All four Gospels record the fact of Christ’s Resurrection, but they say little about what the Resurrection actually means or why it matters.
For that, you must go to the rest of the New Testament, especially the letters written by the apostles of Jesus.
Paul captures it well in his letter to the Romans. Paul wrote, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
“Delivered over” is an expression used elsewhere of God’s judgment upon sinners, and it captures the truth of what happened to Jesus on Good Friday.
“Raised to life for our justification” captures what happened to Christ and to us all on Easter.
These two days are like two sides of the same coin. Pastor and author Bryan Wolfmueller has a helpful way of illustrating this from the sport of football.
We assume a touchdown is scored when the player with the ball breaks the plane of the goal line, but that’s not completely true.
By crossing the goal, the ball carrier has done all he can to ensure points for the team, but points are awarded only when the official with the best view of the play raises his arms and signals touchdown.
According to Wolfmueller, Good Friday is Jesus crossing the goal line, having done everything he could do to earn forgiveness for the world, but Easter is when, by raising Jesus from the dead, the Father raises his arms to signal that forgiveness is actually awarded to “team humanity.”
In other words, the Resurrection is God’s vindication of Jesus. It proves that the Father accepts the sacrifice of his son for the forgiveness of our sins. It’s like the official raising his arms to signal, “It’s good!”
Good Friday is in vain without Easter.
It does us sinners no good if Christ crosses the goal line on Good Friday without being raised for our justification on Easter.
“Justification” is a courtroom term in which the judge declares one party to be in the right.
God now declares all humanity to be in the right (righteous) because our Christ has answered for our sin.
He has taken our guilt into himself and his resurrection reveals God’s approval of what Christ has done.
When you see Jesus on the cross, you should consider that you are no longer the adulterer; Christ is.
You are no longer the pedophile; Christ is.
You are no longer the slanderer; Christ is.
On Good Friday, Christ became what you once were.
And on Easter, Judge of all the Earth banged the gavel and said, “It’s good!”
At Easter, the Father raised not just anyone. He raised from death the one crucified for our sins, as if to say, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Easter proves that you are already forgiven.
Forgiveness is the chief benefit of Good Friday/Easter, and if you are forgiven, you will be raised in glory also.
That’s what the Resurrection of Jesus means for you, for me and for the world.
The Rev. John Armstrong is pastor of Grace Lutheran, Columbus, and may be reached at gracecolumbus.org.