Ramifications of the Resurrection, Pt 1: Optimism

This morning, I received an Easter card. Now, to be honest, I don’t receive all that many Easter cards. I guess I’m not as popular as you. But when I get them, as I do with Christmas cards, I do take a moment to read through them and appreciate the gesture. As I opened this card, I found inside a beautiful letter about the reality and import of the resurrection for believers. And that letter has got me thinking: the resurrection should have a number of important ramifications for our lives as Christians.

But do we always recognize them?

So this morning, I wanted to take a moment to jot down some of the ways in which the resurrection should impact the life of the believer. The problem is that, as I started thinking about these, I almost immediately realized that there are far too many of these ramifications to outline in a lifetime, let alone in a single blog post. So I thought that, over the next few days, I might explore some of the most important – or maybe just most overlooked – ramifications of the resurrection in a series of brief posts.

For the moment, I want to talk about optimism. Because Jesus is raised from the dead, the Christ-follower can – indeed, must – live with a sense of optimism regardless of circumstances.

The logic behind this is really rather simple. When Joseph and Nicodemus removed Jesus from the cross, He was dead. Since that day, some have suggested otherwise, but if there was one thing the Romans were good at, it was making people dead. And by the time Jesus went to the cross, they had been crucifying people by the hundreds – thousands, even – for centuries. They had killing people, particularly on a cross, down to a science, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jesus was dead.

Talk about the ultimate lose.

The Sadducees, Pharisees, Romans, Satan, and all of Jesus’ other enemies, temporal and eternal, had won. The Son of the Most High was dead. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

But then came Sunday, and with it the Resurrection.

When Mary and the other women approached the tomb early that first Easter morning and the angel appeared, rolling away the stone, history’s ultimate loss was abruptly, eternally, and irrevocably overturned, becoming instead the ultimate victory.

It really shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus turns failure into success and loss into victory. God has, in fact, been doing similar things throughout history. He destroyed mankind for their wickedness but saved Noah to rebirth the race through a righteous man. Sarah was old and barren when God first promised a child, and many more years passed until she even gave up hope. But then Isaac was born. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, but as a result, years later, he was able to save his entire family. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened so that he refused to release Israel, but God demonstrated His power for all to see. Joshua had no clue how to defeat the heavily fortified Jericho, but God did. The Israelites made a foolish alliance with the Gibeonites, but God used it to gather their enemies in one place so they could have victory. And the list goes on and on. Saul’s betrayal led to David’s dynasty. David’s sin with Bathsheba and the subsequent deaths of Uriah and the baby paved the way for Solomon. The Assyrian and Babylonian captivities turned the people back to God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel in the lion’s den. Jonah in the belly of the whale.

Producing victory out of loss is what God does. He seems to love the underdog Cinderella story.

And the fact that God has done this same sort of thing time and again throughout history should compel Christ-followers to expect Him to do it again. And again. And again.

Christians should be the most optimistic people on the planet. Not because everything is going great for us; indeed, things may be going very badly. Consider that ten of Jesus’ original twelve disciples were executed for their faith. (The exceptions: Judas committed suicide after betraying Jesus at Gethsemane, and John apparently died of natural causes in the mid-90’s AD.) Add in names like Stephen, James, Paul and countless others through the centuries. But then remember that, even as the stones fell, Stephen exulted, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 8:56), “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (vs 59), and “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” (vs 60). Jesus’ brother James noted in James 5:10-12, “Brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience. See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome from the Lord. The Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” And Paul said, “Because of Him, I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ – the righteousness from God based on faith.”

Do you hear it? These men lost everything. But they still looked forward to the day when they would win. Despite their desperate circumstances, they retained a sense of optimism.

And because Jesus defeated death and the grave that first Easter Sunday, so can – so must – we.

So live today, regardless of what it brings, with optimism. Because today might be Friday (a proverbial reference to Good Friday; it’s actually Thursday as I’m writing this), but Sunday is coming!

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