Occasionally the resurrection of Christ has been relegated as a mere footnote to the gospel. The evidence for the resurrection is considered a means of proving the historicity of the gospels in order to show how logical and reasonable it is for someone to put their trust in Jesus. Though considering the evidence for the resurrection is indeed absolutely vital in order to show that Christianity is a robust faith, not reliant on feelings or fashions, it is the reality of the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ which should be the real focus.
This came home to me with fresh force as I worked through Psalm 18. The writer is David, but he is described in the title as “the Servant of the LORD” and at the end as the “anointed” King – in other words, the Christ. It emerged through an experience when David felt that death was imminent (v. 4,5). So, although Psalm 18 is found deep within the Old Testament, it seems to be particularly applicable to David’s great descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The message of the Psalm is first that the writer has been rescued from death through the intervention of the LORD – “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters” (v. 16). But this Psalm is about far more than rescue. As you read on, you see the anointed King, once delivered from death, pursuing enemies, defeating adversaries and achieving great victories. A summary near the end declares “You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations”
(v. 43). No wonder this Psalm is topped and tailed by extravagant praise to the LORD who has stood alongside His anointed One (vv 1-2, 46-50).
All of this finds its fulfilment first in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but finally in the victory of the resurrected Christ over sin, death and the devil. Revelation 11:15 proclaims the song to be sung in glory, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” The resurrection is not therefore a footnote to the gospel, but through the cross and resurrection we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who will achieve all His sovereign purposes.
As I write these words in early April, the political processes relating to Brexit appear to have stalled. Every vote appears to proclaim parliamentary uncertainty, weakness and division, mirrored within government itself. Yet what a contrast is provided as we approach Easter Sunday, 21st April 2019 – a day which will proclaim the victory of Christ over every obstacle to God’s purposes. It is the crucified, yet victorious, living, resurrected Lord Jesus Christ who stands over all history and over all peoples. How we relate to Him is the key question for each person.
So, by all means go to the Gospels to check out the evidence for the resurrection, either as a believer to gain further assurance, or as a sceptic to give you confidence that these are reliable historical documents. But don’t leave it at that! Consider, perhaps through reading Psalm 18, what it means for Jesus to be the Risen King before whom every person will one day stand.
(Rector, St. Nicholas Sevenoaks)