the resurrection tomb

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ. But why did Jesus resurrect?

When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday the crowds who had lined the streets in wait for him shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9) and this was understood as an exclamation of praise. The word “Hosanna” means “Save!” or “[God] saves”! They praise that was coming off their lips was something like “Salvation belongs to the Son of David (or in this case, Jesus)”. Firstly, the fact that they gave praise to Jesus was an indication of what the crowds thought about Jesus. He was one worthy of praise. And in their religion only God was worthy of praise.

Also, the “Son of David” is also a very important phrase. To be a “son of David” was important because it meant that you were in the line of David no matter how far back David was from you. Since God had made a covenant with David (the Davidic Covenant) in 2 Samuel 7 this means that there was a promise made to David. And to make a long story short that promise was that God would provide a person in the line of David who would setup an everlasting throne of God’s kingdom. No human kingdom could ever last forever. Kingdoms on earth always came to an end at one point – either but overthrow of power or internal destruction of the ruling party or in some similar way. So this forever kingdom promised in 2 Samuel 7:13 was special and it was from God. It would be setup by the Messiah – the “anointed” one of God – who had the power to reign eternally in this kingdom with God. So this “Son of David” phrase was actually a Messianic phrase which referred to the expected Messiah. And all Jews back in Jesus’ time were looking forward to the coming of this Messiah with eager expectation. So, this is another indication that the crowds understood Jesus to be the Messiah, the anointed one of God.

There are many indications in Scripture that Jesus was the Messiah. One of the them is Jesus’ claim in John 11:25 – “I am the resurrection and the life”. He said this to Martha whose brother, Lazarus, had just died. Jesus was a personal friend of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. As he neared the end of his life Jesus wanted to be sure that the people knew that he was the Messiah who was to come.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask”. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this? “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

John 11:21-27

“Jesus’ own resurrection shows us that he, in fact, was the Son of God and was resurrected by the power of God”

While Martha believes that Jesus is the Messiah many of her friends who had gathered to mourn the loss of Lazarus did not believe. This can be seen from their reaction to the death of Lazarus. “When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” The word for deeply moved in the original has the sense of not only pain but rather pain mixed with anger. This shows that Jesus’ pain was aimed at the fact that the crowd was mourning as those who have no hope in a future resurrection. In other words, they didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah. This is why just before he raises Lazarus from the dead that he prays to God saying, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” And then he raises Lazarus as a sign that God does hear everything that Jesus says because he is the Son of God.

The Sign of Jonah

So, Jesus wants us to know that he is the Messiah of God, the anointed one which God had sent to show the way to God the Father. Only the Messiah (God’s son) has the power to give life and resurrect Lazarus. This foreshadows his own resurrection by the power of God. Jesus’ own resurrection shows us that he, in fact, was the Son of God and was resurrected by the power of God. It’s another sign like Jesus said it was when he told the Jewish teachers of the Pharisees that the only sign they will get is the sign of Jonah (i.e. the resurrection which was like being 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a whale like happened to Jonah which refers to the 3 days he lay in the tomb before he resurrected). And the piercing question of Jesus to Martha (and secondarily to the crowd) is the question that comes to us: “Do you believe this?” What is your answer – do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah of God? If so, that is the essence of what it means to be a Christian – to believe in Jesus as the one who can give spiritual life and then to walk in His way everyday.

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