by Kelly Van Nuland, Resonate Pullman member
History is rife with religions containing a central figure who experiences a death followed by a resurrection. The reason for the death and the resurrection vary from story to story, but it is an undeniable theme: Osiris, an Egyptian divine, was ripped apart, sewn together by his wife and brought back to life to become the god of the dead. Odin, the chief Norse god, to receive wisdom from the realm of the dead, hung himself from the world-tree for nine days before returning to life stronger and wiser than before. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, was devoured almost completely by the Titans, who left only his heart. His father Zeus sewed the heart into his leg, where he was recreated. Tammuz, an Assyrian god, was taken as a lover of the goddess Inanna (Ishtar) who ultimately kills him. Out of remorse, she then resurrects him, but repeated the cycle every year in the cadence of the death and regrowth of the crops. Mankind inescapably finds the death and resurrection theme all around them in the world and in every aspect of their lives, which is why it has always been part of our religions.
We see death and resurrection all around us, but we never experience it ourselves, which makes it seem unattainable, divine. We see it every year in the seasons, we see it in life cycle of plants, we see it in ourselves in a way; as we grow, we create smaller copies of ourselves who learn from us and carry on not only our biological components but traditions and memories as we grow old and die. It seems that God has built a world on which death and resurrection is a critical theme. But why would that be?
John 1:1-3 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” John is telling us in this verse that Christ (the Word), who is God, is the part of the God-Head through whom all things were made. Creation was designed by Jesus.
In Romans 8:20-23, Paul explains that since the fall of man through Adam in the Garden, that all of creation was subject to the fall: ”For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” What Paul is saying is that all of creation innately knows that we are in need of a re-birth. Since the fall, all of creation, chief among it man, has been longing for what is missing, what seems to be broken. We know from Scripture that the missing, broken piece is reconciliation with our creator. Paul also tells us in Romans 1:8 “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Christ, who designed creation, designed it in such a way as to constantly point back to him. And creation is no different in its fallen state; all of creation is constantly expressing its need for renewal through a savior.
Even though there are many stories of deities in other religions being killed and brought back to life, the story of Christ’s death and resurrection is uniquely different:
1. Unlike the others, Christ went to his death willingly.
In John 10:11, Jesus says “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep,” and later in verse 15 he says “I lay down my life for the sheep”.
2. Not only did Christ die willingly, but he died sacrificially, meaning no part of his death was for his own gain.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 6-8).
3. Furthermore, Christ did nothing to deserve death.
He was entirely sinless, and yet still chose to die: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
4. Lastly, Christ’s death was the only thing that could finally reconcile us with God.
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). To put it simply, Christ willingly died a sinless, sacrificial death for the sole purpose of reconciling creation back to God.
As a Christian, it is truly impossible to overstate how joyous Christ’s resurrection is, but it is extremely important to be able to define why. Jesus endured a horrible death on a Roman torture device after which his lifeless body was buried in a tomb. All throughout His ministry, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Then he died. If the story ended there, we would only remember him (if we remembered him at all) as either a lunatic or a con man. However, three days after his death, life returned to his once life-less body, and Christ walked out of the tomb that has interred him. The foremost reason the resurrection is important is that it proved Jesus was who he said he was. Christ was not a liar or a lunatic, he was, and is, the Son of God. The resurrection, which proved his identity, also proved that he accomplished what he has set out to do: provide a path of reconciliation between the fallen world and God the Father, and the medium through which salvation is possible: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. . . . For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:13-14; 16-17).
The foremost reason the resurrection is important is that it proved Jesus was who he said he was.
The resurrection of Christ is not just a matter of fact, which can be taken lightly--it is literally a matter of eternal life or death. The resurrection is not simply a fact to be believed or rejected, it is a fact to which our response will determine our eternal destiny. This Easter, don’t just focus on the holiday or the fun or even the church service. Focus on Christ and your response to his death and resurrection. Focus on the One whose resurrection can truly give you new life.