There are a number of incalculably significant discoveries, innovations, and events in Human history. Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein told us how the world and universe we live in work (and how we can best live in them). The printing press and airplane transformed communication and transportation and therefore global Human relations. Your ability to read this is only possible because some guys and girls back in the day figured out electricity and the internet. If we removed anything from this list, the world would be a radically different place (some for evil and some for good, no doubt). But none of these compare to the significance of one event in human history—the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Resurrection of Jesus is not a fairy tale or a myth. It was recorded as history by people who claimed (and died claiming) that they had not merely been told that He rose. They said that they personally witnessed and interacted with Him after His Resurrection. They said that this was the most significant event in the history of the world. Consider a few reasons why they said this was such a monumental event:
- People do not come back from the dead. Ever. (Yeah this is obvious, but just in case you forget how big of a deal at least we have it on the table.)
- Jesus of Nazareth not only came back from the dead, but He did it on His own. (OK so this may run a little bit counter to #1, but it is true that there are a few recorded instances of resurrections when a prophet or some other person took part in (temporarily) raising someone from the dead. Not so in the story of Jesus.)
- Also, Jesus did not die again after He was raised from the dead. He came back for good. Again, not a normal occurrence (see #1).
- Finally, Jesus came back from the dead after predicting that He would do so. This did not just happen randomly or unexpectedly. He called His shot and then made it happen.
The completely unique nature of the Resurrection compelled the people who originally witnessed the risen Jesus to take it upon themselves to proclaim His bodily resurrection as historical fact. They proclaimed this “Gospel” to all the world that would listen (Acts 2:21-36). When the Apostle Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth just a few years after the Resurrection, he reminded them that their entire faith was rooted in the fact that Jesus had risen.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ … And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. … If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19, ESV)
Without resurrection Christianity is meaningless, Paul says. Nothing has changed even up until today. The Resurrection is everything for the people of God.
It is obvious to see on a daily basis how the printing press or air travel have had a world-changing impact, but what makes the Resurrection so significant? Is this only special for Christians but meaningless to everyone else? Jesus spoke of Resurrection as something that is infinitely consequential for every Human being. He said:
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:25-29, ESV)
Jesus highlights two main implications of the doctrine of the resurrection. First, he alludes to his own resurrection (verse 26) as being proof that life is found in Him alone. There are two words that are translated from Greek (the language this was originally written in) into English as “life.” One is bios—the physical existence that all biological life shares. But here when Jesus spoke of “life” He uses the word zoe which speaks to a deeper, spiritual, existential life that is unique to God and Human beings. Resurrection then is about outliving your life here in the biological sphere. Indeed, the Resurrection is a signpost telling us that there actually is a life past the biological sphere we currently occupy. The way to tap into that life is through Jesus, the one in whom zoe resides (John 1:1-18). But secondly, Jesus says that every Human being will experience resurrection themselves. Some will be raised to enjoy zoe while others will be raised to face judgment. Not only does a zoe exist beyond the bios but we as people have a share in that next life and that share will be determined by how we live here and now. Simply put, resurrection means that your life—work and play, family and friends, how you use your body and money, whether you choose love or hate—has infinite significance because one day you will be raised up to face judgment from the One who was the first to be raised up.
If Jesus truly came back from the dead, then your life takes on a new level of infinite significance. You need to realign yourself with the Resurrection as much as every person has to align themselves with gravity. Your response will not change anything about the resurrection of Jesus. Like gravity, His resurrection is an unchanging reality. But if you want His resurrection to bring you anything good, then you need to start getting ready for the life that your own resurrection will lead to some day.