I came across this verse this morning, Romans. 4:25:
"Jesus, who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification."
I began to ruminate on the cause-and-effect statements there:
We sinned ----> Jesus was crucified.
Okay, I understand that cause-and-effect. Humanity sinned for thousands of years, and Jesus, God Himself, died instead of us, a death of cursing and judgment and condemnation from God. His death was a necessity, because we'd sinned.
But that second one?
We were justified ---> God resurrected Jesus.
Hmm. Trying to wrap my brain around the logic of that one, and it's hard. God justified humans for thousands of years, overlooking their sins, allowing them into heaven in spite of their sins. (As we learned in church youth groups, God looked at us and said, "It's just-as-if-you-never-sinned.") He justified us. He declared us to be righteous when all of heaven and hell knew we weren't. He applied Jesus's perfection to us, and he slapped our sin on Jesus. He did a swap.
And for that reason, it was necessary that Jesus be resurrected.
Umm ... Why? I still don't get it!
So I ask myself questions. What exactly happened when Jesus was resurrected? A huge miracle, an attesting sign to God's power. A physical, in-your-face miracle as proof to everyone who saw Jesus in the flesh that God was real, that resurrection was real. But they'd seen resurrections before -- Lazarus, and the son of the widow of Nain, even resurrections in their history. How was Jesus's resurrection unique?
Of course, because He did not die again. He wasn't resurrected for another 40 years on the planet. He was resurrected for eternity.
He was the first one to be resurrected for eternity, ever. Or as Paul says to the Corinthian church, "Jesus is the first fruits of them that slept" -- the very first eternally resurrected human, from all those that died.
So, why did Jesus have to be resurrected? Because He had to be the first one. The first one with an eternal, glorified body. Even Enoch, even Elijah, were not as He was.
But still ... why? Why did Jesus have to be the first one resurrected? Why is that important?
Paul said, "If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins."
Did you know that your salvation is absolutely dependent, not only on Jesus's death, but also on His resurrection? Why?
Paul continues, "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." (Keep that verse handy if you ever hear a well-meaning Christian say some foolishness like Even if there is no heaven, and this earth is all there is, knowing Jesus here is enough. That's foolishness, I think.) We are not saved for this earth. We are saved for a new earth, later.
Paul continues about the resurrection, "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming."
So, what are first fruits? To give your first fruits to God is to give Him your tithe. If you're a farmer, you give the very first crops you harvest in any year to Him as an offering. Then you trust Him that the rest of the harvest will come in, to provide for your family. It's a faith thing.
So, Jesus is a tithe. He is God's tithe. When God resurrected Jesus's body, it was a gift in trust, a commitment that all the rest of His dead children would also be raised, have their bodies back, live on a new earth. The fact that Jesus has a physical, breathing body after resurrection is God's way of telling all of us: "Your physical eternity is secure. I'm making a brand-new, perfect Earth for my Son to live on, and you'll be there too."
Jesus's resurrected body is God's tithe to us, His promise, His down-payment ensuring the rest is coming.
This gives added meaning, I think, to our communion meals together. Each time we eat that bread and drink that wine, we do remember His death, His love. But we also remember that His resurrected body exists. And because His body exists already in its eternal glory, we can bank on the fact that our bodies will also. When I hold that bread and wine in my hands, I'm holding God's promise to me, of eternity.