Paul wrote in Romans that if Jesus did not rise from the dead all is in vain. All of Christianity hinges on the reality of one very important event, the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus lived, died and rose again in a particular time and place of history. The truth of this isn’t something relegated to spiritual mythology but is rooted in real history. It can be and has been, extensively investigated. The Church was birthed in the very place where this miraculous event occurred. Should it not have happened, there would be little reason for the rise of the Church in this place and time. It wasn’t popular to be a Christian, and it certainly wasn’t safe. There was no power to gain, no influence to grasp, but it was something worth giving all to attain.
Paul, while he was still known as Saul, was a persecutor of Christians, torturing and killing them. It wasn’t until the risen Lord appeared to him that he did a 180 and served the Lord, taking the gospel to the Gentiles as God had appointed. Paul, a very strict orthodox Jew and persecutor of Christians, became a great apostle, who took the good news to the Gentiles, and wrote about one-third of the New Testament. He suffered persecution, poverty, jail, shipwrecks and many other things as he gave his all for the good news, considering it all joy.
Something remarkable happened that day over 2,000 years ago when Jesus rose from the dead, something the world had been waiting for that had been prophesied in amazing clarity throughout the Old Testament. The probability of one man fulfilling even 20 of the hundreds of prophecies is astronomical.
The good news is that, while this event took place so very long ago, it is a continual present-day reality in the world. The reason it is so very vital to the Christian faith isn’t that it is merely an intellectual fact many believe, but a reality they experience. On the one hand, there is much research to produce a good case for the Resurrection. But it isn’t the validity of the fact alone that does any good. It’s that because of that event Jesus is alive today to live life with believers in the present. They don’t have to wait until they die and go to heaven to live life with Jesus. Jesus is the life now, and he produces that eternal reality in the present because of the death he defeated that day when the stone rolled away.
What Jesus did that day was done in eternity.
It was done for all who have their faith in God, for it was the faith of the people before Christ lived on Earth that was accredited to them as righteousness. It wasn’t their works. It was their relationship with God, their faith in who He is and they’re looking to him for life that gave them the same access that believers have today because of Christ.
Christ died once for all, meaning all who have ever lived. He came not into the world to condemn the world, but so that whosoever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life. Oftentimes people think “believe” to be only in the mind, an intellectual exercise, but in reality, it is something more substantial than that; it’s trusting in him, thereby entering life with him.
Jesus came to give life and give it abundantly. He did that by giving us his life, his resurrected life that has defeated all the sin and destruction this world holds. Therefore, he enables believers to live a new life apart from the bondage and wounds of sin. Believers can walk in as much freedom from that as they surrender to him by his help. When they exchange the temporal for the eternal, he takes a clam and makes a pearl. He takes coal and makes it a diamond. It takes clay and makes it a beautiful vase. Jesus sees the pearl and diamond in each believer and frees it from its dirt and decay and restores it to its pure form.
There is a scene in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” written by C.S. Lewis where this boy is a very bitter boy, always selfish and full of complaints. The boy is on an island where he wanders off apart from the group while they set up camp. He stumbles upon the loot of a deceased dragon. While the boy sleeps in the pile of jewels he is transformed into a dragon. He awakes aghast at this turn of events and begins to realize the dragon of bitterness in which he had been wallowing. Aslan, the fictional representation of Christ, comes to him and offers to free the boy from the dragon. Aslan helps the boy become free of the dragon while at the same time setting him free from his bitter disposition. The boy is thus redeemed, the old bitterness gone and the joyful young boy left in his place.
This is a fantastic analogy of how people can come to Jesus burdened down with problems and find freedom and restoration. That is the power of the Resurrection of Christ, and that same power of Christ that raised him from the dead is at work in the lives of believers resurrecting the good in each believer as they journey with him. Easter is not just a remembrance of ancient history, but a celebration of the current life believers have in Christ.