Why Resurrection Matters

Almost twenty-four years ago, I received an abrupt phone call. The call was from my dad’s pastor, saying that he had driven up to see me and that he needed directions to my apartment. When I asked him what was going on, he evaded the question, saying that he’d share more in person. I soon learned that my dad had died in a heartbreaking tragedy: he had taken his own life. There had been no warning, and he had left no note. There was nothing we could do. He was gone.

Almost fifteen years ago, I received another abrupt phone call. This time the call was from my first wife, Ann. She had been dealing with shortness of breath and a mysterious pain in her abdomen, and her doctors had been trying to figure out her problem. But that day her symptoms suddenly got much worse. We rushed her to the hospital, got her admitted, and endured a couple days while they ran tests. Finally they asked if they could biopsy her lungs, which confirmed the worst: an aggressive cancer had made its way to her lungs and was quickly taking over. There was little we could do. A few days later, she was gone.

Sometime in the future, I’ll face a moment when I take my last breath here on this earth. I imagine others might make abrupt phone calls to my family members and friends, telling them the news. At that point, there will be nothing anyone can do to bring me back for any final conversation or moment of closure. I will be gone.

This is why resurrection matters.

We all know we are mortal, and so we know each person’s day is coming. Death is the great certainty with which we all live. Yet the separation of death still catches us by surprise, leaving us gasping in grief and grasping for the one who has died. I think we know instinctively that death is an intruder, an evil by-product of something gone wrong, and so we rage against death even as we helplessly watch it devour those that we know and love.

And even though we are helpless against death, we attempt to make death a dignified affair. We try to control our reactions and decisions in the wake of death. But no matter how elaborate the funeral, how touching the eulogy, or how meaningful the support of others, they cannot give us what we really want: reunion with the one who has died. Death gives not one inch. Our separation from them is complete and total.

This is why resurrection matters.

If we turn to the Bible for comfort in our grief, initially it might seem to offer little help. The Bible’s story declares that the source of death is our rebellion against God. Death wouldn’t have shown up if we humans had chosen to trust God and do what he asked. No one would have taken their life in despair. No one would have perished by disease. No one would have lost their life to disaster, or war, or murder, or accident. But when the first humans decided to cross the boundaries set by God, all of us followed in their footsteps. Our sin created our death sentence.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12 CSB)

If we continue with the Bible’s story, it gets better; we eventually see God sacrifice his own Son for our sake, dying for our sins on the cross. But as pivotal as that moment was, we must not stop there. Death must not have the final word. We want more than redemption; we want reunion. Good Friday’s glory feels hollow without Easter Sunday.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Those, then, who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished.  If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19 CSB)

If I could not believe in Jesus’s resurrection, I would abandon all pretense of Christian faith. What would be the point, if there is no promise of future reunion? In that case I would do well to stop wasting my time with church. I’d be better off spending that time enjoying myself in the company of family and friends, if indeed we are all perishing into nothingness.

But by believing in Jesus and in his resurrection, I know one day I’ll meet him in the flesh. One day I’ll see Ann again, and I’ll see Dad again, and I’ll see everyone else who trusted in Jesus before they died. This is my hope and it fuels my happiness, even in the midst of sorrow. Because one day there really will be a happily-ever-after with Jesus.

This is why resurrection matters.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 CSB)

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