(39) . . . he rose again from the dead

The resurrection spotlighted Jesus. His conquest of death made the world sit up and take notice. What Jesus had taught had not really been unique, except in what he had said about himself. He had made certain bold claims that only God could rightfully make. But Jesus’ death on the cross undermined those claims so completely that, if he had stayed dead, the world would have heard no more of him. It was because Jesus rose from the dead that thinking men had to take a new look at his claims. This Jesus who had conquered death either possessed superhuman power or enjoyed the special favor of a superhuman power. If men were not prepared to admit that Jesus himself was God, it at least seemed clear that God had thoroughly endorsed all that Jesus had said and done. But Jesus had led people to believe that he was the Son of God. Then God had agreed that that’s exactly who he was. By bringing Jesus back from the dead, God had declared, clearly and resoundingly, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” God himself had overruled the judgment of the Jew’s supreme court and Rome’s Pilate.

God had certified that Jesus had been telling the truth and living it. From henceforth men would know whom to believe and how they should be living. No need to flounder around among the world’s religious opinions wondering which of them is trustworthy! They could trust Jesus and believe in his belief. God did! This meant that at last men had some reliable knowledge about what God is like. God had revealed himself by what he had approved. There was no need to wonder further about what is really right to do and what is wrong. By raising Jesus from the dead, God had established Jesus’ kind of living as the standard by which all men’s actions are to be judged. No matter what men may think about ethical questions, Jesus is what God thinks is right. What is truly Christlike cannot be wrong.

The resurrection gave authority to Jesus’ words and deeds. Men sought out the words which this most important person had spoken and they retold the story of what he had done. In so doing they stumbled upon the answer to the problem of how to enable men to live Christlike lives. They found that there was still enough personal power left in the words of Jesus to start a “resurrection” wherever they were heard. Reading Jesus’ words from New Testament writings or hearing them from the lips of preachers was like hearing Jesus himself speak. Jesus himself was in his words and his Spirit accompanied his words with power to transform lives. The word of Christ is Christ. Whoever receives Jesus’ words receives the Lord himself, even in the twentieth century. His words get under peoples’ skins and into their blood, as it were. Like seeds, his words grow within our lives and reproduce in us the kind of living from which they came: the life of Christ. The church has been sent into the world bearing the seed to be planted everywhere. The word of Christ is the means of continuing the resurrection of a body of Christ in this world. The Scriptures not only share in the authority of the risen Christ; they are the outreach of his personal power.