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Please explain: Why is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead so important?

Why is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead so important?

Have you ever played the game in which you had to look at a group of items and choose the one that didn’t belong? Detecting the “other” in a group can be a tough little puzzle.

What might you say about this three-part series? The Son of Man . . .

(1) is going to be delivered into the hands of men.
(2) will be killed by these men.
(3) will rise after three days (cf. Mark 9:31).

Bible-believing Christians read the sequence and are left scratching their heads. Aren’t all three components promised in God’s Word and delivered in Jesus?

For many, unfortunately, the one that does not belong stands out. Someone getting betrayed to the authorities? That scenario is within reason and possibility. And people getting killed by those authorities is a regrettable reality. But number 3? It just does not belong! People do not physically rise from the dead. Certainly, there must be some sort of alternative interpretation that applies to number 3, a more subtle understanding of what “will rise” really means.

In this manner, we get introduced to a line of thought that is logical by rational standards but dangerous—even destructive—regarding our faith: Christ did not rise physically from the dead in a body like you and I have. Rather, his resurrection and ascent into heaven were purely spiritual. While this argument appears appealing in terms of our normal understanding of physical ability against spiritual ability, it completely disregards the testimony of Scripture and the promises our Savior laid out and fulfilled for us, his believers, on Easter. Reviewing some details of Christ’s resurrection and its impact will be a blessing to our faith as we address false ideas of bodily resurrection concerning Jesus and all people.

Because God’s Word says so

Jesus Christ appeared to his disciples after his resurrection. Descriptions from God’s Word help us answer whether these appearances were physical or spiritual. In Luke chapter 24, we read that on the road to Emmaus, “Jesus himself” approached two disciples, walked with them, and talked to them (vv. 13-35). Only a few verses later, “Jesus himself” stood among the disciples behind locked doors and declared, “Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (vv. 36,39). While a spiritual resurrection requires no tangible, material connection, Jesus gave his disciples a tangible, material connection. He confirmed that he really was alive in the flesh after a physical resurrection.

But questions might remain: Why? What difference does it make if Jesus was present physically or spiritually? Doesn’t his salvation work carry the same weight either way?

Once again, we only can go to what God’s Word explicitly describes to gain clarification and comfort in this matter. When explaining resurrection power to the believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul relentlessly emphasized the need for an actual, tangible resurrection for God’s promises to be true in Jesus: promises for Jesus to be alive in every way he said he would be and promises for us believers to know we will be alive in every way God has said we will be on the Last Day (1 Corinthians 15:12-32). While the Corinthians and even people today have been tempted to reject the importance of the physical resurrection, Paul declared that frontier critical for God’s declaration of salvation peace and comfort.

Physical resurrection in Jesus becomes the capstone of the Christian faith purely on account of the fact that God set that stone in place with his plan to die, rise, and ascend as victorious over every spiritual enemy on our behalf. To deny that plan is completed is to call God a liar, his Word false testimony, and his promises null and void. Instead, by Christ’s bodily resurrection, we are assured that every word and promise God shares are good, true, and trustworthy—especially the promise that we too will gain resurrection life with him based on the merits of his perfect sacrifice.

And that is just about the most important point of all. Sweeping aside God’s ability to do miracles like a bodily resurrection from the dead does not take Scripture on its own terms. Rather, it elevates skepticism and rationalism to an undeserved status, one that is above the clear testimony God gives in his Word about himself and his activity for us. The much preferred and most important path a Christian follows takes God’s Word purely at face value. The Lord has approached life and death with comprehensive power. That power completes a plan to provide victory over death through Christ’s full work of salvation, a work that includes everything God the Father outlined for the Son to do—keeping the commandments, performing miracles, suffering, dying, rising, and ascending into heaven.

Because it provides complete comfort

Some will claim that denying a bodily resurrection in Jesus does nothing to their concept of God, his Word, his promises, and his power. A mindful Bible reader, however, will recognize that biblical doctrines concerning Jesus are indelibly stitched together. Ripping one out of the group sabotages the Christian’s view of the whole. Christ was born in flesh and blood (Luke chapter 2). He suffered in flesh and blood (Psalm 22; Isaiah chapter 5). He died in flesh and blood (John chapter 19). To halt there and suppose he did not rise in a manner matching his entire ministry path (living, suffering, dying) is to bring God’s comforting salvation truth to nothing.

Since Christ defeated death and confirmed it by rising, we gain the awesome right to enjoy the same through him.

If God cannot rise physically from the dead . . . what else can he not do? This becomes the fair question to pose to those who meditate on God’s capabilities and find they come up short against the laws of nature or human experience. Can God bring people into eternal rest by his side . . . at all? Can God provide healing in times of grief and loss . . . at all? Can God solve problems . . . or not? The physical resurrection of Jesus, by God’s own claim, becomes a megaphone “Yes!” to all the above. Since Christ defeated death and confirmed it by rising, we gain the awesome right to enjoy the same through him.

Playing the “What doesn’t belong?” game inevitably follows a set of preconceived ideas and assumptions that guide a person into one conclusion over another. If your assumptions are “God knows what he’s doing; he never promises what he won’t deliver; he fulfills a perfect plan that incorporates me,” the answer becomes clear. All three statements of the “What doesn’t belong regarding Jesus?” game are concrete, tangible facts of history and therefore are our resurrection comfort.

What a joy to observe and take to heart this simplest and most confident reading of God’s Word! What a joy to reach for his power when we need it most: in our personal battles against sin, death, and hell! What a joy to relate the importance of this resurrection truth to those needing this same power in their struggle against eternal death!

Author: Isaac Cherney
Volume 111, Number 04
Issue: April 2024

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This entry is part 1 of 53 in the series please explain

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