All of us who have stood at a grave-side, have pondered the resurrection. It is the great comfort to those who mourn the loss of a loved one. A real hope, a real phenomenon soon to be realised. The resurrection is central to the hope of the gospel. We may stand and imagine the cemetery we are in at the time, alive with brethren and sisters of many generations. The trumpet has sounded, the voice has been heard and those sleeping in the earth have arisen. Their graves lay open as a testimony to the power of the resurrection. A witness to the world that death can have no sting and the grave no victory, because Christ has risen as the firstfruits and now “they that are Christ’s at his coming”.

This has all happened before. There was set in train as our Lord died on Golgotha a se ries of events at the moment of his expiration, the earthquake, the renting of rocks, the severing of the veil of the temple, and the opening of the graves of “many of the saints”. Following the allotted three days, he was to arise, and after him “many… came out of their graves after his resurrection… and appeared unto many” in Jerusalem (Matt 27:52,53). They witnessed to the resurrection of the Prince of Life. To the power of his resurrection. It is most likely that the Lord’s rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees as they “built the tombs of the prophets and garnished the sepulchres of the righteous” prior to Passover, was that they would “witness to themselves”. Some of these tombs would be opened and many saints would arise, after his resurrection and appear unto many. Maybe some that arose were the “prophets, wise men and scribes” that the Lord said he would send and that would be killed, just as the religious authorities in the Lord’s day “filled up the measure of their fathers” (Matthew 23:29–34). For them the resurrection had no power.

The Impact of Christ’s Resurrection

Have you thought of how profound and awesome that spectacle would have been? We expect a resurrection. We know it will happen. It is a hallmark of our faith and hope. We speak of it often. But this resurrection came so unexpectedly for the disciples. They had never contemplated such an occurrence, even though it had been told them. They were perplexed at the death of the one that they “trusted… should have redeemed Israel”. Their hopes were dashed. To them there was now no way forward. “Then opened he their eyes, and they knew him”. One can only imagine the consternation, the exclamation, the perplexity and exhilaration of the disciples. Such a mixture of emotion. This was something never reflected upon. He was risen indeed.

Such was the power of this event and its accompanying witness, in the many who arose after him, that it was to form the central tenet of the faith of the apostles. To be an apostle one must have been a “witness with us of his resurrection”. It was not good enough to have known someone or been even related to someone who had witnessed the resurrection. One must have been an eyewitness oneself. This was a momentous event. One that changed lives.

Conformity with Christ’s Resurrection

In that wonderful section of Paul’s letter to the ecclesia at Philippi, where he is anxious to impress upon his readers the intimacy of the relationship he has with Christ as his example, he speaks using the personal pronouns “I”, “my”, “mine”—“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…” (Phil 3:10). This was to involve a coming to terms with the power of that work in Christ which resurrected him from the dead and Paul’s willingness and desire to be “made conformable to his death”, that he might “attain unto the resurrection of the dead”. Part and parcel of coming to know Christ was to know by experience the power of his resurrection.

In opening his letter to the Romans, Paul sets the credentials of our Lord plainly in that he is “declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4 nasb). The resurrection, says Paul, declared him with power, to be the Son of God. This became the principal doctrine and witness of the early ecclesia. A spectacle that stood as a proof of the power of God in Christ.

How Real is the Resurrection Today?

What of that spectacle today? How real is that phenomenon to us as believers? How often do we use that in our preaching as the fundamental tenet of our faith, lending undeniable veracity to our message and the power of God? Has the resurrection lost its power?

We stand at a grave-side and truly believe it will happen. We can even imagine it in our mind. We can give substance and detail to the event and encourage ourselves and others by that hope. But we only do so on the basis that “he is risen indeed”. For “if Christ be not risen then is our faith vain”. Now none of us would be so foolish as to suggest that Christ is not risen, but our challenge is, does it have the power for us now as it did for the apostles? Does the passing of time diminish the power of God in raising His Son? By no means. We have never seen the like, but we will, because we know God has raised him.

The Resurrection: A Witness

The Resurrection has a two fold purpose as a witness. It testifies to the power of God, in that He “raised him up having loosed the pains of death”. It became the infallible proof of his Sonship. It was also a witness in that it set the pattern for “all those who would live Godly in Christ Jesus”. They would suffer persecution but the power of the resurrection of the Prince of Life would live in them. As they were “made conformable to his death”, so they would be to his resurrection.

The Resurrection and Preaching

Maybe we ought to be more pro-active in using the resurrection of Christ as an infallible proof in our witnessing and in our preaching. Jesus Christ, resurrected, alive and coming again. It happened—it is undeniable. We may not have been an eyewitness but we have been “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). We are here because he rose.

It was for the “hope and resurrection of the dead that [Paul] was called in question”. When his faith was challenged, he saw that it was this fundamental doctrine and subsequent way of life that was being called in question. “I die daily” was the outworking of this doctrine in his life. This was “the power of his resurrection”, that Paul might “know him”. We would do well to consider this.

Jesus said to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life… whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25,25). Believest thou this? Of course we do, we may say. We ought then to be witnesses of his resurrection every day. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thess 4:14) His resurrection testifies to the certainty of his return. He rose, he ascended, he shall return.