The resurrection of Jesus is more than a historical fact to be argued, for it splits history in two. It is more than an essential doctrine or tenet of Christianity; the resurrection of Jesus is Christianity. It is more than proof that Christ has achieved salvation for God’s people, for resurrection is the very substance of salvation. The resurrection does not merely signal that redemption has been accomplished; it is the goal of redemption—the permanent glorified state. Jesus’ resurrection on the third day is not only the ground for hope and motivation in the Christian life; it is the Christian life. It is a reality that is to color our everyday lives as those united to the once-crucified, forever-exalted Messiah. Yet, why do we only seem to focus our attention on it around Easter?
Theologian Richard Gaffin summarizes well the centrality of the resurrection in Paul’s writings:
In Paul there is no more important conclusion about the Christian life, nothing about its structure that is more basic than this consideration: the Christian life in its entirety is to be subsumed under the category of resurrection…The Christian life is resurrection life.
In other words, the resurrection shapes and informs the Christian’s identity from beginning to end. Paul perhaps states this definitive truth no more clearly and succinctly than in Colossians 3:1-4:
So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Our primary identity as believers, therefore, lies in resurrection past (“you have been raised”), resurrection present (“your life is hidden with the Messiah”), and resurrection future (“you also will be revealed with Him”). Quite simply, Jesus’ resurrection is our resurrection (see also Rom. 6:1-14; 1 Cor. 15:20; Eph. 2:4-7; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 2:11-15).
So often, though, despite vouching for its necessity, we marginalize the resurrection. We isolate it from the other doctrines and disciplines of the Christian life. Sure, it comes in handy when doing apologetics, but when it comes to the specific event that accomplished our salvation, we sometimes tend to prioritize the cross to the neglect or even exclusion of the resurrection. Without question, we should be “cross-centered” in our theology and in our lives, but only to the point that such a label entails that the resurrection is understood as equally central and instrumental to our salvation.
How common, after all, in our gospel presentations is it that we hear about the sin-canceling cross on which the broken and humiliated Jesus bled and died but hardly anything about the death-defeating resurrection of our conquering King? How frequently do we talk about our Savior’s blood more than His glorified-yet-scarred body? This is likely in most cases an unintentional tendency, but it is nonetheless a grave mistake (pun intended). Our preaching should more prominently reflect the apostolic sermons we read about in the Book of Acts, where chief attention is placed upon the Lord Jesus’ risen and exalted state (Acts 2:22-36; 3:11-26; 4:8-12; 10:34-43; 13:26-41; 17:30-31). Like the crucifixion, the resurrection is essential to the gospel message, and Paul asserted as much (1 Cor. 15:1-4,13-19).
Rather than approaching Jesus’ resurrection as the life-transforming, epic event that it is, we sometimes erringly treat it as a mere sign. We treat the Messiah’s triumph over sin’s curse as an oven ding.
When the oven dings (or more accurately beeps for those of us living in the electronic age), we’re not interested in or excited about the ding itself but about what the ding indicates—namely that the food is ready. We give no more attention to the ding because the real event takes place when one partakes in the meal that is being prepared. The ding is an afterthought because it is just a signal.
The resurrection of Jesus, however, is not the ding but the meal itself. We know that the meal is ready not only by the sound of the oven ding, but we also know the meal is ready by sampling of the meal itself. We know more about the food by eating it than any ding could tell us; we know the food’s taste, texture, and temperature. And indeed, those of us who have partaken in the resurrection meal know that it is good.
To feast on Christ is to feast on the resurrection, for there is no Christ who is not raised. In doing so, we taste of the new creation—the powers of the age to come that are a foretaste of coming glory.
Therefore, on Resurrection Sunday as well as every day going forward, let us honor and enjoy our Messiah’s resurrection for all that it is, and let us invite others not only to hear the ding but also to share in the meal.