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New Horizons

What Jesus' Resurrection Meant for Him

Rowland Ward

Jesus' resurrection was not a resumption of the same kind of life he had before, as was the case with Lazarus (see John 11). Lazarus was raised to resume his old life and to die again. Christ was raised and death no longer has any hold on him. The life of the age to come has been realized in him. Let us explore further what Jesus' resurrection tells us about his person and work for us.

What the Resurrection Proves

The New Testament certainly emphasizes that the Resurrection is the Father's vindication of his Son. He had claimed to be the Messiah, the promised Anointed One, who would deliver God's people from their sins. That claim seemed to be baseless when he was condemned. How could a convicted blasphemer be the Messiah? But the one whom the people rejected was accepted by God. Jesus' claim to a unique relationship to the divine Father as the equally divine Son was vindicated when he was raised.

However, the Resurrection should not be thought of simply as a proof of the deity of Christ. Indeed, if his death was simply the death at the hands of wicked men of one who was God's Son and the Messiah, why was it permitted? Why should there be such a death at all?

The short, but fundamental answer is that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3). There was a divine purpose in his death. God did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up (Rom. 8:32) without any last minute reprieve, as in Abraham's case (Gen. 22). Peter put it this way: "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge" (Acts 2:23). It was God's will that his Servant should suffer, but it was for our sins. The punishment that brings us peace was laid upon him (Isa. 53:5, 10).

Accordingly, the fact that the Father raised him means that Jesus' death is attested as accepted and effective, and Jesus is declared to be the righteous one. By his death he destroyed death, since by his death he became no longer subject to it. As the sinless one in our nature, Jesus acted as our high priest. He offered himself, and his offering was fully righteous and fully meritorious. Therefore, the Father raised and glorified him.

The Heart of Christ's Saving Work

In Romans 1:3-4, Paul tells us that the gospel concerns God's Son, he who was eternally with the Father (John 1:1). Concerning the Son, Paul says, as I interpret the passage, that there were two stages in his experience. First, "he came of the seed of David according to the flesh." Second, "he was appointed the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness." The link marking the transition between these two stages was his resurrection from the dead.

His earlier history, involving descent from King David's line, to which was attached the messianic promise, was one of weakness, vulnerability, and humiliation; that is, it was according to the flesh. He was a servant. He took our nature, with the exception of sin, since he had to share our humanity in order to deal with sin and achieve salvation for us. But following the cross of condemnation, there was the coronation crown of glory and honor, fulfilling the promise of Messiah's endless reign. Thus, through the Resurrection, he was "appointed the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness."

So the resurrection of Jesus was transforming for Jesus' humanity: humiliation gave way to exaltation. The one that men crucified, God made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). Jesus' resurrection did not make him God's Son, but invested him with the glory and majesty that belonged to him as the righteous Son, the Son of God in our nature, glorified and empowered by the Spirit of God.

Thus, Jesus had all authority in heaven and on earth given to him. His position at God's "right hand" is an authority that extends to angels, rulers, and powers in every sphere. His rule has in view the salvation of his people (Eph. 1:19-22) and his lordship to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11). Hence, Jesus' redemptive activity did not end with his atoning death and resurrection in glory. It has been powerfully carried on through the outpoured Spirit and Christ's heavenly intercession.

Christ's Continuing Work on Earth

Jesus carries on his work on earth through the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives the Spirit to his people and in this way continues to be present with them until his return at the end of the age. Jesus had promised to be with his disciples, a promise fulfilled by the sending of the Spirit (John 14:18; 15:26). Similarly, Romans 8:9-10 shows us that the method by which Christ indwells the believer is by his Spirit. It states that if anyone has the Spirit of Christ, he has Christ in him.

So the Spirit is not a poor substitute for Christ. He is the means by which Christ himself is fully present with his people. So close is this relationship in the experience of the believer that Paul can affirm "the Lord is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:17), without at all denying the reality of personal distinction between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Christ's Continuing Work in Heaven

Romans 8:34 states: "Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Through his resurrection and exaltation, he appears in God's presence for us (Heb. 9:24). We are in fact encouraged to come to him since "he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Heb. 7:25).

The glory with which Jesus has been invested ensures that the virtue of his saving work is ever represented before the Father. Just as the Jewish high priest bore the names of the tribes of Israel on his breastplate, so Christ's intercession is personal for all his people.

Conclusion

The resurrection of Jesus means that God's promised new beginning without end has begun. The resurrection of Jesus is not simply a past event of no continuing significance. Rather, it is the act of God in vindicating Jesus and investing him with power to redeem and save. It involves the giving of the Holy Spirit so that people come to a personal relationship with Christ. It ensures Christ's high priestly intercession.

Jesus' resurrection is the pledge of the believers' hope: because he lives, we shall live also. Life and immortality have been brought to light! God has justified his Son, that through faith in him you might be declared not guilty and receive eternal life as a free gift of God's mercy. This is indeed good news! Jesus lives! Jesus reigns! Jesus is Lord! He is the one on whom you are to believe. It is before him that you must bow.

The author is a minister in the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia and is editor of The Presbyterian Banner, from which this article comes (slightly edited). Reprinted from New Horizons, March 2002.

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