After the resurrection: What happens now?

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by Sharon M. Robertson, LT. Colonel – 

How does one explain God? How does one explain Jesus?

How does one explain why God chose to become flesh for the sole purpose of rescuing rebellious humanity from the natural consequences of its rebellion? Why would perfect Holiness choose to confront sin face to face, one-on-one, and even to take upon Himself the indescribable, unbearable guilt of a sinful world, so that the truly, undeniably guilty might experience the impossible—the right to stand in innocence before the judgment bench of Him who knows the innermost secrets of the human heart and mind?

The Mission of the Christ

The mission of the Christ, God’s anointed one, was expressed clearly in His very name: “His name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” During much of His time on earth Jesus was the focal point of a desperate strategy designed to thwart that mission. Satan did not want Jesus to die on the cross. The prince of this world would have preferred that Jesus be satisfied to accept an earthly throne, for he was wise enough to see that in one incredible act of perfect, self-sacrificing love Christ would make salvation possible to all who believed in Him. Satan did his best (or worst) to appeal to the humanity of Christ—the very human needs for recognition, for self-gratification, for power, for avoidance of humiliation and suffering, both for Himself and his loved ones. In a futile, last-ditch effort, Satan even tried to get Jesus to come down from the cross and prove Himself the Son of God—anything would have been better than to see the God triumph through the sacrificial death of His Son. Satan failed.

The Crucifixion

Does love explain God’s sacrificial gift? That’s what we’ve been told again and again—but what kind of love is this, this passion that caused the Son to accept upon His own innocent, sinless self a burden of guilt so overwhelming that the Father Himself turned away in abhorrence as Christ Jesus became sin for us?

“God demonstrates His own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It sounds so simple, almost antiseptic. For some, it has taken the stark realism of Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, to provide a gut-wrenching, stomach-churning glimpse of what it must have been like, of what Christ suffered on our behalf.

Unfortunately, gut-wrenching and stomach-churning are not enough. What God is looking for is “heart-rending”! “Rend your hearts, and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love …” Joel 2:13). “Gut-wrenching” is an involuntary emotional response; “rending your heart” is a voluntary response born of remorse and repentance and humble acceptance of the incredible, inexplicable love, the forgiveness, the cleansing that God offers through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.

The Resurrection

But if in His death on the cross Christ secured salvation for all who repent in sorrow for their sins and accept personally the fact that through His sacrificial death He paid the penalty that should have been ours, what was the purpose of His resurrection? Justice has been appeased, the way to reconciliation with God opened; as Jesus said, “It is finished.” It’s over! What difference does it make whether or not Jesus arose from the dead?

The resurrection of Christ is not just a happy ending to a satisfying story—it is the defining distinctive of the Christian religion. While other men and women have lived exemplary, even laudatory lives, have been considered prophets and sometimes have been attributed with divinity by their followers, there is none other who not only died for the sins of his people, but has been raised from the dead, and is even now alive, interceding with the Father on our behalf. According to the scriptures, the resurrection of Christ is God’s visible, incontrovertible seal of approval, designed to make clear to all that His holy purposes have been accomplished.

More than a seal of approval, the resurrection of Christ was necessary to the accomplishment of God’s purposes for mankind. John 3:16, probably the most familiar verse in the Bible makes clear that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It was and is God’s intention that you and I should have the opportunity to find eternal life in Christ. Salvation from sin is meaningless if the hope of eternal life is taken away.

In the fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians Paul cogently argues this very point: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has been not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…” (I Corinthians 15:13-20).

The fact that Jesus was resurrected is presented in Scripture as proof positive that He is indeed the Christ He claimed to be, and that His promises can be depended on. “Because I live,” Jesus said, “you will also live,” (John 14:19). And because He does live, we believe, and look forward to an eternity with Him.

The resurrection of Christ changes the nature of the Christian hope from an insubstantial longing to a substantial objective—on the one hand, perhaps, intangible, but on the other imbued with a seemingly contradictory tangibility through active, powerful faith in Him who has promised. The Christian hope is not of the kind that says, “I hope that some day I will be with Jesus.” The Christian hope declares in faith, “One day I shall be with Jesus. I will see Him, and dwell with Him in the home He has prepared. I know Him—He promised, and God keeps His promises!”

So What Happens Now?

We live in the “Now” generation (as if there has ever been a generation able to separate itself from the “now.”) We are caught up in the fantasy of instant gratification—a fantasy if ever there was one, since instant gratification is a myth, dangling always just beyond one’s reach, tantalizing and tempting the appetite, making us believe that with just a bit more…

We want to know what the “payoff” is in today’s world, not just in the world to come. What is the practical application of all this in the here and now?

Well, for starters, how about freedom—the kind of freedom that is impossible to attain outside of Christ—freedom to make real choices, choices on a plane much higher than those leading to temporary gratification of the senses—choices that lead to satisfaction of the deepest longings of the soul.

How about peace of heart—no more searching for the meaning of life, but rather the experience of living life more abundantly—living for a purpose more meaningful than any we could find apart from Christ?

How about security—the security of being enfolded in the love of God Himself, knowing that no matter what happens, no matter how terrifying, no matter how devastating the experience, God will work it through with you, and out of seemingly inevitable defeat will bring glorious victory.

How about power—the power to make a difference in the world through the daily living out of the teachings of Jesus Christ? The power to view life as an endless source of possibilities beyond imagining, because you are in the service of One whose power is beyond human comprehension? The power to make things happen—things with eternal consequences?

How about real wealth—the kind of satisfaction and fulfillment that millions of people spend millions of dollars trying to achieve—the assurance that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19)? The sure knowledge that no matter how many blessings, material or spiritual, God bestows upon you, it is but a drop in the bucket compared to what He has in store for you?

How about the knowledge that you have in you the ability to bring joy and satisfaction to the heart of God Himself through faithful, obedient service to Him?

Now that is instant gratification. And that is the power of the resurrection.

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