What did Jesus' followers believe about the meaning of the resurrection?
Let's look back at the creed we discussed when we looked at the appearances of Jesus. If you remember, creeds are summaries of belief that are easy to memorize and pass along. The word "creed" in Latin is "credo", which means "I believe."
"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you...For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve..." (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)
"Christ..." What does it mean to be the Christ?
Christ is not a name, but a title which means "anointed or chosen one". In Jesus' time, there was an expectation that the Messiah would come from the line of King David and deliver his people from Roman oppressors and usher in the reign of God. In Isaiah 9:6-7 written 700 years before Jesus, Isaiah talks about God himself becoming the messianic King who will set the world right.
"For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. These will be his royal titles: “Wonderful,” “Counselor,” “The Mighty God,” “The Everlasting Father,” “The Prince of Peace.” His ever-expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule with perfect fairness and justice from the throne of his father David. He will bring true justice and peace to all the nations of the world."
Jesus and the early church believed that he was this king who would reign on David's throne and bring justice and make the world right, but was it the way that the Jews in Jesus' day expected? Did he come with military might?
"Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures"
The Jews of the time of Jesus' problem went far beyond being set free from the Romans. For that matter, all of humankind's problem is much deeper than being free from human oppression. History repeatedly shows us that the oppressed, once set free, very soon themselves become the oppressors. We see this in the history of Israel. They were freed from slavery in Egypt, but David's own descendants through whom the Messiah was to come were some of the cruelest kings you could ever find. Rather than coming as a conquering king, Jesus came as a servant. He said, "For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus taught us that the greatest commandments are "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."... and "Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)
The problem is all mankind has fallen woefully short of this. We've all failed to love God with all our being, and we've acted cruelly and selfishly at some point in our lives. Paul wrote "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and "the wages of sin is death". (Romans 6:23) Mankind needed to be freed from their own sin and rebellion.
Isaiah also prophesied that God would raise up a servant who would take the punishment that we all deserved:
"We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we didn’t care. Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed—and we were healed! We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us!" (Isaiah 53:3-7)
Paul, looking back at the cross, wrote: "God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin so that we might receive God’s approval through him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
"that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures"
The creed states that the resurrection was also foretold by the scriptures. Going back to Isaiah 53:
"However, when his soul has been made an offering for sin, then he shall have a multitude of children, many heirs. He shall live again, and God’s program shall prosper in his hands. And when he sees all that is accomplished by the anguish of his soul, he shall be satisfied; and because of what he has experienced, my righteous Servant shall make many to be counted righteous before God, for he shall bear all their sins." (Isaiah 53:10-11)
Because Christ has been raised, the grave is not the end of our lives. Paul tells the Corinthians, Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of a great harvest to come. Though death came by the first Adam, in the second Adam “shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Apart from the resurrection of Christ, we have no future hope. But since Christ has been raised, we are those who can look death in the face knowing that it has no final victory, no lasting sting (1 Cor. 15:54-55).
Because of this hope, those who believe have their lives take a new meaning. Paul ends 1 Corinthians 15 by saying. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (15:58). Because Christ is risen we have the assurance that our labor for the risen Christ is not pointless, but will matter for all eternity. What hope this is!
Receiving the free gift
To receive this amazing gift, Paul lays out what we need to do next: "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10)
You can do that right now by simply saying "Jesus, I believe you died for my sins. I believe God raised you from the dead. I don't want sin to rule over me anymore. I want you to rule over me (be my Lord). Make this not just another historical truth I know in my mind, but a living reality in my heart. Thank you for saving me."
If you prayed this prayer, please reach out to us. Or, if you have questions or are interested in discussing what's been presented here further, please drop us a line. Also, maybe you yourself need a miracle. If you'd like prayer, please reach out!