Christian Life: The Resurrection’s Significance
The significance of the resurrection
Last week we talked about the evidence for the resurrection. But this week we’re talking about it’s significance. There are a number of ways we can look at the significance of the resurrection, and we’re going to choose a couple of them. For one thing, the cross and resurrection is the ultimate picture of God’s triumph. It’s an example of how we see the small picture but God sees the big picture. But secondly the resurrection is an evidence of Christ’s victory over sin. We’re going to talk about both these perspectives tonight, beginning with how it is that we see things so differently from God.
God’s view is different from ours
There is a story in Luke 24 that portrays the difference between our view of things and God’s view. It’s great because it reveals how the death and resurrection of Christ is a perfect picture of this difference.
Just to set the stage, we see that Mary and Mary came back from the empty tomb to tell the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection. And for the most part, the disciples didn’t believe them. It says Peter went down to check it out, but he didn’t know what to think about it. Then Luke tells this story about two of the disciples and their encounter with the risen Christ.
It says two of them were going to the village of Emmaus. We know that one of them was named Cleopas. The other is unnamed and may have been Luke himself. At any rate, we learn later in the story that Emmaus was their home. That is where they lived. So these disciples, like many of the other disciples (including Peter) decided to go home. They had followed Christ and put their hope in him, but now he had been killed. So now they’re going home. They have been disappointed. They are sad. So now they’re going home.
So Jesus comes up but it specifically states that they were prevented from recognizing them, which is just fascinating. I believe this was an act of God to keep them from recognizing him so that the drama we are about to read could unfold.
Jesus asks them, “What are you talking about?” And the sadness is overwhelming. Luke says they stopped right there in the road, with their faces down. If they were mildly sad, they would have said, “Oh, we’re just talking about such and such.”
You must be a newcomer to these parts! Are you the only one who hasn’t heard all the comotion? Jesus innocently asks, “What things?”
Here’s the key to the attitude. And the reason it’s been included here is it’s also our attitude: “We were hopingÿ.ÿ.ÿ. and now it’s been three days.” Here’s the epitome of our perspective on things. “We were hoping.” You know how we have these expectations of God. Example: I was hoping that God would take care of this problem for meÿ.ÿ.ÿ. And now it’s clear he hasn’t met the deadline. We think we know what is good. Jesus was mighty. We know what he should have done. He should have freed Israel. He should have established himself in power. But instead, these mere humans took him and killed him. Now, it’s been three days, and we’re going home. The cross was indeed the greatest victory you could imagine. God freed the human race from the debt of sin. God freed us from the debt of judgment. God made it possible for humans to have a relationship with him and eternal life. But these guys thought they had a better plan. And this is the way it is in area after area. We think we know what’s best. We think we know how God should do his job. And when he doesn’t do it our way or meet our deadlines, then we hang our heads and say, “I can’t believe he’s let me down. Why has God let me down!”
Now Jesus’ answer is kind of funny. “How foolish you are!” What kind of thing is that for a stranger to say? Why were they foolish? Jesus goes on to say, “You’re slow of heart to believe all the scriptures sayÿ.ÿ.ÿ.” There you have it. They didn’t want to believe all the scriptures say. Sure, they knew about the victorious Messiah. They knew about the promise of the kingdom. They knew about all the good things promised in the Bible. But they didn’t want to believe the other stuff. Then Jesus goes on to explain what it was they didn’t want to believe, “Didn’t the Christ have to suffer?” Then he went on to reveal the scriptures to them.
There are many scriptures on the suffering Christ
Of course there are many scriptures on the suffering of the Messiah. Right from the beginning. As it says here, he started with Moses, which means Genesis. In Gen. 3ÿ.ÿ.ÿ. In Gen. 22 one of the most remarkable predictionsÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Then the prophets are full of the suffering Messiah imagery (Isa. 53)
Christ had told themÿ.ÿ.ÿ.
