If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
*Christ is risen indeed*. How tragic it would be if that shocking announcement were to be replaced by the Easter Bunny and its host of colorful eggs. For many, Easter has become little more than an occasion for a family meal. But for the Christian, it is everything. Yet, even within Christian circles, do we pay enough attention to what is, in the minds of some, necessarily indispensable.
“Far too often,” comments Scottish preacher James Stewart (1986–1990), “we have been inclined to regard the Resurrection as an epilogue to the gospel, an addendum to the scheme of salvation, a codicil to the divine last will and testament.” But, he continues, “This is no appendix to the faith. This is the faith. He is risen. He is risen indeed.”
Is this an overstatement? The apostle Paul answers concisely, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). The resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be relegated to a single holy day or a religious afterthought. Consider just a few reasons why.
You Are Forgiven
The resurrection is indispensable proof of our forgiveness accomplished at the cross. It is the great punctuation at the end of the passion’s gory sentence. If Christ had not been raised from the dead in power, how would we be sure that he really was the Son of God (Romans 1:4)? If he did not show himself to have conquered death, showing himself alive with the wounds still visible, how would we be sure that he really conquered our sin?
Further than proof, Paul argues that if Christ did not rise from the dead, if he did not slay death and return victorious from the pit, we are still hopelessly caught in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). If he hasn’t defeated the grave, we have no true hope.
But praise God, we do have hope! The empty tomb proves for all time that Jesus did what he said he would do. The Father gives his heavenly commentary in Christ forever alive from the grave to never die again — reigning with “by the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16).
He Will Be with You
The resurrection cures us of what A.W. Tozer calls a functional type of atheism.
We habitually stand in our now and look back by faith to see the past filled with God. We look forward and see him inhabiting our future; but our now is uninhabited except with ourselves. Thus we are guilty of a pro tem atheism which leaves us alone in the universe while, for the time, God is not. We talk of him much and loudly, but we secretly think of him as being absent, and we think of ourselves as inhabiting a parenthetical interval between the God who was and the God who will be.
What stands in the stead of the living Christ who is? Too often a memorial to a fallen hero. We work to keep him in our memory, like we might a deceased mother or son. We enshrine him in our minds, subtly forgetting that he sits securely enthroned in heaven sustaining our very ability to think. We linger experientially, as it were, in those gloomy days between that unforgettable Friday and that unrivaled Sunday morning. But he is risen!
We have a right to overhear how the angel questioned those outside of Christ’s tomb: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) Easter means he is alive. He is with us, now. He can hear us. See us. He upholds every particular by the word of his power (Colossians 1:17). Because he lives, we do.
The New Age Has Dawned
“The point of Easter,” writes John Piper, “is that God is in the process of clearing this world of all heartbreak.” The resurrection means he has already begun. In Christ rising from the dead, the new era has come. “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:17). This old world will soon give way to the new heavens and the new earth, and all creation “will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
The resurrection of Jesus was no afterthought or appendix. It was no epilogue. It was redemption’s earthquake that shook the foundation of eternity. It was the defining event that marked the dawning of the new age. Now the end is near. We live in the era when our forgiveness is totally secured, his presence is forever enjoyed, and all of our faith will become sight in the twinkling of an eye.