By Jack Graham | First Published: April 02, 2014
The great spiritual song Were you There? asks this question: Were you there when He rose up from the dead? That is a thought-provoking question.
Of course, it seems impossible. We, living 2,000 years later, wish we had been there. To have witnessed the resurrection would have been the greatest privilege imaginable, to physically see the risen Christ and feel His embrace.
But while we weren’t there then, the fact is: we are there now.
Believers claim Jesus literally rose from the dead physically. Without the risen Savior, there is no Christian faith. As the Apostle Paul said: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
For every Christian, the resurrection is not only real, but relevant. The reality of the resurrection is central and critical to everything we believe. The evidence is compelling. Jesus rose. But beyond the fact that Jesus came out of the grave, you must answer the questions: Why does it matter? And what does this mean to me personally?
So think about the vital importance of the resurrection and how it affects us today.
For one, the resurrection matters today because we can live forgiven lives. Every person lives with the consequences of sin. We all experience brokenness, shame and guilt because sin destroys everything and everyone in its path. Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The resurrection means I can be unchained from the bondage of sin and delivered from its power. The first words Jesus stated from the cross are words of forgiveness. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He lived, died and rose again so that we can be forgiven.
His blood cleanses from sin and the risen Redeemer now guarantees that He has conquered sin, death and hell. Because of the resurrection, we know God has accepted the Savior’s sacrifice and we are forgiven. If Jesus is still in the grave, we are still in our sins. But because He lives, we can live forgiven and free!
A dead Savior can forgive no one. But our Lord did not die a meaningless death. The resurrection proves that He has the authority to forgive sin, and now we know we are forgiven. Every sin and all the shame are forever gone because they are buried in an empty tomb! Jesus carried our sins to the cross and then the grave. The burial of Jesus is a part of the Gospel: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Our sin is forever buried in the grave of God’s forgetfulness. He remembers our sin no more. Why? Because Jesus is alive. The lyrics from Wilbur Chapman’s hymn One Day When Heaven Was Filled With Praises captures this wonderful truth:
“Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day.”
The resurrection also assures us that Jesus can transform our lives every day. We live empowered by the presence of Jesus to live changed lives. We not only are forgiven, but we are filled with the mighty power of God who raised Jesus from the dead. Paul called this “the power of the resurrection.” Jesus is no longer someone we know about, He is someone we know. “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).
The most life-changing truth I have learned as a Christian is the “saving life of Christ.” We are not only saved by His death but also by His life—meaning the risen Lord lives in us by His Holy Spirit. His divinity inhabits my humanity. I can live the Christian life not in my own strength, but in the strength of a risen Savior. We can plug into power every day—Galatians 2:20 power. “ I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Some question whether people can really change. We’re being told that people are stuck in a lifestyle and can never be different—that once a person’s personality and behavior are set, it is impossible to change. If I believed that, I would close my Bible and never mention Jesus again.
But I know Jesus changes lives. He has changed mine and millions and millions of others through the generations. He transforms the hateful and the angry into loving, caring people. He changes the selfish into generous givers and the immoral into men and women of character. The resurrection raises us from the death of sin to a life of righteousness. The Bible says in Romans 1:4 that Jesus is shown to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection from the dead. The mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same resurrection power that lives in us today.
So the resurrection means we are forgiven and transformed by the power of the Living Lord. Sin and death have no power over us. We can overcome every temptation and endure every trial because of the resurrection. The risen Christ lives in us day by day, enabling us to walk in victorious faith and obedience. This is not behavior modification. It is the living, transforming power of Jesus! We have a new life in Christ.
The resurrection matters today because we now have a living hope. The Scripture says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Hope is not wishful thinking. It is the sure and confident expectation that our future is in His hands. Hope means Jesus is the Lord of our todays and our tomorrows. The risen Redeemer is coming again in power and glory, and we can live in expectation that we will one day be with Him forever. We can live every day in the certainty and security of this promise.
Eternity matters today because our future with a risen and reigning Savior is certain. This is not an unrealistic expectation or “pie in the sky!” The Christian’s claim of eternal life is assured by the reality of the resurrection. We no longer fear death because we know our Savior lives. Christ has destroyed death and has given us a living hope.
So, yes the resurrection of Christ matters yesterday, today and forever. It matters because we are now forgiven, transformed and triumphant in hope.
“Were you there when He rose up from the dead?
Were you there when He rose up from the dead?
Sometimes I feel like shouting glory, glory, glory!
Were you there when He rose up from the dead?”
Yes, we are there. May you live every day in the glorious reality of the resurrection and share this message of eternal life with others. ©2014 Jack Graham
Scripture quotations are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.