Among all of the events recorded in the Bible, the miracles of the Bible stand out conspicuously; among all of the miracles of the Bible, the resurrection of Jesus is the most conspicuous. There are other resurrections in the Bible, but none recorded with as much detail and precision as the resurrection of Jesus. It is an event alluded to in the prophets (Psalm 16:10). Jesus predicted it specifically (Matthew 12:40, 17:23, Luke 24:7). The New Testament writers recorded its facts in their accounts of the gospel, and the apostles made it their central theme in their preaching and teaching. The resurrection of Jesus stands as the single most documented event in ancient history, more so than Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, Alexander’s conquering of Persia, or Homer’s account of the Trojan War. It is the central event of history. Even the atheist and skeptic feel compelled to weigh in by challenging its historicity.
That the resurrection of Jesus is a significant event historically is one matter, but it is also an event that holds central significance for the human race. God took human form, lived a mortal existence in poverty, and was crucified and died as a criminal; only as magnificent a work as the resurrection could prove such an outlandish story. So unparalleled in human history is the notion that one could raise himself from the dead, that Isaiah may have had veiled reference to the resurrection when he calls it the Lord’s “strange act” (Isaiah 28:21). Only such a resurrection could prove such a seemingly preposterous claim; only an event of such magnitude would be worthy of pointing humanity to their true God.
The apostles made preaching the resurrection their central message. Peter’s first recorded sermon in Acts 2 highlights the testimony of the Old Testament prophets and juxtaposes it with the eye witness testimony of the apostles themselves, because Peter, as well as the other eleven, saw Jesus with their own eyes after He had been raised from the dead (Acts 2:32). Acts 4:2 says that the apostles “proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Acts 4:33 states, “And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 5:30, 10:40, 13:30-37, also speak to the apostles’ ubiquity in mentioning the subject. Perhaps the most notable passage of all is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 where the apostle Paul says:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also.
They carried this teaching everywhere they went. It was the central evidence to the truthfulness of their message, that Jesus was the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us.
The message of the resurrection is also central to Christian conversion. Both Romans 6:1-11 and Colossians 2:11-13 show that Christian baptism is a portrayal of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The old man of sin dies and is buried in that watery grave; from that same grave rises a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). The imitation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is so central to conversion that Peter pronounces remission of sins upon those who submit to it (Acts 2:38), and Ananias tells Paul to do it to “wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16). Indeed, one cannot be truly converted to Christ without being baptized in the likeness of his death, burial, and resurrection.
Finally, the message of the resurrection is central to Christian living. Colossians 3:1-17 makes this abundantly clear. Because the Christian has been raised with Christ, he is to seek spiritual things and put to death carnal things. He is to be concerned about developing: love, mercy, humility, meekness, forgiveness, and longsuffering. He must put away the lusts of the flesh: fornication, covetousness, anger, malice, blasphemy, and filthy speech. By being baptized, he has committed to a fundamental transformation of life, just as Jesus’ dead body was transformed after His resurrection. The doctrines of Christian living are part and parcel to the New Testament’s teaching on the resurrection.
The resurrection is a subject on which we must teach often, long, and without apology. It is central to the truths contained in the New Testament. One simply cannot be a New Testament Christian and deny the resurrection of Christ. May we ever live to proclaim His resurrection both from the pulpit, and in our public and personal lives, as we daily live for Him.