There was a time I wondered why so much emphasis was placed on the resurrection. Jesus died on the cross as the all-sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world. Even if there had been no resurrection, his sacrificial death would have brought salvation; what could be more important than that?
The blood of Jesus was a more excellent sacrifice than that of bulls, sheep and birds. His death on the cross brought an end to the temple sacrifice system. The entire Gospel pivots around the cross. It is the universal symbol of Christianity. But the implications of resurrection are equally powerful, a fact that I can now appreciate as well. To the world, the cross looks like defeat. Perhaps Satan thought he had won; the Pharisees and Jewish Sanhedrin did. Jesus himself had said, though, that no man could take his life from him. He was laying it down, and had the power to take it up again. In light of the resurrection, the cross is not an end, but a beginning. In light of the resurrection, the cross became his greatest victory.
Paul said that if he had hope in this life only, he would be above all men most miserable. In Galatians 2, he talks about being crucified with Christ. In chapter 6, he reiterates that he is crucified to the world and the world to him. In a similar passage (Rom 6:4) Paul says that we are buried with Christ in baptism so that like him we will be raised. So then, we as Christians have been crucified with Christ by dying to this world and living for the things of the Kingdom. We crucify the desires of this flesh, in order to walk in what Paul described as “newness of life.” And at Christ’s appearing, we will be raised with him. This life is temporary and fleeting, like grass in the sun, but our life with Jesus will be eternal. Jesus has defeated death, hell and the grave.
In the meantime, as we are pilgrims and strangers in this world, Jesus serves as our great High Priest. Hebrews is filled with this imagery. Not only is the blood a Jesus a better sacrifice, Jesus himself is a more excellent high priest. He has no sins of his own to be forgiven of, and he constantly makes intercession on our behalf, going directly into the presence of God. He was raised from the dead, and now ever lives to make intercession.
Jesus’ death and resurrection were the plan of God for salvation before the world began. Jesus had the power to lay down his life and also to take it up again. He has defeated death, hell and the grave, and now sits at the Father’s right hand, ever living to make intercession. He will one day return, at the Father’s command, to bring his children home. He will also deliver the final blow to Satan himself, as he alone holds the key to the fiery pit. The importance of the resurrection is found in the fact that he is the author of life and more powerful than death. We have no reason to fear the one that can kill the body, but rather the one who can destroy the body and soul.
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Cor 15:54-55