In history, three days after he died on the cross, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the grave. Just as with his life and his cross, we must stress the historical fact that this truly did happen. If you could go back, you could not only witness Jesus die without a doubt on the cross, but you could have seen him on Sunday 100% alive again.
The historical records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record the cross, and they each also record his coming back to life again on Sunday (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:1-18). Christians have called this the resurrection. All that word means is that Jesus literally died, and then he factually came back to life again a few days later. He wasn’t a ghost. It wasn’t the disciples hallucinating. He was a man who died and then came back to life.
But why did this happen? You may have heard that this cross and resurrection is the center of the Christian gospel, but why did he need to come back to life again? Here are a few helpful reasons.
1. The Resurrection Impacts What Jesus Did: His Victory Over Sin and Death
When Jesus died on the cross, he was victorious over sin as he “cancelled our record of debt that stood against us” (Colossians 2:14). Jesus died in our place, taking the punishment of our sin. In this way, he displayed that he can conquer corruption and forgive sin. This was his victory because he showed that he can forgive his people and not let sin be held over them forever. He triumphed over all sin, evil, and death (Colossians 2:15).
But in order to triumph over sin, he not only needed to die to take sins upon himself, he also needed to rise from the dead to show that sin was finally dealt with. In other words, if he didn’t rise, then he’d be held by sin forever. He died in the place of sinners, and then when he rose he displayed that it was truly finished (as he said it was [John 19:30]).
So his resurrection means that for those who trust Jesus, sin no longer has the final word. Jesus does. He wins. He won for them. He rose to show that this is true. His coming back to life shows that sin was finished and it was never going to keep him dead. It has been dealt with.
In the early church, some were questioning if the resurrection was really that important. In response, the apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). But why is this? Because if Jesus was still dead, then he wouldn’t have finally dealt with sin—sin would continue to hold him down. But since Christ has been raised, sin is defeated and dealt with. Once again, Jesus wins.
In short, Jesus can forgive sins because he died to bear the punishment and because he rose to show that sin was finally dealt with. Therefore, if you trust him, your sins are truly forgiven and gone. In this way the resurrection impacts what Jesus did, because without it, sin would still have the final word.
2. The Resurrection Shows Who Jesus Is: He is God and King
In his resurrection, Jesus also made it clear who he was. He was God himself who had the seemingly insane authority to be able to raise himself up from the dead.
Jesus said this would happen when he taught during his earthly ministry. He once made a tremendously bold comment about his control not only over his death, but also over his resurrection. He declared, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18). This is quite remarkable. It is one thing to say that you have authority over your death. We all could decide to take our lives if we wanted. But it is another thing altogether to say that you can lay down your life and take it up again! And in case we miss it, Jesus says it twice: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again...I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
Who else can raise himself from the dead but God? Who else can declare with absolute certainty that he’ll die and then come back to life three days later (Mark 9:31)? The Son of God and the Lord himself can (Romans 1:4). Therefore, the resurrection displays who Jesus is: God himself, the true King over all, who alone has authority over everything, including even life and death.
3. The Resurrection Tells Us What’s To Come: Our Bodily Resurrection in the Future
The resurrection concerns what Jesus did in his being victorious over sin, who Jesus is as he is God, and third, it tells us what is to come for all of us. When Jesus rose, the Bible says that his resurrection was the beginning of this renewed and restored creation that God is making (Colossians 1:18). Following in Jesus’ footsteps, every single person in the future will be raised bodily from the dead. Some will then go to everlasting life, while others sadly to everlasting punishment (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46). But nevertheless, everyone will be raised.
In this way, Jesus’ resurrection shows us what is to come for us all. He was the first to be raised from the dead (Romans 8:29). And his resurrection teaches us that God is going to raise us each individually as well.
4. The Resurrection Means Jesus is Alive Right Now
These three reasons above are good reasons to explain why the resurrection is important, especially in this gospel news. But maybe simplest and yet most profound of all is that the resurrection shows us that Jesus is really alive right now. At this very moment, the God-man Jesus of Nazareth—the same Person who was born in Bethlehem and who died on that Roman cross outside of Jerusalem—is now truly living. He is in his resurrected body. He is the King. He is the only Savior. He is “the Christ, God over all” (Romans 9:5).
This means that believing in Jesus—trusting him, praying to him, and banking your life on him—is not just some religious sentiment. The world and spiritual demons want to convince you that trusting in Jesus is just hogwash. But it isn’t at all. Rather, being a genuine Christian is knowing that God is real, he is Jesus, he came and died for your sins, and that now he still exists, that he is alive, that he’s good and loving, that he’s with you, and that he’s coming soon to make everything right again. He’s real. He was raised. He is alive (Romans 8:34).
So Jesus’ resurrection proves that we don’t believe in some good teacher who claimed to be God and then who died in a loving way. Instead, we trust in the real Jesus who is just as alive as you and I are. He rose, is alive, and will live forevermore. Praise God.
As your phone or computer is real in your hands; so Jesus is real. And he’s alive right now. He truly died, but then he came back to life. This confirms the truthfulness of God’s gospel plan. Let’s truly believe it and genuinely trust the living Jesus.