Luke 24:1-12 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
We just heard the story of Jesus’ resurrection. It’s pretty remarkable, isn’t it? But have you ever wondered why the resurrection is so important? I mean, it’s pretty impressive to think that Jesus rose from the dead, but have you ever wondered why it really matters? Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, right? Our salvation comes from His dying in our place, doesn’t it? The cross was enough, wasn’t it?
For years as a new Christian I never even thought to ask those questions. Then for a few more years I thought of them, but didn’t bother to chase down the answers. Eventually, however, as I continued to grow in my faith and understanding of God’s Word, God burrowed the question of the significance of the resurrection deeply enough into my mind and heart that I knew I needed to settle on some things. And by God’s grace, as I did, I came to realize that the resurrection is better news than I had ever imagined. As I share some of that with you, I hope you find it to be soul-satisfying, worship-producing, and life-changing. Let’s pray that He would make it so.
[Much of what I have come to understand is captured in a simple devotional written way back in 1986. It simply listed (with no commentary) a number things “we owe the resurrection of Jesus”. I’ve added and changed a little, but the basic outline comes from that short list from so long ago (from way back in the 1900s as my kids say).]
THE GOOD NEWS OF THE CROSS
I hope to help you see that and how the resurrection is good news in just a minute. For that to happen, though, we must first settle on the good news of the cross. We can’t really understand one without the other, but understanding the significance of the resurrection begins with getting our minds around the point of Jesus’ death on the cross. And to do that we need to go way, way back; back to the very beginning of time and space.
Before anything that has been made was made, was God. God has eternally existed as one God in three persons (Father, Son, and Spirit). He has also eternally existed with a nature and being that are greater than you could ever imagine (Psalm 145:7-9).
Part of His greater-than-you-could-ever-imagine essence is found in the fact that He created, gave purpose to, and rules over everything outside of Himself. And the purpose for which God created mankind and the standard to which He holds us accountable as our King, is this: to glorify and enjoy Him forever (Romans 11:36). That’s right, God, the greatest conceivable being, the most amazing thing in all existence, the true source of all goodness, beauty, truth, and joy, the Ruler of the world, has created and commanded us to delight in Him forever. That’s our very reason for existence: to be completely satisfied in God without end. How’s that for an answer to the question of the meaning of life?!. What a gift. What a purpose. Who would ever want anything else?
Well, the very first people on earth wanted something else not long after they were created. In their pride and desire to be God, they rejected and disobeyed God, their Creator and King. They closed their eyes to the greatness of God, allowed themselves to be deceived into believing they knew better than God, and therein sinned against their Maker (Genesis 3).
Worse still, in their sin, they brought all mankind into their sin. All people fell in the sin in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22). That is, when Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, he brought corruption into the entire human line. Because we are born with a corrupt nature, then, we make corrupt choices and those corrupt choices have consequences.
Worse yet, the consequences of sin are no mere slap on the wrist. To sin is to reject God as God. And to reject God as God is to commit high treason. By God’s decree, the penalty for such treason is death (Romans 6:23). Upon committing this first sin, Adam and Eve immediately died spiritually, and eventually they died physically too. That sounds bad, but it’s worse than it sounds. Spiritual death is not simply ceasing to exist. We need to tremble at this, Grace: When spiritual death meets physical death, it means entering into the eternal wrath of God (Romans 2:7-8).
We don’t like to talk about these things, but they are critical aspects of the Christian faith, certain truths about the world we live in, and central to understanding why Jesus had to die. That’s what makes Easter a serious, serious thing. Properly understood, it is at once a declaration of guilt and a condemnation to hell for all who remain in their sin (that’s one kind of seriousness), and a celebration of victory and unmerited forgiveness for all who have been redeemed by God (that’s another). The question is: How does Easter become the second thing for anyone?
Here’s where we start to land the plane. How does Easter become good news rather than a declaration of our condemnation? The answer is the cross. At the cross Jesus displayed the love of God in unprecedented ways (John 3:16), absorbed God’s wrath (Romans 3:25-26), paid sin’s penalty by dying in our place (Romans 6:23), drove our sin away (Hebrews 9:26), healed us from the wounds of sin (1 Peter 2:24), made us right with God (Romans 5:10-11), and defeated the powers of darkness (Colossians 3:15).
That’s awesome, but how do we gain access to the saving work of Jesus on the cross? How does it become good news for us? It is not by doing enough good things (as so many throughout history have believed). Indeed, it is not by doing any good thing (for we are truly incapable of doing good when we are stuck in our sin). To be clear, our access to Jesus’ saving work is in no way whatsoever based on our merit, our worth, or our performance. It is based entirely on trusting in Jesus’ worth, merit, and performance. He was and did for us what we are powerless to be and do for ourselves. That’s right, entirely by the grace of God, all that Jesus accomplished on the cross is ours through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is the only conduit through which God’s saving grace flows.
