What difference does the resurrection make?

How does Jesus’ resurrection make a difference for humanity?

Open Ephesians 2:5-6.

The resurrection is the moment in history when everything changed, for everyone.

Jesus was not the first to be put to death unjustly. That kind of thing happens every day. One of Judah’s kings is said to have filled Jerusalem with innocent blood (2 Kings 21:16).

What was unique in Jesus’ case was what happened three days later. When they went to wrap his dead body with spices, it wasn’t there. God had intervened. Earthly courts had authorized his execution, but a higher court exonerated him and restored him.

Do you see how radical this is? Human rulers gain power by subjugating their opponents. They conduct wars, tearing each other apart like wild beasts. But on the third day, the Ancient of Days (our eternal ruler) broke death’s hold. He gave the kingdom to someone who was not like a beast but like a human — one like a son of man (Daniel 7).

For over a month, Jesus shared life with his friends. Then he ascended to heaven’s throne, where he reigns over the earth, seated the right hand of the majesty on high.

So what difference does the resurrection make to us? Ephesians 2 provides a graphic answer.

It begins by picturing the whole of humanity under the power of evil and death. The reason people do so much damage to each other is that we walk around under the control of our broken humanity, the consequence of rebellion against our heavenly king. But the problem goes beyond our human brokenness (flesh): we are slaves of evil spiritual powers, including death. Humanity lives a zombie-like existence: dead people walking around under evil control, doing terrible things to each other. Yes, that’s graphic, but can you relate?

So what does God do? He becomes one of us, joining us in our mortal existence. There’s no surprise when the zombies, under the control of evil, kill him. But just as he chose to be in humanity, humanity is “in him” when God raises him from the dead! That’s why the resurrection changes everything not just for Jesus, but for us.

The heart of Ephesians 2 is this “together” connection between Jesus and humanity. It’s captured with three specially coined words in verses 5-6:

  • When he was brought to life, humanity was brought to life with him (sygkathizō).
  • When he was raised up, humanity was raised up with him (synegeirō).
  • When he was enthroned, humanity was enthroned with him (sygkathizō).

The resurrection changed everything for Jesus, but it changed everything for us too. No longer are we the walking dead under the control of evil. Humanity came back to life with him. Humanity was raised out of death with him. Humanity’s original vocation to reign over God’s world is restored because we are raised up to reign with him.

Celebration! Easter Sunday changed everything forever. We were in him when he was brought to life, raised up, and enthroned.

That makes Jesus the foundation for a new humanity — a humanity no longer divided. In him, we are reconciled to God and to each other (2:11-18). And since God dwelt in him, we who are in him are God’s dwelling too (2:19-20):

  • The whole human edifice is joined together in him (synarmologeomai).
  • Humanity is being built together (synoikodomoumai) as a house for God.

Did you notice that all 5 of those verbs begin with “sy(n)” meaning together? God joined us in our brokenness, our death. He was together with us when he rose. That’s why the resurrection changes our world, changes history, changes where we’re headed.

God’s kingship over the earth has been restored in him.


What others are saying

John R. W. Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 80–81:

In fact he coins three verbs, which take up what God did to Christ and then (by the addition of the prefix syn, ‘together with’) link us to Christ in these events. Thus first, God made us alive together with Christ (verse 5), next he raised us up with him (verse 6a), and thirdly he made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (verse 6b). … He is affirming not that God quickened, raised and seated Christ, but that he quickened, raised and seated us with Christ. Fundamental to New Testament Christianity is this concept of the union of God’s people with Christ.

N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, (London: SPCK, 2003), 237:

Having told the story of the sovereign God and of Jesus as an exodus-narrative (1:3–14) and as the story of this God’s victory in the Messiah over all the powers of the world (1:20–23), Paul now tells the story of how humankind has been brought from universal death to life in the Messiah (2:1–10, focused on 2:5–6). The present state of those in the Messiah is that they have already been ‘raised with the Messiah’ and seated with him in the heavenly places; what is true of the Messiah in 1:20–23, in other words, is true of those who are ‘in him’.

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Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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