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The Empty Tomb:
What Does the Resurrection Mean?
And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth,
who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where
they laid him.
To some, Easter may conjure images of little girls in lily-yellow frilly dresses, egg hunts, and stories of Peter Cottontail. But the importance of the Easter season is so much more than what we wear to church, candies and baskets, or stories of fairy tales. For the believer, the reality of a risen savior holds eternal significance. Three important truths scream out of the empty sepulcher in the hills of Israel. Three words should come to our regenerate minds: the Bible, forgiveness, and triumph. For, these are the things that the resurrection emphasizes.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ validates three crucial points for the believer. First, it authenticates the Scriptures. Second, the resurrection validates our redemption through faith in Christ. Third, the resurrection speaks directly to our own spiritual victories.
The most important facet of the resurrection must be the predictability of it. For God had said, the chosen one would reign. A dead messiah could not complete such a task. Yet, how could anyone be surprised that God raised his beloved Son? It had been declared centuries before in the Old Testament. For a dead king cannot be a reigning King. The marvelous fact that no other faith proclaims a living sacrificial deity is fairly impressive alone. But, coupled with the fact that numerous verses predicted such an event serves only to strengthen our faith in God and the precepts of the Scriptures.
I Corinthians 15:4 testify, "and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures." Paul, a learned scholar of the Old Testament was familiar with the numerous predictions of a risen Messiah. Despite Israel's blanket refusal to accept Jesus as the promise of the scriptures, God remained faithful to fulfilling and authenticating the promises of the Old Testament. In Acts 2, Peter testifies to the foundation principles of the resurrection: "that God had sworn with him an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne" (Psalms 132:11). In verse 33, Peter ties in the idea of God's promise to David and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the resurrection, God authenticated the authority of the Word by fulfilling the promise of a risen savior.
Now, we all accept that Jesus needed to die in order to perform humanity's final atoning sacrifice. But consider how important it was to raise the chosen Son of God. Just as the voice at his baptism and transfiguration proclaimed to those who witnessed God's satisfaction, the resurrection proclaimed to the ages "it is finished." I Corinthians 15:14 reminds us of the importance of the resurrection. "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless…". Why would our faith be worthless? Romans 4:25 answers that question for us. "…And was raised because of our justification." Christ's resurrection results in God's ability to consider us justified in Christ by demonstrating God's acceptance of the Son's sacrifice. For in that very act, God set the Godhead's seal of approval on the deed. For, to think through the logical consequences, if Jesus had not been raised, the preaching of the gospel would be a lie; the faith would be without meaningful content; and Christians would be hopeless concerning future prospects. "The marvelous fact, however, is that Christ did rise from the dead. Therefore, our preaching is not in vain - what we tell others about Jesus is eternally significant. And our faith is not in vain. What we as Christians believe is eternally significant."
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus authenticates our ability to be victorious in our Christian walk. There are two passages of scripture that confer that principle.
In Romans 6 - 8, the idea of walking in "newness of life" is prevalent. Yet, not so much that we are able in our own strength, but in the power of the resurrected Christ, we have obtained spiritual power to overcome our old way of life. Romans 6:8-10 relays the truth of our empowerment, "knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more…but the life that He lives, He lives to God." We, too, have that position from our faith in Christ. We are resurrected, into a new life of faith. But, we are not left to our own devices. With the spectacular miracle of the resurrection came an awesome gift. Romans 8:11 exclaims, "But if the Spirit of [God] who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, [God] who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies by [God's] Spirit who dwells in you."
Colossians 3:1 - 17 also appeals to our new life of faith through the resurrected Lord. The opening verse, Paul encourages to live in the victory of our new life. He states, "Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above…." His appeal is simple: become in experience what you already are by God's grace. Our victory over life circumstances, defeated thinking, and various periods of testing is assured. Our ability to overcome, as outlined in these seventeen verses, is possible because of the truth of the first verse.
So, we have an authenticated faith. We have a substantial faith. We have a God who honors promises. We celebrate savior who overcame our worst and most final fear. Above all, through the resurrection, we have ultimate victory in life and in death. All of this came out of one act. In rising from the dead, God proved that God "is." In rising again, Jesus confirmed God's approval and assures us that there is absolution through our faith. In rising again, God enables every one who believes to share in the victory of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit throughout the end of the age.
Easter is soon to be upon us. Perhaps the next time you see a pot of lilies, or spy a little girl dressed in her best spring dress, you can draw to mind that the miracle of an empty tomb one Sunday morning. Maybe the next basket of plastic green grass with little jellybeans and chocolate bunnies will spur a thought of God's amazing grace. Or, perhaps, we can all attempt to keep the wonderful miracle alive all year long as we walk triumphantly in the power of the Holy Spirit. For the meaning of Easter is not in a greeting card, a bag of candied chicks, or chocolate bunnies. The meaning of Easter was intended to encompass our entire walk of faith. For the meaning of the resurrection in is the life of the Christian, who bear in mind that as "we have been united with Him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection" (Romans 6:5).
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