Why Did Jesus Rise? 4 Reasons for the Resurrection
Three days after he died on the cross, Jesus of Nazareth rose from his grave. And we’re talking about historical fact when we make such a claim: Jesus of Nazareth was born around 4 B.C. and lived until around 30 A.D., he was crucified under Pontius Pilate on a Friday, and he came back to life a few days later on a Sunday. If you could go back around 2,000 years, you could watch Jesus of Nazareth die on a Roman cross and you could see him on Sunday alive again.
The historical narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each record the cross, and they also each record his coming back to life again on Sunday (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:1-18). Christians have called this the resurrection. The word simply means is that Jesus died and then factually came back to life.
He wasn’t a ghost. It wasn’t the disciples hallucinating. It wasn’t some grand conspiracy. Jesus was a historical man who died and then came back to life.
But why did this happen? You may have heard that this cross and resurrection is the center of the Christian gospel, but why did he need to come back to life again? Here are a four reasons.
1. It Impacts What Jesus Did: His Victory Over Sin and Death
When Jesus died on the cross, he was victorious over sin as he “cancelled our record of debt that stood against us” (Colossians 2:14). Jesus died in the place of his people, taking the punishment of our sin. “I lay down my life for my sheep” (John 10:15). On the cross, then, he displayed that he can conquer corruption and forgive his people's sin. It was a victory because he did something that would not let sin be held over his people forever. So, he triumphed over sin, evil, and death on the cross (Colossians 2:15).
But in order to triumph over sin, he not only needed to die to take sins upon himself, he also needed to rise from the dead to show that sin was finally dealt with. In other words, if he didn’t rise, then he’d be held by sin forever. He died in the place of sinners, and then when he rose he displayed that it was truly finished (as he said it was in John 19:30).
In the early church, some were questioning if the resurrection was really that important. In response, the apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Why? Because if Jesus was still dead, then he wouldn’t have finally dealt with sin—sin would continue to hold him down. But since Christ has been raised, sin is defeated and dealt with.
His resurrection, therefore, means that for those who trust Jesus, sin no longer has the final word. Jesus does. He wins. He won for them. He rose to show that this is true. His coming back to life shows that sin was finished and it was never going to keep him dead. It has been dealt with.
2. It Displays Who Jesus Truly Is: The Lord God
In his resurrection, Jesus also made it clear who he was and is. He was and is God himself who has the seemingly insane authority to be able to raise himself from the dead.
Jesus said this resurrection would happen when he taught during his earthly ministry. He once made a tremendously bold comment about his control not only over his death, but also over his resurrection. He declared,
“I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).
That is quite remarkable. It is one thing to say that you have authority over your death. We all could decide to take our lives if we wanted. But it is another thing to say that you can lay down your life and take it up again! And in case we miss it, Jesus says it twice: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again...I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”
Who else can raise himself from the dead but God? Who else can declare with absolute certainty that he’ll die and then come back to life three days later (Mark 9:31)? The Son of God and the Lord himself can (Romans 1:4). Therefore, the resurrection displays who Jesus is: God himself, the true Lord over all, who alone has authority over everything, including even life and death.
3. It Tells Us What’s To Come: Our Bodily Resurrection
Jesus’ resurrection also hints to us what is to come for all of us. When Jesus rose, the Bible says that his resurrection was the beginning of this renewed and restored creation (Colossians 1:18). Following in Jesus’ footsteps, every single person in the future will be raised bodily from the dead. Some will then go to everlasting life, while others sadly to everlasting punishment (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46). But nevertheless, everyone will be raised.
In this way, Jesus’ resurrection shows us what is to come for us all. He was the first to be raised from the dead (“firstfruits,” 1 Corinthians 15:20). And his resurrection teaches us that God is going to raise us each individually as well.
4. It Means Jesus of Nazareth Is Alive Right Now
These three reasons above are good reasons to explain why the resurrection is important. But maybe simplest and yet most profound of all is that the resurrection shows us that Jesus is really alive right now. At this very moment, the God-man Jesus of Nazareth—the same Person who was born in Bethlehem and who died on that Roman cross outside of Jerusalem—is alive. He is in his resurrected body. He is the only Savior. He is the King. He is “Christ, God over all” (Romans 9:5).
Because of this, believing in Jesus—trusting him, praying to him, and banking your life on him—is not just some religious sentiment. The world may want to convince you that trusting in Jesus is hogwash. But it isn’t. Being a genuine Christian is knowing that God is real, he is Jesus, he came and died for your sins, and now he still exists, is alive, is good and loving, and is coming soon to make everything right again.
He’s real. He died. He was raised. He is—present tense—alive (Romans 8:34).
Jesus’ resurrection proves that we don’t believe in some good teacher who claimed to be God and then just died in a loving way. Instead, we trust in the real Jesus of Nazareth, the God-Man, who is as alive right now like you and I are. He rose, is alive, and will live forevermore.
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