But there’s one more thing we need to settle on before we finally turn our attention to the resurrection. There’s one more question we need to answer as we consider the good news of the cross: What is the nature of the faith that unites us with the things Jesus accomplished on the cross? Many in our culture understand faith as something like “belief in the unlikely. In reality, however, the biblical understanding of faith is “trust in invisible truth.” The Bible has no category for a saving faith rooted in lies or without change. In short, the kind of faith that unites us with all that Jesus accomplished on the cross is one that consists of belief in Jesus’ promises and work, and a resulting turning from sin to God.
I hope this simple, abbreviated walk through history, from creation to the first Good Friday, helps you see the glory and centrality—the good news—of the cross of Christ. I hope it causes everyone in this room to carefully consider whether or not you have truly placed your faith in Jesus. If not, again, Easter is a mixed bag for you. It is really bad news in that it is a reminder that you are still under God’s wrath. But it is also good news in that it is also a reminder that you don’t need to be. It is a promise that even today, right now, anyone who would trust in Jesus might be saved.
THE GOOD NEWS OF THE EMPTY TOMB
All of that brings us back to the resurrection. Since all of this is true because of the cross, what’s left? Why bother celebrating the resurrection when all of that was accomplished on the cross on Good Friday? As I mentioned in the introduction, the importance of this question only gradually became impressed upon me. As it did, however, and as I sought out the Bible’s answer, I became increasingly amazed. I hope to help you join me in my amazement as we consider twelve reasons the resurrection is good news for those whose faith is in Jesus.
1. The resurrection proved that Jesus truly was the Son of God
Jesus made some fantastic claims about Himself. Among the most shocking was His claim to be the very Son of God (Matthew 27:43; John 10:36). I suppose anyone could make a claim like that, but what could you possibly do to back it up? Well, how about rising from the dead?! Romans 1:4 tells us that Jesus, “was declared to be the Son of God in power…by his resurrection from the dead.” It’s similar to Matthew 9:1-8 where Jesus healed a man in order to prove that He had the power to forgive sins. Jesus’ resurrection proved that He was who He said He was. And that’s great news because it means everything else He said and did is worthy of trust and praise.
2. The resurrection ensured that we have a Savior who can never die again
The history of the world is filled with stories of conquering kings. Through some great military victory they secured land and fame and safety for their people. But here’s the thing: in every case, eventually, some other conquering king came in and took over that land, fame, and safety. One king won great things for his people only to have another king come in and take it away.
So how is Jesus any different? It’s amazing that He won a mighty victory over sin and death on the cross. But how do we know that someone or something else won’t come along and undo all that he had done? The answer, according to Romans 6:9, is the resurrection! “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again”. The resurrection is good news in that it secured the victory of the cross forever. It’s blessings cannot be undone! Awesome!
3. The resurrection gives repentance
In Acts 5:30-31 Peter connected the resurrection of Jesus with God’s granting of repentance to His people. “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel” (Acts 5:30-31).
Sinful man put Jesus to death, but God the Father (having eternally planned to do so) accepted Jesus’ death as payment for sin, raised Him from the dead, and exalted Jesus to His right hand. And God did all of this such that repentance might come to His people. Grace, do you remember what we said earlier about the kind of faith through which God brings His grace? It is a mingling of belief and repentance. This passage tells us that the resurrection is good news because it is essential to God’s granting of the repentance we need for salvation.
4. Living hope and new birth come through the resurrection
In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter paints an unbelievably beautiful picture of the new life that God grants His people through the new life of Jesus. It really is a remarkable verse. As we’ve already considered, we are born spiritually dead. Our only hope for spiritual life is to be born a second time (to be spiritually born). Peter tells us that this second birth is connected to Jesus’ resurrection.
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3) Oh, what grace is ours through the resurrection of Jesus! The second birth we need and the living hope we receive from it comes “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” How’s that for good news?!
5. The resurrection is tied to the forgiveness of sin
While the cross is at the center of our forgiveness, the resurrection is inseparably linked with it as well according to 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”. The heart of Paul’s point is not that Jesus accomplished our forgiveness by His resurrection. Rather, it is that the resurrection proves that Jesus’ payment was accepted. It is a decisive declaration that the cross worked! The resurrection is the good news of the heavenly “transaction complete” notification.
6. The resurrection was for our justification
No one who is guilty will stand before God. We must settle this firmly in our own minds. But that’s bad news because we are guilty, every one of us. We’ve all sinned. So how can we possibly be justified (declared “not guilty”) if we are guilty? Paul tells us in Romans 4 that Jesus’ resurrection is part of the answer.
[Faith] will be counted [as righteousness] to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).
Again, it is on the cross that Jesus absorbed our sin and guilt, but the resurrection is pictured here, once again, as the final follow-through of that one act of redemption. Just like repentance and belief are described as the two sides of the coin of faith, so too are Jesus’ death and resurrection described as the two sides of one coin; the coin of the saving work of Jesus. The resurrection is good news in that it is directly connected to the justification we need in order to be reconciled to God.
7. The resurrection ushered in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit
While Jesus was on earth, He could only be with the people He was physically present with. This was good news for them, but not as great for everyone else. Likewise, throughout the entire OT and Jesus’ time on earth, the Holy Spirit would come upon certain people for a certain time. Again, this was good news for those people during the time of His presence, but not that great the rest of the time and for everyone else.
