In the Roman Empire crucifixion sent a message that Rome was in control. The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth sent a clear message. This man was not the Christ. The evidence was irrefutable. In weakness Jesus was defeated by his enemies. Publicly he was executed in the cruelest and most demeaning fashion. His body, dead, was laid in a tomb. Jesus’ closest disciples huddled together in fear behind locked doors in Jerusalem. The clear choice for these men was to go home, grateful they escaped with their lives, and forget about Jesus and his unfounded claims. Like any other man, he was dead. They all witnessed his death. It was finished.
Yet some fifty days after the crucifixion and burial of Jesus his disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem, not in fear, not behind locked doors. They were standing before the crowds gathered for the Pentecost festival. Surprisingly Peter boldly proclaimed, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Without fear Peter made this claim because, he said, after Jesus’ crucifixion, after his death and burial, the disciples had seen Jesus alive. It was not a ghost or a battered and bleeding survivor of the cross they had seen. They saw Jesus raised from death, and more. They watched him ascend to heaven where he was exalted to the right hand of God. Peter claimed, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:32-33).
PIcture the truth of the gospel message of Jesus Christ as an arch. The keystone of an arch, the center stone, keeps the arch standing. Remove the keystone and the arch crumbles. That God raised Jesus from the dead to never taste death again, to be exalted by God as both Lord and Christ, this is the keystone that keeps the arch of the gospel message standing. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, take away the keystone, the arch collapses, faith in Jesus Christ is a hoax. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord is the keystone of Christian faith for it is the crowning evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. At the center of Peter’s argument in Acts 2 is the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is the key evidence of the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, as Lord and Christ. Peter reasoned that the ancient king of Israel, David, prophesied “of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:31-32).
The resurrection of Jesus was God’s vindication and affirmation of Jesus, that he is the Son of God. He was raised with the power of God. God exalted him with power as Lord and Christ, sovereign over all power and authority in heaven and on earth. “And who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord is the keystone of Christian faith for it is our salvation. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his death has no power over sin. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). Jesus Christ is risen and with his resurrection comes justification and salvation. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Romans 4:25). “Baptism that now saves you…it saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
Salvation is forgiveness. Salvation is more. It is life. Salvation is being rescued from death. It is being rescued from the death of sin which separates us from God. It is being rescued from the power of death and the grave which would destroy life forever. Salvation is life, being dead to sin and alive to God. Life is only possible through the resurrected Jesus Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord is the keystone of Christian faith for in the resurrected Christ we are raised to a new life. Of this resurrection to new life the apostle Paul writes, “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12). We were raised with Christ so that “we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Risen with Christ, “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). The new life is a life committed to righteousness. It is a life committed to doing what is right in the eyes of God. The new life, the resurrection life, is a life of becoming less and less sinful, becoming more and more righteous in living. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord is the keystone of Christian faith for the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord is our hope of resurrection from the grave to life eternal. “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Corinthians 6:14). “We wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23-24). “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
This hope sustains our faith. It is a living hope as surely as Jesus Christ is a living Lord. As a living hope it is real, sure, and true. It is a living hope lived out in faith and love for God and for one another. A living hope lived out in lives committed to pleasing and glorifying our Lord in all we do.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord is the keystone of Christian faith for the risen Lord assures us that God is at work for his people. “Who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). The apostle Paul speaks of God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given” (Ephesians 1:19-21).
Whatever twists and turns we experience in life, seeing the empty tomb of Jesus, our faith is sustained. The resurrected Jesus Christ, our living and exalted Lord, gives us confidence that God in Christ is working to preserve us, to shield us, and to bring us to the fullness of our salvation in Jesus Christ.
Let us hear the words of our risen Lord Jesus Christ and live lives of faith, hope, and love. Let us live righteous lives filled with joy and peace in our living and exalted Lord. “Do not be afraid. If am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
(For more on the evidence for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, see the post “Why Jesus?” on February 20, 2011.)