but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:24–25)
It’s easy to look at the resurrection in simplistic terms – that Jesus died and was raised up so we could ‘die and be raised up’ with Him. But God has a wonderful way of taking things beyond face value and providing that little bit ‘extra’ to make absolutely certain that there is no room for doubt. While we can rejoice in the simple fact that His resurrection left both the Romans and the Jewish religious leaders utterly confounded – and He no doubt intended the resurrection to testify to the deity of Christ and the defeat of all their machinations – it wasn’t all simply about Jesus. It was also about the truth that we are justified in Christ.
The resurrection provides evidence that we are indeed justified in Christ.
Think of it this way. If God had decreed that, instead of death on the cross, Jesus could simply serve a prison term on our behalf. Once He was released after the required sentence was finished, our sins would be regarded as paid in full. They would be deleted from the record and we would be fully justified – just as if I’d never sinned. Being human, we would have waited anxiously through the prison term, waiting to see if He would be released and if we would in fact be fully justified in Christ. The real evidence would be when He was set free and no one came after us because the slate was wiped clean.
In His suffering and death on the cross, Jesus assumed our sin in full and paid the price in full. Because our sentence would have been death, He had to die to meet the demands of judgement. But we serve a gracious God who is fully aware of our doubts and weaknesses. He knows that we struggle to keep hold of this kind of life-changing truth, that we have moments where condemnation creeps in and we are weighed down by our own weaknesses and temptations. For this reason, God, in His mercy, provided absolute, irrefutable evidence that we are justified in Christ.
Really thinking about it, there’s no reason why the resurrection should have been so dramatically visible. After all, Jesus is the Son of God. He could quite easily have been resurrected without anyone knowing about it, and ascended into heaven with as little fuss. Jesus did not need the world to know for His sake. It was for ours. If He had needed to justify Himself, He could quite easily have done so during His encounters with the Sanhedrin and before Pilate. He did not attempt to do so, even though He was completely innocent, because He was fully identifying with us who were fully guilty. It was necessary so that we could be fully justified in Christ, the one who assumed our guilt and punishment.
If we had only the cross, we would have the incomplete picture. The identification of Christ with us and us with Christ needs to be perfect and complete. God’s purpose is not simply salvation and forgiveness or redemption. His purpose is that we are also justified and, ultimately, glorified in Christ. This is the purpose of the resurrection and later of the ascension. Our calling is to follow Christ to the cross in crucifying self but also beyond the cross to new life and to eternal life in Him. That is why it so important to always see the cross together with the resurrection. Raising Christ from the dead completed the work of the cross.
It’s wonderful to know we are forgiven, but even more wonderful to be absolutely assured that we are also justified in Christ. What that means is that when God looks at us, He no longer sees our sin but sees His perfect Son. It means that our sins are completely erased. They are utterly removed. They no longer exist. Unlike us, God does indeed forgive and forget, because in Christ it is all paid in full and the page removed from the book. It puts a whole new perspective on the glory of the resurrection, doesn’t it? When we die with Christ – die to self – we are assured of being raised up on the other side of the cross as a whole, new person, with none of the sinful baggage to weigh us down.
Be sure, when you look at the cross and the wonderful truth it encapsulates, to include the miracle of the resurrection. Take hold of the truth that you are justified in Christ. Not simply forgiven but made over, just as if I’d never sinned. That is the incredible, loving, grace of our God.
Lord, thank You for reminding us of the gift of the resurrection and the assurance it brings. Help us to keep this in mind, to continually give thanks for the grace and mercy that no only forgives but also forgets, and which only sees Your Son each time we come to You. Help us to stand in this truth, and to bring glory to Jesus for what He has accomplished so completely on our behalf.