For these reasons, Jesus’ promise to His followers that it would be better for them when He died because only then would the Father send the Holy Spirit to dwell in man (John 16:7), was really good news indeed. Once again, we find from Acts 2 that it was not only Jesus’ death that secured the indwelling of the Spirit in all Christians, but His resurrection as well.
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:32–33). The resurrection is good news in that on account of it the Holy Spirit permanently lives in everyone who trusts in Jesus (along with all the accompanying blessings). That’s awesome.
8. The resurrection guarantees that there will be no condemnation for those in Christ
Would you like some more good news tied to the resurrection of Jesus? You’re in luck. The fact that you will never be condemned again (of treason against God) is directly connected to Jesus’ resurrection. “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised … (Romans 8:34).
Much of the end of Romans 8 describes the contrasts between life in Christ and life out of Christ. In Christ, since God is for us, nothing in the entire universe can successfully stand against us. In Christ, since God gave us His highest treasure—His own Son—we are guaranteed that He will never withhold any lesser treasure. In Christ, since God has already declared us “not guilty”, we know that no lesser charge can hold up. And, in Christ, since Jesus died and rose again to cleanse us of all our sin, nothing and no one can successfully bring condemnation upon us. Do you feel the weight of your sin? Have you experienced brokenness and hardship? The resurrection is the good news that there will never be condemnation for those who are in Christ.
9. The resurrection secured Jesus’ continual presence and intercession
We’ve already considered eight resurrection blessings. They’re all awesome. There are three more after this one. They’re all awesome too. And yet, right now, this one stands out above them all for me. God’s Word tells us that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees Jesus’ continual presence in our lives and intercession on our behalf. In a world as broken as ours is, and as harsh as it can be, knowing that Jesus rose from the dead and is, therefore, with me now and forever more, pleading with the Father on my behalf is an inexplicably comforting promise.
We receive the promise of His continual presence from the resurrected Jesus himself in Matthew 28, “I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).” And we receive the promise of His continual intercession from the Apostle Paul in Romans 8, “Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (8:34). Oh how great is that resurrection news?!
10. The resurrection is a guarantee that there will be a coming judgment
Consider this resurrection promise in Acts 17, “[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
At first, the news of a certain coming judgment of God, does not sound good. That Jesus’ resurrection gives assurance of this sounds kind of scary actually. Indeed, it is not good news for those who refuse to put their faith in King Jesus. But this resurrection promise is good news for Christians for two reasons. First, it is good news in that it is a promise that God’s judgment will be “in righteousness.” There will not be one ounce of unrighteousness in God’s judgment. It will be perfect in every way. Not a single person will be falsely accused of anything and not a single crime will be missed. Who can do this but our God? No one. Second, it is good news in that it frees us up to love others even when they continue to sin against us. We do not need to worry about getting justice for ourselves in this life since we know it will be perfectly accomplished in the next. Again, this good news is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus.
11. The resurrection is a guarantee that we are freed from the wrath of God at the coming judgment
As we’ve seen, God’s wrath is, right now, upon all who refuse to honor Him as God. At the coming judgment, then, “[God] will render to each one according to his works: … 8 for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil” (Romans 2:6-8).
But Jesus’ resurrection also guarantees that all who hope in Jesus will be freed from God’s righteous wrath. “[We] wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 5:9). Jesus will deliver those who hope in Him from the wrath of God and His resurrection is at the heart of that deliverance. How’s that for resurrection good news?!
12. Jesus’ resurrection means that death is dead and Christians will rise with Jesus
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus is also good news in that it means that Christians will be raised from the dead as well. In 2 Corinthians 4 we read, “[We know] that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:14; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:20). Similarly, Romans 6 says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5).
Grace, the good news of the resurrection of Jesus is that death is dead! Jesus’ death defeated death (2 Timothy 1:10). Easter is death’s funeral. Therefore, since He defeated it, it was impossible for death to keep Jesus and those in Him (Acts 2:24). And that means that for Christians it is not death to die. Jesus’ resurrection definitively proved these things. Grace, because of Jesus’ resurrection and all it secured, we too will certainly rise from the dead into new and everlasting life, in the perfect presence and unending blessing of God. For us, physical and spiritual death will never meet!
By His death Jesus accomplished unimaginable blessings for everyone who will trust in Him. By His resurrection Jesus accomplished even more. Why is the resurrection good news? It is good news in that the resurrection proved that Jesus was truly the Son of God, it ensured that we have a savior who can never die again, repentance, living hope and new birth come through the resurrection, it is tied to the forgiveness of sin, it was for our justification, the resurrection ushered in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it guarantees that there will be no condemnation for those in Christ, it secured Jesus’ continual presence and intercession, it is a guarantee that there will be a coming judgment, it is a guarantee that we are freed from the wrath of God, and Jesus’ resurrection means that death is dead and Christians will rise with Jesus.
Look to Jesus, therefore, for all the blessings He has secured for you in His life, death, and resurrection. Let me close with the greatest resurrection news of all, told to us by the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:3-5). It is a promise that the resurrection of Jesus will allow us to fulfill the very purpose for which we were made: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.