The Meaning of Easter
By Dr. Paul Knudtson
“But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” “God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Peter on the day of Pentecost – Acts 2:24, 36)
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)
“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 6:4; 8:11)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the bedrock of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection, the fundamental elements of the Christian gospel would no longer exist. The apostle Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). But the universal testimony of the Christian scriptures is that Christ has been raised from the dead. And this event does not merely describe the interior feelings of the disciples (“we feel that he must still somehow be alive”), but rather has to do with objective, historical reality, something that many people on a variety of occasions perceived sensually, and not merely in their hearts. Christ “appeared” to his disciples after his burial (1 Cor 15:5-8), could be touched with one’s hands (John 20:27), and spoke in a real voice that people heard with their ears. The resurrection appearance of Jesus to Paul, even changed him from an enemy of Christianity into a passionate believer and apostle of Christ (Acts 9).
What is the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus? Based on the scriptures quoted at the beginning of today’s reading, we can suggest that the resurrection means at least three things:
- It says something about Jesus. Since God raised Jesus from the dead, this means that God has vindicated and affirms his identify as Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36). Because of Easter we are, therefore, right to affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior. We believe in him and even worship him, and do not consider him to be simply a great teacher and prophet.
- Christ’s resurrection becomes the basis for the hope (conviction) that we too will one day be raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). This means that we look forward not simply to surviving death as spiritual beings, but to a kind of life that includes a resurrected body and life in a new creation. Christ’s resurrection means that we do not long from release from creation, but for a renewal of creation—even of our own physical bodies.
- The resurrection of Jesus means that in the present—between Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of our own bodies in the age to come—we can enjoy an ongoing experience of the living Christ within us (Romans 6:4; 8:11). Easter, then, is not simply about what happened to Jesus two thousand years ago, nor is it only about what will one day happen to us after we die, but is also about a present fellowship that we enjoy even now with Jesus. Jesus is no longer dead; he lives even now within us.
Meditation: As you consider the meaning of Easter, what aspect of its message especially strikes you today? How do you think God wishes you to experience Easter in new ways or with new power?
Prayer: “O God, you have your only Son to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, and by his glorious resurrection you delivered us from the power of death. Make us die every day to sin, so that we may live with him forever in the joy of the resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (Lutheran Book of Worship).