Most people accept that Jesus was a real person in history, about 2,000 years ago in Israel. But the idea that he was more than a man, that he was “God in the flesh,” is accepted by far fewer people. The inspired scriptures — commonly referred to as the Bible — give us infallible evidence of Jesus’ deity through the record of his resurrection; the significance of this for humanity can’t be overstated.
The proof of Jesus’ deity, that he is God, is seen, according to the apostle Peter, in his miraculous works and his resurrection. In the first sermon about him following the resurrection, he said, “...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24). This was God’s method of proving who Jesus was — the divine son of God.
In his history of the early church, Luke tells us that Jesus “… presented himself alive to them [i.e., the apostles] after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). The apostle Paul, in his opening words of his letter to the church in Rome, confidently says that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord....” (Romans 1:4).
But what does this mean today? What is the ongoing significance of Jesus’ resurrection suggest? Let’s look at this in view of two considerations.
First, regarding his identity: Who was Jesus, other than a Jew born long ago in a town called Bethlehem?
A man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus to discuss his identity and authority. He began admitting the obvious. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Nicodemus wasn’t stupid. He understood the implication of the miraculous things Jesus did. It’s interesting that this same Nicodemus later helped prepare Jesus’ body for burial (Jn 19:39).
Still thinking of Jesus’ identity, his resurrection involves a simple proposal. If Jesus was raised from the dead, his deity is established without doubt. Jesus is God (note John 1:1). On the other hand, if he wasn’t raised, he was an imposter, a fraud, and his claims were false!
Second, consider that matter of salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life.
Jesus came to save sinners; he died on the cross to provide the means for that salvation. He was the perfect sacrifice, the only one capable of providing the means of salvation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
In view of this “good news” message, Paul warned those with doubts about Jesus’ resurrection, “...if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). If he is still in the grave, his death meant nothing.
But because he was raised, we can have hope. Because of that hope, Paul encourages us to “…be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).