Beyond that, Christ had told them he would be killed. And I’ve always been amazed at their reaction. Example: Mark 9:9-10 And there are a number of other places where Jesus told them plainly what was going to happen to him, but they were always puzzled by it. So I’ve wondered, how can a guy say, “Listen, we’re going down to Jerusalem. I’ll be killed there, and then I’ll raise from the dead three days later.” And then you say, “I wonder what he means by that?” That seemed ridiculous. Until I realized this exactly what we do all the time. The Bible promises great things for us as Christians: victory over our problems; love; peace; joy; impact and success. And it also promises that the way to those things is the same way Christ took?through suffering, through hardship, through failures, through rejection. Let’s look at Luke 9:22-24ÿ.ÿ.ÿ. There it is. Jesus promises that in a way, you and I are going to go through the same thing. God has in mind for each of us incredible victory, success, change, impact, joyÿ.ÿ.ÿ. And yet the way he’s going to bring that about may not be the way we have in mind. Jesus is obviously using the notion of the cross as a metaphor here, because he says to pick it up daily. But the idea is we are willing to undergo suffering. We are willing to undergo the death of our pride, or our selfishness, in order to experience new life?a resurrection from the dead. And yet, how many people have we seen, or how many times have we been tempted to say, “I had hoped it would be different than this. I’m going home.” God’s ways are different than ours. And he makes no secret of it. But Jesus says we are foolish to not believe all that the scriptures say.
New life from the resurrection
This leads us directly to the second application of the resurrection, and that is the new life we are promised as a result of the resurrection.
Here’s the promise: Jesus’ death pays for our sins. He speaks of it in terms of us being united with him in his death. It’s as if I died. My sins have been paid for. It’s as if I was on that cross because Jesus died in my place. So Paul says, “Just as sure as your old self was crucified and paid for on the cross, you have the offer of a completely new life.” He uses phrases here like, “we will life a new life,” and, “we will be freed from sin.”ÿ These are remarkable promises! Anyone who has ever struggled with a habbit you just hate can relate to how great these promises are. Or haven’t you seen something about yourself that you wish you could change?something so deep down it affects every relationship you haveÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Example: I was being confronted by this guy last week on my isolation from people, the way I wall myself off from people. And I have struggled with this problem for years. On the one hand, I want to wall myself off from people because it’s great protection. On the other hand, it leads to loneliness. And it leads to ineffectiveness in my love for others. I read this and I say, “I want a new life. I want to be done with this problem.” And that is the promise of God. I want that freedom. I want victory over that problem. But, I have to be careful to believe all that the Scriptures say. And when we read all the scriptures, we see other passages like one we read a couple weeks ago in Gal. 5:17ÿ.ÿ.ÿ. Now here I see that the transition to the new life is not automatic. It involves struggle. Paul portrays it in terms of a conflict. Surely it is going to happen?as sure as Christ raised from the dead. And believe me, there is no way to change our innermost characteristics other than to have God change them. Sure, anyone can change a habbit. Anyone can modify this or that behavior. But we can’t change the selfishness. We can’t change the prideful spirit that gives rise to all those other things. It’s going to have to be a miracle of God. But here Paul tells us that change will come in the face of conflict. And Jesus tells us it will come because we take up our cross. In other words, we will go through some hard times before we begin to see the new life God promised. That’s what all the scriptures say.
Why is this?
Let’s just conclude with some thoughts about why this is. Why is it that God says “death first, then life”? “Death first, then victory?” It’s the same reason that Jesus had to suffer and die first, then resurrection and victory: and that is the seriousness of sin. Why did Jesus have to go through all this suffering and dying busines? Because our sin is so serious it warrants judgment. It may be hard for you and me to believe that. And that’s precisely the reason some people will not turn to God for forgiveness. They don’t think their sin warrants Jesus’ death. But when God exposes us for what we really are, there will be no doubt about the need for Jesus’ death. It’s the same way with us, even though we’ve been forgiven. God offers to change us and give us new life. But we first have to see that we need it. So God has to take us through a death processÿ.ÿ.ÿ.