As the drama of scripture unfolds the cross becomes the climatic event in God’s plan to redeem the creation. God created in order to share love with the creation. Sin distorted the good creation and forced a divide between God and the creation. Humanity’s sin caused separation from God, causing God to expel the original couple from the Garden. But God was not content to leave the relationship fractured. Instead, God began the process of redemption that will ultimately lead to a new Heaven and new Earth. And while there are many important events in the on going story of the world, the climatic event for redemption was the cross. It was at the cross that sin was defeated. It was at the cross that the curses of sin became undone. It was at the cross when the slaughtered lamb became victorious over the powers of evil.
Yet, as important as the cross was, it was the resurrection that changed everything. The resurrection is the dawning of a new day. As NT Wright says in Surprised By Hope, the resurrection “is the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.” It changes the story. Without the resurrection the story is sad and unending with no hope for the future. But, because of the resurrection there is now hope. Because Jesus rose from the dead, others can rise from the dead. The resurrection means that the promises given to Israel about an unshakeable kingdom will come true. The people are returning from exile, back into relationship with God.
For evidence, consider the story of the men on the road to Emmaus recorded in Luke 24. After Jesus’s resurrection he encounters two men who are traveling from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus. The two men are followers of Jesus but for some reason they do not recognize him. Instead, they are lost in their own sorrow; spirits crushed because of the death of their hero. Jesus questions their sadness and they are perplexed at his confusion. “Does he not know the events that have happened in Jerusalem?” They tell him about Jesus, who was clearly a prophet sent from God but who had been killed by the ruling authorities. They had hoped that he would restore the fortunes of Israel, but their hopes had been crushed. Because of the cross there was no room for hope. Because of the cross all of their dreams had come undone. Death had finished the story in a way that only brought pain and misery.
But Jesus had been raised. Jesus begins to explain to them how Moses and the prophets had spoken of this day. Jesus interprets the sacred scriptures to help them understand that the Messiah had to die, this was the way the story was to unfold. But even more so, the Messiah had been raised. When Jesus breaks the bread at dinner the eyes of the men are opened and they come to see that Jesus is alive. And in that moment hope is restored.
The resurrection changes everything. Most importantly it changes how the story is told. Without the resurrection there is no hope. Without the resurrection the story remains unfinished and the plot of the narrative continues to spin out of control. Without the resurrection, even Jesus’s life leads to a tragic end. But because of the resurrection there is a new way to tell the story. Because of the resurrection Jesus is alive, and it becomes not just a happy ending for Jesus but it becomes a happy ending for everyone. Everyone gets to enjoy the hope restored in the resurrection. The resurrection means that all of the promises of God creating something new are being restored. The resurrection means that the story does not end in death but in life. Evil has been overcome. Sin and death have been defeated. Jesus becomes the first fruit of a new Heaven and new Earth. Or again as NT Wright says, “Jesus’s resurrection is to be seen as the beginning of the new world, the first day of the new week, the unveiling of the prototype of what God is now going to accomplish in the rest of the world.”
And that’s why the resurrection changes everything. It gives the story hope. But not just for Jesus, for all of us. God is right now creating something new. God is right now overcoming the darkness to shine a great light. Even when life appears bleak, rest assured that the story ends with hope. That’s the good news. And that is why we continue to face a world that at many times is extremely brutal. Because the resurrection changes everything.