Why Does the Resurrection Matter?
This week we asked the question, “Why does the resurrection matter?” Christians believe that not only did Jesus die to save us from our sins, but God raised Him from the dead three days later — sealing His victory over sin and death. I loved the song “Resurrecting” that the worship team did during the offering this week — proclaiming the power of Christ’s resurrection. These lines gave me goosebumps:
The tomb where soldiers watched in vain
Was borrowed for three days
His body there would not remain
Our God has robbed the grave
Our God has robbed the grave!
The soldiers watched in vain — the tomb was simply borrowed. God robbed the grave and brought Jesus back to life!
The resurrection of Jesus is an important tenant of Christianity and it changed His disciples and everyone around them forever.
Although Jesus had been saying it for a long time, everyone was still shocked to discover that He had risen. And I guess I would have been too. It’s not a thing that happens! I love that Pastor Dan pointed out that it was women who discovered that the tomb was empty. I don’t love this because I’m a woman, but because of the two things Pastor Dan pointed out — that it showed that God does things in such counter-cultural ways, and because it helps prove the point that this story was not made up. If you were creating a fairy tale story in the Ancient Near East, you would not choose to have women as your witnesses.
So, after the resurrection, then what? Where is Jesus now?
The Bible tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father — His work to defeat sin perfectly accomplished through His death.
It is also important that when we talk about the ascension of Jesus we recognize that He, as a real person, went into heaven. Pastor Dan mentioned a “creepy” view of heaven that some of us have. I had this creepy view of heaven for a long time. I remember being young and being afraid of Jesus’ return. I didn’t want Him to come back yet — I wanted to live my life before I had to go to heaven, which I pictured as all white, clouds, and singing. I was afraid to rattle around in my giant mansion all by myself. I pictured heaven as boring.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think my view of heaven, and maybe a lot of our views, had actually been influenced by the idea of Gnosticism, a heresy that goes as far back as when the Gospels were first written. Gnosticism was a type of thought that was influenced by the philosopher Plato. He promoted the idea that the physical world was bad and the spiritual world was ultimately good. Your goal was to become connected with your soul and disconnected from the evils of your body. When Paul and John write books of the New Testament, we can see them combating this philosophy in their writings. Some people were saying that if Jesus was God, there was no way He could have had a real physical body because the physical was bad. So John makes sure to emphasize that He saw Jesus literally die and that real blood and water flowed out of Him when His side was pierced. Paul has to remind the Corinthians that being married and enjoying marriage was not bad because it brought about physical pleasure.
Although the New Testament fights against Gnosticism, it is still a belief that worked its way into Christianity. This, I think, has affected our view of heaven. Instead of reading Revelation and seeing the beautiful garden city — the real place — that God creates at the end of time, we have images of harps and clouds and boringness. But this is not how heaven is ever described in the Bible. It is a real place and we have real bodies and do real things. It will be better than we can ever imagine!
So, if Jesus ascended into heaven, what is He doing now?
The Bible tells us that Jesus is reigning. And as Pastor Dan reminded us, this is a comfort in a world so filled with uncertainty, corrupt politicians, and a host of other problems. The truth is that Jesus reigns — in the past, present and future. I so appreciated the reminder of Habakkuk 2, that one day the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the knowledge of the Lord!
The Bible also tells us that Jesus is interceding for us — praying for us. It’s amazing, really. The Son of God spends time praying for you and me.
Jesus also said that He’s preparing a place for us. Remember that big empty mansion I was scared of when I was little? As I studied the Bible and its culture more, I learned something pretty cool about this whole idea. There’s a lot of wedding imagery in the Bible, and it is used for us and our relationship with Jesus. Those of us who are saved are called His bride. In Jewish culture when a man got engaged, he would leave and work to add on living space to his father’s house. This would be where he and his bride would live once they got married. They would become part of his father’s household and live in community with family. This would have been what people would have automatically thought of when Jesus said that He was preparing a place for us. To me this sounds much more fun and less lonely than a mansion by myself. Jesus is preparing a place for us in His father’s house and it will be amazing!
I love C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” which is an allegory of much of the gospel story. In “The Last Battle,” the final book of the series, Narnia is recreated, and it is a picture of heaven.
The Unicorn sees the new Narnia and says, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
Ultimately, as believers of Jesus and people who proclaim His resurrection, we now live with an upward and outward look. We wait eagerly for Christ’s return — what a glorious day it will be! And we go into the world preaching the gospel so that more have an opportunity to repent and join us on that day.
Jesus ascended to heaven and will return for us one day. He will bring us to the land we’ve been looking for all our lives and it will be better and better with each new day.