove little. Jesus’s critics took him literally; if they could only secure the tomb beyond the third day they would prove Jesus to be a liar (Matt. 27:63). But they couldn’t. When Peter summarized Jesus’s priestly ministry, he couldn’t forget the timing: “God raised him on the third day and made him to appear” (Acts 10:40). The third-day timestamp confirms that Jesus rose from the dead just as he said he would.[ii]

The Value of Christ’s Resurrection

Lord’s Day 17 summarizes three life-changing doctrines—justification, sanctification, and glorification—linking each to Christ’s resurrection.

Christ’s Resurrection Is Our Justification

Justification is the gift of being declared righteous in God’s sight. By nature we’re dead in sin and lack the required righteousness to be at peace with God. Christ was “delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). “By his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death.” This is so because Christ himself was justified at his resurrection. So authentically did Christ take on sin (2 Cor. 5:21) that Paul could say he once “regarded Christ according to the flesh” as a mere man who appeared to be a terrible sinner (2 Cor. 5:16). But “by his resurrection from the dead,” he “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness” (Rom. 1:3). Christ rose from death to give us the righteousness he’d obtained for us by his death and to rebirth us into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).

Christ’s Resurrection Is Our Sanctification

Sanctification isn’t simply one’s quest for moral improvement but also a fundamental reconstruction of our relationship to sin. Before we can turn from sin, we must be freed from its grip on our hearts. Believers have been crucified and raised with him (Col. 3:1, 3); he has defeated death and sin for us. Therefore, “[b]y his power we too are already raised to a new life.” This new life includes a new relationship to sin; it no longer enslaves God’s people (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 2:5, 6). Only spiritually-resurrected people can obey the command, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). When Paul met the resurrected Savior, the persecutor of Christ became a preacher of Christ. Jesus’s great enemy became his greatest missionary. Millions of changed lives give testimony to the transforming impact of Christ’s resurrection.

Christ’s Resurrection Is Our Glorification

Glorification is the total realization of the hope of the gospel. It’s a full reversal of our misery and full conformity to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29). Believers are glorified when they are taken from this life, and at Christ’s second coming they are given new bodies in which they begin to reign with Christ without sin in heaven. “Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.” Christ was raised with a glorious body (Rev. 1:12–17). Jesus’s closest friend saw his new body and fell down as dead. But that body gives us a sense of what we can expect ourselves. This glimpse of glory helps us see beyond the present weakness of fellow believers. It gives us an eternal perspective as we face momentary afflictions (Rom. 8:18). And it motivates us to press on, knowing that our labors in the Lord are not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

Death couldn’t separate Christ from the love of his Father. Neither can death separate from their heavenly Father those who trust in him. Because Jesus has been raised, God’s children are declared righteous, have a new disposition for righteousness, and are guaranteed to rise again with Jesus in unimaginable glory. Here’s your story-changer: On the third day, Christ rose again from the dead.

[i] Ursinus, Commentary, 234.

[ii] Some have abandoned the traditional Friday-to-Sunday burial schedule because it doesn’t seem to square with Christ’s prediction. But we should resist judging ancient timestamps by contemporary standards. Calvin explains that when Jesus said he would be in the ground three days and three nights he was using “a well known figure of speech. … As the day consists of two parts, light and darkness, he expresses a day by a day and a night, and where there was half a day, he puts down a whole day.” Calvin, Commentary on Luke 11:30. Cf. R.T. France, Matthew in “Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.” (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1985), 212, and 1 Samuel 30:11–13.

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