I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ for several reasons. I find the accounts of the resurrection in the New Testament compelling. I believe the resurrection is the only satisfactory explanation for the explosive growth of the church and the Holy Spirit convinces me that it is true. Yet another very strong piece of evidence is simply this: it makes sense. Although the first disciples were clearly not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, there is in fact a powerful logic to the resurrection.
To those watching at the time, Jesus died on the cross as a guilty criminal, a make-believe Messiah who had proved to be false. The resurrection overturns that judgement; it says that despite superficial appearances this man was, in fact, who he claimed to be – the Son of God and the Saviour of God’s people. God could not let his Son stay dishonoured by the shame of the cross. He had to be raised. There is thus a moral logic to the resurrection.
There is also a legal logic to the resurrection. Death, according to the Bible, is the just penalty for sin. As all human beings sin, we all fall under a sentence of death. As the only sinless person who has ever lived, Jesus could not stay dead, but had to be released from death’s grip. He was, as it were, illegally imprisoned, and so had to be released from death. This is surely behind Peter’s argument in Acts 2:24 when he says of Jesus, ‘But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.’
A significant theme in the New Testament is that the cross was the place where Jesus Christ battled against Satan and defeated him (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15). Yet if Jesus had remained dead in the grave there would have been no certainty for his followers that he had won. Doubt would have reigned. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims the fact that he was victorious over Satan (1 John 3:8) and there is therefore a spiritual logic to the resurrection.
There is a psychological logic to it as well. God’s plan from all eternity was that Jesus Christ would become the head of a people of God who would bring in followers from across the world. That’s a tough task for God’s people; it could be seen as an invitation to martyrdom. It’s a bit less tough when you have a living leader who, through his Holy Spirit, can go with you and be present with you. In Jesus, the separation between human beings and God going back to the rebellion of Adam and Eve is ended and God becomes accessible again. So, at the start of Matthew’s Gospel we hear that the infant to be born to Mary will be Emmanuel or ‘God with us’ and at the end of that Gospel we read how Jesus will be with his people ‘until the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). There are many other passages in the Gospels that tell of Jesus being present with his people in an extraordinary way. For example, in Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them’ and in John’s Gospel he says that he will not leave his followers as orphans but ‘will come to’ them (John 14:18). Such verses make no sense unless Jesus can indeed be present with his people, something that demands the resurrection. Human beings do not just want a God in whom they can believe, they want a God who will be with them. The resurrection makes that possible in Jesus.
However you look at it, morally, legally, spiritually or psychologically, the resurrection of Jesus makes sense. It is something we need to understand and celebrate!