Last time I changed my broadband supplier, I did so to get a better connection at a cheaper rate. That was the primary benefit. But a secondary benefit came in the form of a monetary voucher. I wasn’t even aware it was part of the deal, so it was a very nice surprise!
Life is often like that. We do something for one main reason but discover along the way that there are other secondary benefits to what we’re doing. It’s also like that with the resurrection of Jesus.
There are several primary reasons for Jesus rising again from the dead on the third day. Firstly, the fact that Jesus came back to life proves that the work Jesus accomplished on the cross was really accomplished. Secondly, in his resurrection he gains victory over death, which assures us that as his followers we will also rise again when he returns. Thirdly, there’s the new life that he has brought us even now, all anchored in with his own resurrection.
These three reasons are fundamental to what the resurrection is about. We should talk about them often and celebrate them, as we celebrate Jesus and talk much about him. But I want to spend some time highlighting the unsung heroes, the secondary benefits of the resurrection. Not to replace the primary benefits but simply to say that there’s even more to enjoy than perhaps we usually realise.
Because Jesus is alive, we know him
Think of anyone who is no longer alive and there is no way you can say that you know them now. I may be able to know all about the inventive mind and creative artistry of Leonardo da Vinci but I can’t know him. I can find out all kinds of information about what drove Florence Nightingale to reform nursing but I can’t personally know her. Even if I had been a very close friend of David Bowie, I could no longer say that I know him, since he died last year.
Jesus’ apostles knew him. Their qualification as apostles was that they had known him throughout his ministry (Acts 1:21-22). But after he was raised, because he was alive again, never to face death again, they were able to speak of knowing Jesus – not in the past tense but in an ongoing tense. It’s not only those that saw him who could say that they knew him but it’s something we can say, that even though we haven’t seen him, we really do know him.
Because Jesus is alive, we speak with him
Although the main pattern we’re given is to pray to the Father, there are examples in the New Testament of prayers being addressed to Jesus. Echoing Jesus’ own prayer when he died, Stephen addresses Jesus asking him to receive his spirit (Acts 7:59). Also, Paul asks the church in Corinth to call upon Jesus and there are the benedictory prayers that address Jesus (1 Cor 1:2; 2 Thess 2:16). Like communication in any relationship, so our prayers to Jesus help foster our knowledge of him.
It’s not merely one way communication; Jesus speaks to us as well. He has placed his Spirit in our hearts, so the Spirit speaks the words of Christ to us, particularly as we read his word, meditate on it and hear it preached to our hearts. We are not reading a static history book but the living communication of one who is still alive.
Because Jesus is alive, we worship him
Of course Jesus is worthy of worship because he is God and also because of what he has accomplished for us. When he was on this earth he accepted acts of worship from people (John 9:38). One day Jesus will receive worship when all his people are gathered to him (Rev 5). Why would we not direct our worship to him now since he is still alive today?
When we gather for worship together, do we recognise that we’re worshipping one who at that moment is receiving our worship from us? When we live lives of service it’s not in remembrance of someone gone but actively for someone we know and love. How wonderful that our private worship times are not ignored but are seen and heard by the one to whom those times are directed.
Because Jesus is alive, we model him
Have you ever noticed that when you spend a lot of time with someone you like, you start to become a little bit like them? That’s a good thing if they’re a good person to emulate! Because Jesus is still alive and because we spend time with him, naturally we should become like him. That’s what the Bible expects of us too (2 Cor 3:18).
It’s not just a static image that we are to become but a dynamic ongoing transformation in the likeness of a living person. It’s one that is not completed yet but is one that will be finally revealed upon Jesus’ return (1 John 3:2). It involves being transformed to reflect him in every area of our lives.
Because Jesus is alive, we are strengthened by him
Jesus hasn’t simply left us all the tools and instructions to get on with the job ourselves. Rather, he is with us in all that we do, helping us and giving us his strength for every task we face as his people (Phil 4:13). It’s an ongoing continuous strengthening that Jesus provides us with throughout our lives as he lives on in heaven.
We may face all kinds of things in this life. We may have many different kinds of trials and difficult tasks to accomplish. For Paul, as he faced such things, he was so aware of this dynamic that he knew Jesus was standing by his side to strengthen him (2 Tim 4:17). We too can have that awareness of having Jesus by our side in our trials and challenges.
He walks with me and talks with me
As in the old song, we know that Jesus is alive, no matter what anyone may say, because we have a continuing relationship with him. But like any good relationship, we can neglect it or ignore it. Although we have access to this vibrant and dynamic relationship, we can end up turning it into something of very little ongoing impact. It is far better for us to recognise what a wonderful thing it is that Jesus is alive today.