Jesus really, literally, physically, bodily rose from the dead. When Jesus appeared to his disciples, they couldn’t believe that he was really back from the dead, but with a lot of convincing, they finally believed their senses. Why does God’s plan involve a physical resurrection for Jesus and for us? What are the physical resurrection’s implications for our lives? Jesus’s physical resurrection strengthens our hope by affirming the goodness of physical reality, provides the foundation of our mission, and inspires us to worship.
First, Jesus’s physical resurrection strengthens our hope by affirming the goodness of physical reality (24:36-43). Jesus rising from the dead is such a shock to his disciples that they can’t even believe their senses. So Jesus goes to great lengths to prove he is no ghost or vision, but a living, breathing, flesh-and-bone, resurrected human. And if our resurrection is like Jesus’s (1 Corinthians 15:45, 49) we too will be raised physically with a body that is similar to our own yet freed from sin’s corruption (1 Cor 15:51, 53). This is not only true of our bodies, but all of creation will be renewed and restored (Romans 8-23, 2 Peter 3:7-13 Rev. 21:1). We see in Jesus’s resurrection, and the promise of our physical resurrection, an echo of Genesis 1, that what God has made is good, and matter matters. This frees us from an overly spiritual legalism (1 Tim 4:1-5). It also strengthens our hope in the resurrection as we see in creation pictures of the goodness of a redeemed creation. We aren’t waiting for some vague spiritual reality we can’t picture, imagine, or desire. We await a redeemed creation where every good thing we experience on this earth is a taste of the goodness it will have when it is redeemed. It helps us celebrate the goodness of what we experience now and solidifies our hope of what we will experience later.
Second, Jesus’s physical resurrection provides the foundation of our mission (24:44-49). All of God’s plan before Jesus leads up to and points to Jesus’s death and resurrection (24:44-45). It is only through Jesus’s physical self-sacrifice and physical resurrection that repentance can lead to forgiveness (24:47). And the Holy Spirit who comes after Jesus empowers his followers to point back to him (24:49). The core of what we as a church have to offer the world is the good news that Jesus’s death and resurrection fundamentally changed our world and our relationship with God. Jesus’s physical death and physical resurrection form the core of our testimony as witnesses (24:48).
And finally, Jesus’s physical resurrection inspires us to worship (24:50-53). The disciples’ mourning on Good Friday turned to joy on Easter Sunday. The death of Jesus alone would have been a pointless defeat. But with his resurrection the whole picture is flipped. Through Jesus defeated death by dying and rising again! He cleanses our sins by offering the perfect sacrifice! He foils our enemy by playing his victim, only to rise in victory. As the disciples shift from Good Friday’s sadness to Easter’s joy, they explode in worship day after day.
If Jesus didn’t actually physically die, and actually physically rise from the dead, then our “faith is futile” and we are still in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). But since Jesus did bodily rise from the dead, we have the best picture of what eternal life will look like, we have the greatest message ever to share with the world: God’s plan from ages past brought to fruition in Jesus. Our worship then propels us to witness of this great reality in our world!