Relevant Text: Acts 26:8
Full Text: Est. 3; Acts 26

Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?”
– Paul

Resurrection | “Really? How can you seriously ask that question?” That’s what I want to say to Paul. Then again, I wasn’t his target audience. He was talking to a group of people who already believed that God could raise people from the dead – the Pharisees [1]. After all, their Scriptures included several resurrection accounts, e.g., the young boy raised by Elijah, the son of the Shunammite, the bones of the dead man [2]. Even in their own lifetime, they knew of several public resurrection accounts, e.g., the daughter of Jairus, Lazarus, Dorcas, Eutychus [3].

Unexpected | Jesus’ resurrection, however, was different. The others were raised from the dead and maintained their mortality. They had the same bodies and eventually died again. Jesus, on the other hand, was resurrected unto immortality in a new, glorified body. He was no longer susceptible to decay and death. In fact, although he was raised in bodily form, he even appeared sufficiently different that some of his disciples failed to recognize him [4]. This was their problem. For although the Pharisees expected a resurrection unto immortality at the end of the age, they didn’t expect it in the middle of history. Jesus was a surprise and, in their minds, an impossibility.

Firstfruits | Should they have been expecting it? Throughout his life, in every decision he made, Jesus always chose obedience over sin. Thus, he became the spotless Passover Lamb, slaughtered to make atonement before the Lord, according to the Law [5]. Yes, although he bore our sins when they were transferred to him by virtue of his righteousness, he was not made a sinner. Instead, under the Law, he became the Scapegoat, sent into the wilderness to bear our iniquities [6]. When God raised Jesus from the dead, therefore, He declared his life and death to be sufficient under the Jewish law. He defeated death itself and the grave had no hold on him. Thus, he was the “firstfruits” of our resurrection. His “resurrection from the dead was the beginning of the resurrection of the dead” [7].

Prayer | Lord, Our objections to the resurrection are different from the Pharisees’, but we struggle with the same thing that they did – unbelief. Therefore, help our unbelief. For we long to follow in Christ’s footsteps at the end of this age – no longer in our sins because he has been raised [8]. Amen.



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[1] Wikipedia, Pharisees (noting their belief in a literal resurrection of the dead, which was one of the main points of contention between their Jewish sect and the opposing Jewish sect, the Sadducees).

[2] See 1 Kings 17:17-24 (the young boy raised by Elijah); 2 Kings 4:32-37 (the son of the Shunammite); 2 Kings 13:21 (the bones of the dead man thrown into the tomb). See also N.T. Wright, The Resurrection and the Son of God, Chapter 3: “Time to Wake Up (1): Death and Beyond in the Old Testament” (citing several texts that point to life beyond the grave in the Jewish Scriptures) (see special footnote below).

[3] See Matt. 9:18-26 and parallel texts: Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56 (the daughter of Jairus); John 11:1-13 (Lazarus); Acts 9:36-43 (Dorcas); Acts 20:7-12 (Eutychus). See also N.T. Wright, The Resurrection and the Son of God, Chapter 4: “Time to Wake Up (2): Hope Beyond Death in Post-Biblical Judaism” (citing several examples of Jewish belief in life after death) (see special footnote below).

[4] Two of his own disciples didn’t recognize him when they walked with him on the road to Ammaus (see Lk. 24:13-32, where Luke specifically mentions that their eyes were closed from and then opened to recognizing him). Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize him for a moment (see Jn. 20:14-16). On other occasions, of course, the disciples seemed to have recognized him fairly quickly (see Mt. 28:9, 17; Jn. 20:19-20, 26-28; 21:7, 12). When Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples in Jerusalem, they were initially startled and frightened (Lk. 24:33, 37), but they were convinced he had risen from the dead when they saw his pierced hands and feet and saw him eat a piece of fish. (Information taken from Grudem, Systematic Theology, see Special Footnote below).

[5] See Lev. 16 (Day of Atonement).

[6] Id.

[7] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God. 2003, pp. 453-4, emphasis original.

[8] 1 Cor. 15:17. See 1 Cor. 15 (a full, beautiful discussion by Paul on the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for the Christian).


Special Footnote

 It seems impossible to cover the topic of the resurrection in 400 words or less. I apologize in advance, therefore, if you’re left wanting more – or, even more likely, confused! Therefore, I am going to highlight a few additional resources for further reading:

(1) Miracles by C.S. Lewis. He notes that, before addressing any question about whether any miracle, in fact, happened, the preliminary question is whether the supernatural can interfere with the natural.

(2) The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright. This is, perhaps, the seminal work on the various aspects of what Easter means. It is very long, but it is also fairly comprehensive in setting out the context in which the resurrection happened. Tim Keller has said that it is the best work on this topic that he has ever read.

(3) Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. If you’re looking for an introduction to some of the major topics of Biblical doctrine, this is a great start. Not only does it lay out some specific doctrines (with Biblical references), it also has semi-devotional endings to each chapter that often include a questions for personal application, Scripture memory passages, and hymns on which to meditate and worship.

(4) J.I. Packer, “Introduction” to The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. Since Owen is so hard for people to read, many people skip the actual book and recommend Packer’s introduction. It’s an unpacking of the atoning sacrifice of the death of Christ and what it means for the Christian and the world.

(5) New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. If you’re curious about the historicity of the resurrection, you might want to check this out. As a side note, when I was drafting this devotional, I thought about addressing this topic, but I opted against it because I was convinced by Lewis’ argument in Miracles that, in our naturalistic era, I would have to cover the preliminary question before attempting to address the resurrection question. In Miracles, he wrote, “Seeing is not believing. For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience … Our senses are not infallible … If immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous, still less can history do so. Many people think one can decide whether a miracle occurred in the past by examining the evidence ‘according to the ordinary rules of historical inquiry.’ But the ordinary rules cannot be worked until we have decided whether miracles are possible, and if so, how probable they are.” Not having the room to do both, I opted to address the objections of the Pharisees and focus on the intention of Paul’s comment itself. Thankfully, this is not – Lord-willing – the last devotional I’ll write, so I’ll try and cover those at a later time (or one of you can write in the comments about it!).

(6) Although I do not necessarily “recommend” reading it, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, has a lot to say – all negative – about miracles and the resurrection. I have found it helpful to read this book because it reminds me (in a very abrasive way) how our Christian belief in miracles and the resurrection appear to non-Christians. Yet, he fails where Lewis addresses – namely, in faulting at the preliminary question (he does not believe there is anything beyond the natural).