In light of Easter, an old college memory came to my mind the other day.
During my freshman year of college at the University of Oregon, the college group I was part of put on an event where we could ask the pastors and leaders any question about Jesus and the Bible. Of course, this brought in scores of visitors wanting to see the learned scholars stumped, including a few unbelievers. One non-christian girl asked our pastor a question about Christ that I had never even considered before:
Was the resurrection cheating?
Her rationale was, if Jesus' great love for us is demonstrated for us in His horrible, agonizing death, doesn't the resurrection negate all that? After all, He's no longer dead! It would have been a much greater sacrifice if He had stayed dead. What's the point?
Set aside the metaphysical hypotheticals of "the fabric of the universe would unravel if the second person of the Trinity was dead for all eternity, duh." This is actually a really good question for Christians to ask themselves!
Was the resurrection more than an elaborate punking of Satan, who thought he had won when the Son of God died? A celestial gotcha?
Paul tells the Corinthians that the resurrection is so much more than that. In fact, Paul says, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17). That sounds fairly important.
But why? Why is, at risk of sounding blasphemous, the cross not enough? Because the cross was never the whole plan.
The cross paid our sins in full—Amen and amen! But eternal life was made possible through the resurrection. Unfortunately, Christians forget to emphasize this important part of the Gospel, acting like the resurrection is just a footnote to the cross.
But the resurrection is extremely important and necessary because it ensures two main aspects of eternal life: qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitative—Christ's resurrection ensures our regeneration, our "new birth."
Before Christ, we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). Heart beating, lungs pumping, but spiritually dead. The Walking Dead. Our desires, our values, and our minds were focused on anything but God.
But because of the resurrection, if we have faith in Him, God has given us life like He gave Jesus life (Ephesians 2:5-6). It is a quality of life like we have never imagined because we are no longer slaves to sin—wallowing in the mud of guild and shame. We are born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3-4). We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have new desires, new values, and new minds.
Quantitative—Christ's resurrection ensures our resurrection.
Humans die; it's probably the one thing we are best at besides sinning. We are batting .1000 at the deathbed.
Christ came to change all of that.
Paul informs us of the ultimate gift of the resurrection when he tells the Corinthians, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
Just as Christ was raised, so we will be raised. Just as Christ received a glorified body that will never decay, so we will too.
No more disease. No more allergies. No more warts. No more broken or disabled limbs. No more blindness. No more sin. No more suffering. No more tears.
This is all because of the resurrection. It definitely matters that the tomb is empty.
Dead is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:54-56
For further reading, check out the Gospel Coalition's explanation on why the resurrection shouldn't be neglected.