God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:24)
Confused as his disciples may have been at first, as the word spread that he was alive, they were thrown for another dramatic and disorienting loop.
Long had they known, ordinary as he looked, that he was no ordinary man. But the pieces came together one at a time, over some time. Water to wine. Multiplying loaves to feed thousands. Calming the storm. Restoring sight to the blind. A paralytic walks. A little girl, seemingly dead, rises. Lazarus comes out of his tomb at Jesus’s word. And, on top of it all, his stunning teaching. They marveled at his words. No one spoke like this man (John 7:46). The picture was becoming clearer and clearer. This indeed must be God’s long-promised Messiah. Might this even be, somehow, in some mind-blowing way, God himself among us?
Then just as the picture had appeared to come together, it seemed to fall apart, crashing to the ground, all in less than 24 hours. He spoke in enigmas. He was arrested, and tried with shocking injustice. How could it be that such a man would be so egregiously sentenced to death, nailed to a cross, and executed as the worst of criminals? Trauma after trauma. Then came the two longest nights of their lives.
And then he was alive.
It’s not as though Jesus hadn’t told them what was coming. They simply had been unable to take it in. Their category for Messiah had assumed a straight path to glory, not this convoluted one. But he had warned them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 17:22–23). This hadn’t caught Jesus off guard. He knew it was coming, and he had set his face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), as a man walking out the details of a plan he himself had made.
“No one takes [my life] from me,” he had said, “but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). Now he was alive, and this confirmed it for all time. He did have such authority — not only to lay it down when he chose and as he chose, but the authority to take it up again.
Through death, he had conquered death, destroying the one who had the power of death (Hebrews 2:14) — and that not only as an act of power, but of love, to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to [death’s] lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:15).
His Unstoppable People
His resurrection from the dead declares once and for all that Jesus is unstoppable. The power the risen, glorified Christ now wields is “the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16). In fact, as Peter preached at Pentecost, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). As Paul wrote to the Romans, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9).
But the resurrection of Christ declares even more for those of us who are joined to him by faith. Not only is he unstoppable. So are we. “I am the resurrection and the life,” he says. “Whoever believes in me . . . shall never die” (John 11:25–26). What is the power at work in us, even now, who have faith in him? We know “the immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19–20).
Wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and terrors will come (Luke 21:10–12). Christ’s people will be despised, opposed, insulted, and persecuted (Luke 21:12). Some will be put to death (Luke 21:16). And yet, he promises, “Not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:18). In him, Christ’s people cannot be stopped — even in earthly death. Death has become gain (Philippians 1:21), because Christ has conquered, and we are eternally safe in him.
Easter, then, is a tribute to our unstoppable God. Just when it looked like maybe God could be stopped, he held his breath, counted to three, and then breathed again the breath of life into the nostrils of his Son. Christ’s heart began to beat. He opened his eyes. He folded his grave clothes. He rolled way the stone, and he walked away in patient, calm, unstoppable power.
The empty tomb is God’s great declaration in history that he indeed cannot be stopped.