Jesus was not the first person to be raised from the dead.
But as amazing as those things were, they did not affect the disciples the way the resurrection of Jesus did. Seeing the resurrected Christ changed His followers dramatically. They became obsessed with the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection became the basis for their faith and the driving force for their lives.
The resurrection of Christ is absolutely unique in all of history:
Others were raised from the dead, but Jesus Christ raised Himself.[i]
He defeated death from within.
Before He died, Jesus made this startling prediction: “Destroy this temple [that is, my body], and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22, NIV). Jesus told His disciples, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18, NIV).
Christ chose to walk into death and then to walk back out, demonstrating a power greater than the power of death. Lazarus and others were given a temporary reprieve from death: they were retrieved from death for a while, but then they died again.
But Christ won more than a postponement; He actually conquered death. He faced it head-on and completely dominated it.
The core of our faith, just like that of the early believers, is the Resurrection of Christ. Death is the fierce power of our sin, but there is a power that is even greater: the purity, the deity, and the love of Christ constitute an absolutely unsurpassed power.
We sometimes fear that forgiving means surrender or passivity. Nothing could be farther from the truth:
Forgiveness is looking evil in the eye, calling it what it is, and then proclaiming victory.
Forgiveness rises taller and stronger than the evil that came against it. It removes the “sting” of evil by removing the harm from the hurt[ii]. It removes the poison of bitterness and the curse of resentment.
When we are hurt by others, we experience something like a death: there is a kind of grieving, perhaps the ending of a relationship as it had been, and there may even be—as Lazarus’ sister pointed out—a “bad smell” to the whole affair. But forgiveness says, “This is not the end of the story.”
After His crucifixion, the body of Christ was placed in a borrowed tomb, not His own. Similarly, forgiving involves walking into someone else’s evil, not our own. We stand for a moment in the dark “tomb” of someone else’s sin, but then, like Christ, we choose to walk out into the garden, where the Spirit makes all things new.
This is why Christ-followers must forgive:
Forgiveness is the Resurrection again.
Forgiveness is first the Cross raised as an identifying banner over us. Forgiveness is then the Resurrection, demonstrating the power of the Spirit of God within us. He brings the power to obliterate evil and to transform ashes into beauty.
When given the opportunity to forgive, we can respond to our debtors with these truths in our hearts:
You hurt me, but I will not hurt you back.
My willingness to forgive you is my willingness for God to forgive me.
When God poured out the riches of His grace to me, He included all the grace that I would need to pass on to you.
I do not seek your punishment. I seek your redemption and your healing.
How has forgiveness brought Resurrection power into your life?