This Sunday Christians around the world will celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus the King. In commemoration of Easter, I plan to share four posts that explain some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is good news and still matters today. These posts will not be exhaustive by any means. Much could be said and has been said about the resurrection and what it means for people and for this world. However, these posts will explain a few of the reasons why the resurrection is good news. I hope you find them encouraging.
First and foremost, the resurrection is good news because it means that this world has a new sort of king and an alternative kingdom that is different from the nations of this world. This is perhaps the best place to start when thinking about the good news of resurrection because this is where the Gospels themselves begin. Jesus’ resurrection first and foremost means that he is this world’s rightful lord and king. In his own way, Jesus claimed that he was Israel’s king, and by virtue of being Israel’s king, the rightful king of the entire world (Ps. 2, 110). Such audacious claims were among the reasons he was crucified. He claimed that the Jewish establishment and nation as a whole had failed in their God-given task to be a light of salvation to the nations, and when they refused to repent or turn from their own vision for what it meant to be the Israel of God, Jesus announced judgment against them and redefined around himself what it meant to be the true people of the LORD. Those pronouncements and claims were enough for the Jewish establishment to seek his execution. At first, Pilate was reluctant to follow through on their plans. When he questioned Jesus, Jesus made it clear that his was a different sort of kingdom—a kingdom that reflects God’s will in heaven and that is not built upon military command or political scheming but through acts of mercy and self-giving love. Pilate didn’t take such claims to sovereignty seriously. A king that operates in such ways was no king at all as far as Pilate was concerned. However, for the sake of political expediency he agreed to execute Jesus as a pretender and a revolutionary.
If the resurrection had not of happened, then Pilate and the Jewish establishment would have been proven right. A crucified king is no king at all. However, the resurrection did happen, and it matters because it served as divine vindication that Jesus was right. He is this world’s rightful lord and king. That is the good news that all four Gospels announce. The most well-known passage where Jesus says this is Matthew 28:18. By virtue of his resurrection from the dead, Jesus said to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That is another way of saying, “Look! I am alive. My claims were vindicated. I am now this world’s rightful sovereign. I have authority over this world’s powers whether in Jerusalem or in Rome, and I have authority even among the host of heaven!” Caesar claimed to be lord, but, if Jesus was right, Caesar’s authority was, at best, a derived and subordinate authority. If what the risen Jesus said were true, then Caesar’s powers had been delegated and he would one day be answerable to King Jesus for the way he executed that power.
The resurrection is good news because it means that Jesus is king. This was also the main point of the very first Christian sermon that we have on record. When the apostles and disciples received the Holy Spirit and began to speak languages that they had not studied, scoffers said that they must be drunk. Peter responded with a powerful sermon about the resurrection and the fulfillment of Scripture. His conclusion was that by virtue of the resurrection, Jesus had been vindicated and was now this world’s rightful lord. He announced to them, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and King, this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36)!”
I will explain in my next post more about why the news that Jesus is this world’s rightful lord and king is good news. At this point, suffice it to say that it is good news because Jesus is a different sort of king. This world has had its fair share of monsters reign over the nations of this world. One doesn’t have to look that far into history to see the destruction that tyrannous dictators have unleashed upon the vulnerable. One doesn’t even have to look into history at all. There are tyrants in this world right now capable and even guilty of monstrous acts against their own people. The world witnessed one such act just last week.
For this reason, it is good news that Jesus is this world’s true Lord, is in the process of taking it back as his kingdom, and will one day hold such people to account for their crimes. Jesus is a different sort of king. He is a king who serves and accommodates the very least and most vulnerable who look to him for aid. He is a king who knows what it’s like to suffer unjustly at the hands of evil doers. And, his own resurrection is evidence that through him God will make the wrongs and injustices of this world right when it is time. The resurrection is good news because it means that Jesus is ultimately this world’s lord and king.
Second, the resurrection is good news because it means that there is an alternative kingdom at work in this world, one that is embodied in the people of Christ. The resurrection was not only divine vindication that Jesus’ claims to royalty were true. The resurrection was also proof that his sacrifice was effective. The night before he was crucified, Jesus shared a Passover meal with his disciples and interpreted his death as a new exodus or a new Passover. The exodus was the founding event for the people of Israel. It was when the LORD god rescued them from slavery in Egypt and chose them as his special people to reflect his goodness to all the peoples of the earth.
In the course of their history, the Israelites failed to reflect the good character of God to the nations. As a result, they were exiled from their land and found themselves enslaved to the nations once again. However, God, in his steadfast love for them, promised that through his servant he would rescue them again from their captors, atone for their sin, and equip them to be what he always meant for them to be, a light of salvation to the nations. Jesus interpreted his coming death as the work of God’s servant. Even before his impending death in Jerusalem, he claimed that the role of the servant was his own as he told his followers that he had not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). And, on the night before he died, when death was certain, he told his disciples that his crucifixion would accomplish a new exodus and would result in the forgiveness of sins and new life for the people of the LORD.
As with his messianic claims, the resurrection was the proof that his claim to be God’s servant was true as well. The New Testament writers point out that through the rescue of Christ’s sacrificial death, he ransomed a people for himself who would serve as a kingdom of priests. This new Israel would be tasked with the work that ancient Israel was meant to accomplish but it would include believing Israelites and people from all the nations. Peter wrote to a mixed-body of Christians, saying, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. . . . Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:9, 11). Revelation records this song about Jesus, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).
The people who belong to Jesus—the church—make up a new sort of kingdom in this world, a kingdom not divided along ethnic or socioeconomic lines, not divided by gender or age restrictions but a kingdom in which the least and most vulnerable is considered the greatest. Once again, that may not seem like good news to some. Not everyone who has claimed to follow Jesus over the centuries has brought light to the world, and not every church has been a blessing to the families of this earth. Many times people and churches have forgotten that the good news about King Jesus is just as much a way of life as it is a set of doctrines to be believed. Jesus not only calls people to swear allegiance to him as King but to follow him in the way of the cross. And, as much as the followers of Christ have done that over the centuries, they have made a difference in this world. As much as followers of Jesus sacrifice, risk, and give themselves for those in need of healing, restoration, and good news about forgiveness and new life, the church has been a blessing and a light of salvation. As much as followers of Jesus have turned the other cheek, gone the extra mile, and loved and prayed for their enemies rather than to demand their rights, and as much as they have worked toward the cause of justice, righteousness, and peace in this world, the church has been good news. In short, in as much as the followers of the true King strive toward the new way of life that he calls upon his people to live, they have been good news to a world desperately in need of such news. Overall, the resurrection is good news not only because it means that Jesus is this world’s true King but also because it means that there is a new sort of people who live differently than the rest of the world, and who, if Jesus is right, will one day inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).
If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.