The traditional liturgical greeting for the season of Easter is, “Christ is risen, Alleluia!” to which the congregation responds, “He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” This greeting highlights the significance of the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ from the dead.
The resurrection confirms and seals the entire Christian message. God sent His only-begotten Son from the realm of glory into our world, born in human flesh, to live a perfect life, to die unjustly for our sins, and to rise again to prove His victory over sin, death and the power of the devil. This is why, for Christians, even though the death of Jesus is the most important event in human history because by it the penalty for our sin is paid, the resurrection is the most significant event in all of human history.
When St. Paul boldly says, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17) he is pointing to the significance of the historical reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Resurrection implies death. St. Paul could just as easily have said, if Christ had not died, your faith is futile. Likewise, death implies birth, so St. Paul could have said, if Christ had not been born, your faith is futile. But one can be born and not have died and one can die and not have been raised. Therefore, the historical fact of the bodily resurrection assumes the facts of Jesus’ birth and his death. It also confirms the entirety of the Christian message.
The resurrection shows that Jesus’ death on the cross was payment in full for all sins. If any sin were not covered, Jesus would have remained in the tomb. Because He has been raised from the dead, we have the sure and certain hope of forgiveness through His blood. We, therefore, can be certain that we are at peace with God – just as the host of angels proclaimed at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2). The resurrection shows God’s good will toward mankind – that God, Himself, has removed the barrier to fellowship between Himself and us that was created by our sin.
What’s more, the resurrection points to the new reality of the Christian life. It points us to our being “born again from above” by water and the Spirit (John 3) in our baptism. In the waters of our baptism, we are buried with Christ (Romans 6). We die to ourselves and the sinful selfishness inherited from Adam at our natural birth and we are made alive again through the rebirth granted by the Holy Spirit. As He works in us, He causes us to believe and trust in God’s work of salvation which He accomplished through Jesus’ perfect, sinless life and sacrificial death on our behalf.
Here, in time, our Christian Life is lived as the Holy Spirit works in us through the Word and Sacraments. It is the work of the Spirit to lead us in the continuous battle we wage against our selfish and sinful desires. He leads us to present our bodies as “living sacrifices” by giving us greater faith and through Word and Sacrament, He transforms us by the renewing of our minds so that we may live more and more according to the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God (Romans 12).
This is why the Church declares, “He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!” It is not just an affirmation of the historical truth of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. It is also a confirmation of all that Jesus has done and continues to do for us as He sends forth His Word and works through His sacraments so that we may receive all the benefits of His sacrifice for us on the cross and finally achieve the completion of our faith when we ourselves are raised from the dead to live and reign with Him to all eternity.
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia! And, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you too will rise to live forever in His love and grace! Alleluia!
– Pastor Dent
(NOTE: This article originally appeared in the APRIL/MAY Newsletter of Risen Christ Lutheran Church, Plymouth, MI.)