What do you think — what would the world look like today if Jesus had not been physically resurrected from the dead? Maybe Jesus would be remembered as a carpenter who had some profound things to say. Or maybe history would remember him as a man who did good to everyone he came across, but in the end, died a tragic death. Maybe he’d be seen as someone who ruffled the feathers of religious folks, and someone who really connected with the average Joe. Maybe the disciples would have erected a monument in his honor and placed it somewhere in Jerusalem. And perhaps today’s Christians would make pilgrimages to the statue and recall some of his sayings.
Without the resurrection, Easter would end on Good Friday and the cross would remind the world of torture and death. Without the resurrection there would be no Ascension, no one to send the Holy Spirit, no upper room experience to launch the church, Saul would not have become Paul, and we’d be missing most — if not all — of the New Testament. Without the resurrection our faith would be useless, grace would be faceless and death would still be the unconquerable frontier. This week I came across Phillip Yancey’s book The Jesus I Never Knew (1995). In it, he writes,
In many respects I find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes [Jesus] dangerous. Because of Easter I have to listen to his extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from his sayings. Moreover, Easter means he must be loose out there somewhere.
Easter is the ultimate game-changer. Without minimizing the significance of his birth, Easter is the most important piece in God’s redemptive plan. Apart from the resurrection, Jesus is the tragic hero. But because of the resurrection, Jesus sky-rockets past being a mere philosopher and miracle worker to the bona fide Son of God. His resurrection gives substance to the miracles he performed and makes all his claims true, including what he said to Martha:
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26)
This means that through the resurrection Jesus annihilated the power of sin and death. His resurrection changed the course of history and the destinies of everyone who would put their faith in him.
What about you and me; what do you believe about the resurrection? What impact does it have on your life today? Is it more of a spiritual philosophy or is it the central piece of your faith? Is it simply an ideology or is it the component that brings your theology to life? These are questions that need an answer. They are foundational to your life as a Follower of Jesus Christ. The book of Romans offers insight into the impact of the resurrection life that is in Christ. Paul explains,
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:5-7)
What does this mean? Paul is not saying that Christians are unable to sin, but rather that our participation in Christ’s death brings freedom from the bondage of sin and as a result, the Spirit of God enables us to sin less. Oswald Chambers called this co-resurrection and said,
The proof that I have experienced crucifixion with Jesus is that I have a definite likeness to Him. The Spirit of Jesus entering me rearranges my personal life before God.
When we come to the place of identifying with Jesus in his death, the Spirit of God comes in like a cleansing agent and sweeping changes happen. The rearrangement of our personal life that Oswald talks about is radical; it’s not merely a light dusting, but rather it’s a comprehensive cleaning and the result is that our body becomes “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
When the Spirit of God comes into a person there is a radical reformation. The resurrection power of God is so powerful that it remodels the interior life of every person He comes in contact with. Paul puts it like this:
…if the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)
This life is light. It’s the breath of fresh air to our soul was made to breathe. The old goes out the window and the new comes in. Those things that used to dominate and dictate our thinking, our action, and our speech are brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God transforms us so thoroughly that
…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come! (2 Corinthians 2:17)
This reality is one of the central themes throughout the New Testament scriptures. After people identify with Jesus’ death, the resurrection life that follows revamps every nook and cranny of human nature. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in us and gains access to the whole temple — the whole person. We, in turn, choose a lifestyle of holiness which we walk out in intimacy with Jesus choosing to count ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). The impact of the resurrection is a life change and life-changing.