This Sunday we commemorate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, the One we call the Christ. The resurrection is the foundation of our faith, and Christianity itself rests on the truth of the claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. His physical resurrection is a sign pointing to our own physical resurrection, but also a deeper, spiritual rising from the dead.
In Matthew 20, Christ predicted his own death:
"And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 'See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.'"
Indeed, Christ was raised to life. He ascended into heaven, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us as our High Priest. Why was Christ's death necessary at all?
Genesis tells us that death entered into the world after Adam and Eve sinned, separating themselves from God. Everyone born thereafter inherited Adam's sin nature. We don't take on Adam's sin; we commit our own sins. We are spiritually dead and unable to do anything to save ourselves. Before salvation, we were as spiritually dead as Lazarus was physically dead in his tomb. Christ called to him and commanded him to come forth, and the dead man rose and came forth.
"I am the resurrection and the life," Christ said to Martha, Lazarus' sister. "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Christ's necessary death satisfied the penalty for our law breaking and for justice. Christ's necessary death reconciled us to God. His death is a completed sacrifice. He offered once, for all time, to bear our sins. Just before He succumbed to death, He said, "It is finished." No more sacrifices required. Once saved, always saved. Get the point?
Christ's rising from the dead should be foremost on our minds every day, not just on Resurrection Sunday. The empty tomb witnessed by His followers bears witness to us through the ages. The empty tomb is part of the gospel, for without it, there is no gospel. If Christ's body had remained in its tomb, decaying, what hope would we have for our own resurrection? What hope would we have that we are forgiven and reconciled to God?
The empty tomb reminds us of the sinless Christ's pain and humiliation that paid the penalty for our transgressions. The empty tomb reminds us that we worship not a dead man who rotted in his grave, but the living God who works in the world and through us to extend His kingdom.