Why was Jesus raised from the dead?
It is a good thing to enter into the pathos of the disciples during those dark days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. It is easy for us to forget that they haven’t read the rest of the story. We live on this side of the resurrection, and its explication in Scripture. We have Truth revealed. They had only anguish and uncertainty. They had lost their Lord. Their trouble, however, was not ultimately that they missed Jesus. Their heartache was rooted in something more substantial than personal sadness. In His death we would have had to conclude one of two things. Either it means that in the end the bad guys can win, that God’s sovereignty can be overcome by the forces of darkness. Or it means something even worse, that Jesus was a sinner. Death, after all, is a function of sin. No sin, no death. Either the bad guys win, or Jesus is a bad guy. Not a choice anyone would want to make.
No sin, no death. Which is true of Jesus as well. Had He had no sin, He could not have died. What the disciples missed, and we would have missed also was that the sins that brought His death were not properly His own. Forensically, legally, by sovereign decree they were. In Himself, however, He knew no sin. He died because of our sins. God the Father poured out His wrath on Jesus that was due for the sins of His people. His wrath is finished. We are forgiven. We have peace with the Father, and so the celebration could begin, right, even with Jesus still in the tomb? His spirit had already been commended to the Father, so He is already in paradise. Why should we care what happens with His mere earthly body?
Our celebration, in principle, could have begun while His body was still in the tomb, had we known about the atonement. Without the resurrection, however, we wouldn’t know whose sins Jesus died for. Maybe He was guilty, in which case our sins are still our own. In His resurrection, however, we have not merely the salvation of His body, though that is a good thing. Not merely the hope of the salvation of our bodies, though that is a good thing. What we have is a vindication of His innocence. What we have is the Father’s declaration, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” His death was because of His unity with us. His resurrection, on the other hand, because of that same unity, is in turn a vindication of us. Through His resurrection we hear our heavenly Father’s declaration of us, though we are sinners in ourselves, “This is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
In His death, guilt is defeated. In His resurrection, innocence is declared. In us, He is guilty. In Him we are innocent. Good has overcome evil, because Jesus is good. The Lord is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Hallelujah, hallelujah.