There’s no doubt that the resurrection is a surprise. It was a surprise to the disciples in Jesus’ time and it’s no less surprising now. We know that dead people don’t come back to life, just as people in Jesus’ time knew that. In truth, they probably had rather more up-close and personal experience of death than most of us, so the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t something they expected!
I think that’s why the gospel writers go to some effort to provide us with detail and witnesses. They give clear evidence that Jesus was dead (e.g. Mark 15:44-45; John 19:33-34) and that he was securely buried in a known place (e.g. Matthew 27:57-66). Then they provide lots of testimony to the resurrection (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20-21 – see also 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). They only believed it because the evidence was compelling.
John even gives us a perfect foil for the modern sceptic in Jesus’ disciple Thomas (John 20:24-31). Here was a man who refused to believe Jesus had risen again, even when he had the testimony of his fellow disciples. He would only believe if he could see and touch Jesus. When Jesus does appear to him, he simply declares Jesus as Lord and God – he realises he should have listened to the compelling evidence!
Of course, the disciples shouldn’t really have been so surprised. Jesus had predicted it would happen several times (e.g. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). He had even called himself “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) followed by a little “worked example” where he raised Lazarus from the dead!
And of course it wasn’t just the teaching of Jesus in the gospels. We’ve seen already that there was some sense in which an eternal king of an eternal kingdom was coming (2 Samuel 7:12-16). If Jesus is the Messiah, he will live for ever. Even the Suffering Servant who dies taking the punishment for our sin (Isaiah 53:5) and who is repeatedly referred to in the gospel accounts of the crucifixion, doesn’t stay dead Isaiah (53:10-12).
At a more fundamental level, if Jesus’ death was to defeat sin and Satan (Genesis 3:15), then it had to defeat death – the consequence of sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). So, in a sense, the death and resurrection of Jesus are all of one piece.
And that whole picture is tremendous news for us. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus that opens the door for a return to God being our God. We can now have peace with God (Romans 4:25-5:1) (we can be God’s people). It brings us true life, such that even if we die we live (John 11:25-26) (we can live in God’s eternal place, his kingdom). And our king lives and rules, so we live under his rule (Psalm 110:1-2; Hebrews 1:3).
Which is all to say that when we trust in Jesus, there is a sense in which we are taken back to Eden, living truly in the fulfilment of God’s promises to Abraham (God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule). And this was achieved by Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is why these chapters of the Bible are really the central event in the history of the universe (whatever your science and history teachers might have told you!).
The only right response is to believe in Jesus, and by believing you have this restored life, life in his name (John 10:10; 20:31). So the question is, have you trusted in Jesus or not?
But this isn’t quite the end of the story. For all that knowing Jesus now is wonderful, it’s pretty clear that there is still sin and brokenness endemic in this world we live in and our lives. Why is that and when will it be sorted out? That will take us to the last part of our overview of the Bible next time.