There is no greater nor important celebration in the Church than the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. Without the resurrection there is no Christianity. One of the most common questions asked is, “Who actually raised Jesus from the dead?” Scripture is clear that Jesus was raised not only by God the Father (Rom 6:4), but He also raised Himself from the dead (Jn 2:19, 10:18).
Impossible for Death to Hold Him
Peter said in his first sermon that “it was not possible for Jesus to be held by death” (Acts 2:24). It was impossible for Jesus to remain in the grave for three reasons. First, Jesus had the divine power of God to defeat death. Death was powerless to hold Him in the grave because Jesus truly was the “resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). Second, death could not hold Jesus because of the divine promise. Jesus promised the religious leaders, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:18-22). Third, death could not hold him because of the divine purpose of God. It was the Father’s purpose that His Holy One not undergo decay! (MacArthur, Acts 1-12, pg 65)
Prophesied in the Old Testament
Over and over the Apostles validated their claim of the resurrection by quoting the prophecy made 1000 years earlier by King David in the Psalms. David, being a prophet, wrote in Psalm 16:8-11 very specific messianic prophesies concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Peter actually quotes this passage in his first sermon on the Day of Pentecost giving proof that the resurrection of the Messiah should have been expected. “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2:27). Peter makes it clear that this was not David speaking about himself, because David was actually buried in a grave and he was still there. But Jesus was raised up by God just as David prophesied.
Over 500 Witnesses
Furthermore, Jesus had appeared to all the Apostles and over 500 people in a period of 40 days (1 Cor 15:3-8). Being a witness of the resurrection was actually a requirement for being an Apostle (Acts 1:22). Jesus confirmed his defeat over death with His inner circle of disciples so that they could spread the good news to every corner of the earth.
And the good news did spread. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the small band of Jesus’ followers, they changed from being cowards to being bold in preaching. Peter stood up and preached in Jerusalem specifically about the resurrection of Christ. And the Church was birthed that day on the Day of Pentecost out of the Apostolic witness that “God raised Him up” (Acts 2:24, 32). Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told the Apostles that they were going to be “witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (1:8). They were going to be witnesses of his resurrection to the whole world. And in fact, when you study the book of Acts you see this very thing! The one thing that mattered most to the Apostles was that indeed God raised Jesus from the dead. Peter told Jerusalem about God raising Jesus from the dead (2:24,32, 3:14-15, 26, 4:10, 33, 5:30). Peter preached to Caesarea namely that “God raised Him up on the third day” (10:39-40). Paul preached to both the Jews (13:29-30, 33, 34, 37) and the Gentiles (17:3, 18, 31) compelling them with the resurrection of Jesus. And Paul specifically preached to the Roman governing officials that Jesus had been raised from the dead (23:11, 24:21, 26:23).
Does it matter?
It truly does matter that God raised up Jesus! The resurrection of Christ proves that Jesus truly was the Messiah for which all of history was waiting. It proves that death had been defeated. It proves that God accepted Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. It proves that Christianity is the one true religion and that Jesus alone is able to save us from our sin.
The Apostle Peter called all of his listeners that day in his first sermon to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). First our response should be inward. Inwardly we must repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We must acknowledge that we are sinners in need of saving! We must acknowledge that Jesus alone is the Messiah, the one who came to die for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). Second, our response should be outward. Peter called all of the first century Jews to publicly identify with Jesus in baptism. We do not believe that baptism saves anyone. But it is important to publicly identify with Christ. Baptism is important for this very reason. It would have been very difficult for the first century Jews to abandon their former religion of Judaism and be publicly identified with Christ. And yet this is exactly what Peter called them to do.
When we respond in this way, God promises to do two incredible things (Acts 2:38-39). First, He promises to forgive all of our sins. There is no sin too great for God to forgive. All of our sins can be forgiven by the blood of Jesus. The second promise for those who have responded appropriately is that they will receive the Holy Spirit, who will permanently indwell every true believer and thus they will be sealed forever as Children of God (Eph 1:11).
Just as the Apostles gave witness to the resurrection of Christ, so we are also commanded to go into all the world and tell others about the resurrected Christ. If we have been called, and forgiven and have received the Holy Spirit, we also have a mission just like the Apostles. We have not personally seen the resurrected Christ, but we have the word of the Apostles and Scripture which gives us authority to speak. Just as Jesus sent the Apostles, so He sends us into the world to tell the good news that “God raised Him Up!”