Why the Resurrection Matters, Especially During a Global Pandemic
The meaning of Easter, the anchor of our faith, is Jesus’ resurrection.
Easter in my childhood was marked by photos in front of the flower-adorned cross at my church in my fancy Easter dress, floppy white frilly socks, and white shoes. It smells like deviled eggs, which I hated but thought to be quite a humorously named food to consume on such a holiday. The anxious buzz of an impending egg hunt with our extended family hangs in the air.
Yet, like never before in our lifetimes, this year Easter will likely not be marked by traditions, but by newness. We will chat “He is risen!” and “He is risen indeed!” back and forth and will celebrate together, not as the church gathered but as the church scattered on digital platforms around the world. We will sing together while our young kids run around the living room, dancing to the music. We will open God’s Word while sitting on our couches.
Although it grieves me to not be celebrating the resurrection together this year, the need for hope in times of trouble is palpable, and that hope is only found in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Traditions may be missed this year, but what an opportunity we have to strip away what we’ve added to our Easter celebrations and display the joy and hope we have in a risen Savior to a world full of fear and anxiety that is groping in the darkness for peace!
The point of Easter isn’t fancy clothing and family gatherings, although I do love celebrating in these ways. The meaning of Easter, the hinge-point of our faith and the anchor of our hope, is Jesus’ resurrection. Without it, our faith is useless and we are still dead in our sins. As C.S. Lewis said of Jesus, without the resurrection Jesus must have been a liar or a lunatic, not the Lord He claimed to be. Jesus could not claim to be the Son of God and promise to return to His people if the substance of those claims wasn’t found in His bodily resurrection.
Why does the resurrection matter?
1. The resurrection testifies to the forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
Jesus is the Passover Lamb. Passover was a time of looking back to what God had done to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt (found in Exodus 11–14). The tenth and worst plague resulted in the death of the firstborn in all households, including livestock, but God’s people were spared because they had slaughtered a spotless animal and put blood over their doorposts. It was because of this blood and the death of the firstborns in Egypt that God’s people were delivered from their oppression, and this was the annual festival being prepared the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross. The day that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered, the perfect Lamb of God was also crucified on the cross so that death might pass us by through the power of His blood.
He is also the spotless lamb sacrificed on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) to atone or make reparations for sin. Once a year the High Priest would slaughter an animal to pay for the sins of the people while also releasing a scapegoat into the wilderness with the sins of the people on its head, imaging God’s removal of sin from the people. Jesus has both made a way for death to pass us by and for the penalty of sin to be paid.
2. The resurrection reveals the defeat of sin, giving us access through Christ to God.
Jesus has satisfied the just demands required by God the Father for sin. If you read some of the promises of God shortly after the Ten Commandments in Exodus, you’ll see the intensity with which God hates sin. God cannot be around sin because He is holy, perfect, and His justice demands that sin is paid for rightly.
He died the death that we deserved (Romans 3:23). He took on the penalty of our sin and swapped places (substituted Himself) with us so that we could be forgiven of our sin and have His place of a righteous relationship with God as sons and daughters and also heirs to all that is God’s! The work Jesus did on the cross doesn’t just matter for us in eternity, but it has changed our position with God today. Because the resurrection happened, we know we can be right with and have access to God.
3. The resurrection is the promise of what is to come for those who trust Jesus.
His resurrection is the first fruits among the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means that Jesus’ resurrection is a pattern that will be repeated in our lives. He is the first fruit of the resurrection that is to come for all who believe in Him when He returns to reign. In the Old Testament, first fruits of any crops were dedicated to God for His faithfulness to provide for them. These were offered on the Sabbath day following the Passover feast (Leviticus 23:9-14).
Just as the giving of the first fruits was a picture of the faith God’s people had that the rest of the harvest would follow the first, all who have union with Christ will be raised again as He was raised, through the power of God. This union is mysterious, but is founded in two truths: we are in Christ and Christ is in us, and when He returns, we too will be raised.
4. The resurrection is our hope and peace.
In Jesus’ resurrection, we know that death, sin, and suffering have been defeated. The life we live today is temporary, but eternal life dwelling with the Father is coming. Upon Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to the disciples, a group of scattered, scared men. This year, Easter comes to us similarly as many are experiencing great fear and the church is certainly scattered, unable to meet together physically. Yet, Jesus is with His people, and He is not bound by if we are gathered in a building together or joining together through the blessing of technology. There has not been a moment in my lifetime where people were so desperate for peace and hope. The Church has the answer – it is Jesus and His resurrection!
Jesus’ resurrection is the hope of the gospel. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
by Mary Wiley