Last Sunday morning, the people of God celebrated the triumphant victory of King Jesus, who died for our sins according to the Scriptures, who was buried in a borrowed tomb, and who three days later rose from the grave, triumphant and victorious over sin and death. And on Resurrection Sunday, we always say that our worship of Christ for His resurrection isn’t something that happens only once a year, but rather is something we do all year round. But I’ve found that that’s not always the case. It’s easy for the busy-ness of life, or even just the next sermon series to replace disciplined and sustained meditation on the significance of the resurrection.
So I want to do some post-Resurrection-Day resurrection reflection. And today I want to focus particularly on the biblical and theological significance of the resurrection with respect to the person of Christ Himself. What did the resurrection mean for Jesus?
The Last Adam
1 Corinthians 15:20–22: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
When Paul says, “by a man came death,” he’s referring to Adam in the Garden of Eden. God had provided Adam and Eve with the fruit of every tree in the Garden to enjoy, but prohibited them from eating from one tree. He said, “In the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). And of course, the serpent deceived Eve, she ate of tree and gave some to Adam, and just as God had promised, at that moment, death entered God’s creation through human sin.
And the Bible teaches that in a mysterious but nevertheless real way, all of humanity was united to Adam in his disobedience in such a way that when he sinned, we sinned. And so from that moment, every member of the human race is born spiritually dead, and will succumb to the reality of physical death. Romans 5:12 says, “Through one man [i.e., Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
But just as “by a man came death,” in the very same way Paul says, “by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.” In the very midst of God’s curse of the serpent, the man, the woman, and the whole of creation, He provides a gracious promise that He will send the seed of the woman to destroy the devil’s work and undo the damage brought by man’s sin. And as Christ rose from the grave on that Sunday morning, He demonstrated that He is that promised Seed, for He has defeated sin and death. And of course the Good News of the Gospel is that all who believe in Him will overcome death, and will share in His resurrection.
The first Adam’s sin in the garden brought death to all those who were in him, which is to say, the entire human race. But the life, death, and resurrection of the second Adam brings resurrection from the dead to all those who are in Him, through repentance and faith.
So the resurrection identifies Jesus as the last Adam, the great progenitor of a new humanity.
The Son of David, Israel’s Messiah
Secondly, the resurrection identifies Jesus as the promised Son of David, Israel’s Messiah.
In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, he quotes from three Davidic Psalms to show that the resurrected Christ is the fulfillment of the promises God spoke to David. In Acts 2:25, Peter quotes from Psalm 16:10 where David confidently declares that God will not abandon his soul to Hades, nor allow His Holy One to undergo decay. And then in verse 29 Peter says, “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” In other words, David did undergo decay, so how can what he wrote in Psalm 16 be true? He says in verse 30, quoting Psalm 132:11, “Because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.” And then verse 34, “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says,” in Psalm 110:1, “Yahweh said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’”
Peter’s argument is that David was not speaking of himself when he spoke of Yahweh not letting His Holy One see decay. Since he knew that God had promised to seat one of his descendants on his throne, and since he knew that that descendant would be God Himself—which is why he can call him his “Lord” in Psalm 110:1—he was writing these things about the resurrection of the Messiah! And so Peter’s conclusion is: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
And so when Jesus rose from the grave, God was providing certain proof that Jesus was that promised Son of David—that Jesus was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah and Savior.
And in identifying Jesus as the promised Son of David, the resurrection also identified Him as the One in whom all of God’s covenant promises would find fulfillment.
Acts 13:32–33: “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus.”
And then Paul goes on to quote Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 55:3, and Psalm 16:10, demonstrating, just as Peter had in Acts 2, that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise to David.
But Acts 2:33, Paul says that the resurrection is not merely the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, but is the fulfillment of the promise God made to the fathers. The fathers are the Israelite patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Paul is saying that the resurrection is proof that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham as well—that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 22:18). In Galatians 3:8, Paul teaches that that universal blessing finds fulfillment in the Gospel of justification by faith alone.
And in Acts 13, Paul comes to the climax of his sermon when he says, “Therefore,” that is, on the basis of the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” Because Jesus has risen from the dead, forgiveness of sins is available to all who believe in this risen Son of David. Thus all the families of the earth are blessed in Abraham’s seed.
And so the resurrection identifies Jesus as the second and last Adam who is the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15; cf. 1 Cor 15:22, 45), the Son of David (2 Sam 7:12–16; cf. Matt 1:1), and the Seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18; cf. Gal 3:16).
Vindicates Jesus’ Testimony
During His earthly ministry, Jesus made a number of startling and remarkable claims about Himself. Consider a few of them:
- John 5:18 – Jesus “was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” Elsewhere He makes outrageous statements like, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
- John 5:21, 26 – “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” And in verse 26 He says, similarly, “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.”
- John 5:22, 27 – He declares Himself to be the rightful Judge of all people and all things. “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.”
- John 5:23 – He says that all must honor the Son even as they honor the Father! He is commanding that everyone worship Him, just as they would worship God! And He says if you don’t worship Him as God you dishonor the Father! So, you can’t worship the Father without worshiping the Son! In John 14:6, He says “No one comes to the Father but through Me.”
- John 5:24 – He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Believing or not believing in Him is the basis of your eternal destiny!
These are outrageous claims to make about yourself! People who talk like this could never be called a “good teacher” or a “moral prophet.” Claiming these things for yourself is madness at best and blasphemy at worst.
But then He upped the ante. Then He claimed that He would rise from the dead.
Mark 10:33–34: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
And not only that! He also said that He would raise Himself from the grave! John 10:18: He says, “No one has taken [My life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
Now this claim tops them all. All the others—claiming to be equal to God, to be the rightful Judge of all, demanding to be worshiped as the Father is worshiped, claiming He’s the only way to the Father—could have just been the rhetoric of a deceiver or a madman. But this claim that He would be killed and would raise Himself from the dead after three days—this was falsifiable. He could have made all those other claims and nobody could test them. But people could test whether or not He would rise from the dead. And the point is: if He could make good on that claim, there could be no good reason to reject any of the other claims He made. If Jesus rose from the dead, then He is who He says He is, and you are bound to obey Him. The resurrection demands allegiance.
If you’re reading this and you have an outward attachment to Christianity—you call yourself a Christian, you make it to church once and a while (but definitely on Christmas and Easter), you’ve grown up in the church and you may even read your Bible every now and then—but it’s pretty evident that you are the lord of your life. You set the agenda for your life, and when following Christ begins to make real demands on how you spend your time and money, on how you treat your spouse and your family, on what things you entertain yourself with—well, then all that “Jesus” stuff is just a bunch of nonsense for religious fanatics. But the empty tomb simply does not allow for casual followers of Jesus. Did He rise from the grave or didn’t He?
Indeed He did. And because He did, that means He is Lord, He is God, He is Judge, and His Word is Truth! The resurrection makes a totalizing claim on every aspect of your life. And if you’re not living for Him, if you’re still clinging to your sin, I invite you this Easter to confess that despite what you call yourself, you never really have believed in Christ as your Savior and Lord, to look upon this risen Savior with the eyes of faith, to repent of your sins, and to experience the resurrection life that comes from being united to Him.