Jesus rose on the festival day of the firstfruits because he is the firstfruits of the resurrection. In him, we all rise. His resurrection is our resurrection. He is first. We follow.
On a day where we sometimes abstractly remember the resurrection, let’s concretely affirm how Jesus rose for us and for our salvation.
He rose as the first fruits of our resurrection
Since Jesus unites divinity and humanity in his person, he has the capacity to relate to all people, everywhere due to his omnipresence but also as a human to humans in the created order due to his humanity.
This is the basic logic for why the resurrection “is” our resurrection.
The Bible uses all sorts of analogies to explain this relationship. We are “in Christ,” we are the temple of God, we are in fellowship with his Body, we are the Body itself with Christ the Head, and so on. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul argues clearly that Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection. And therefore we rise because he rose.
Historically, Jesus seems to have risen on the day that the feast of firstfruits was celebrated (16 Nisan. Sunday). Hence, Jesus interprets the meaning of that festival in himself.
All this biblical language, however, explains what is true, namely, somehow Jesus relates to those already dead, alive, and who will live; he can still act today to save and to promise. He is neither bound by time nor space.*
Abraham lives in him. I live in him. And those who come after me will. All of this at the very least implies some capacity beyond what a normal human possesses.
Put simply, the reality that Christ was born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit means that we can unite to him by faith. Our identity becomes lost in his. Somehow, his very life, Eternal Life, becomes ours by incorporation.
He rose to crush death and let loose life
Death reigned until Easter morning. Life now reigns.
Christology, rather than being abstract, is the sum and centre of our doctrine of salvation.
Because divinity and humanity converge in Jesus, he can renovate human nature from the inside out; and he can omnipresently relate to all humans of all time; and his Body truly can become ours.
As our Head, we have become his Body—this relationship is so real that we even call ourselves CHRISTians. We are in him to the point that we are dead and our lives are hidden in him (Col 3:3). Paul affirms that he does not live but Christ lives in him (Gal 2:20).
Our real unity to the Body of Christ, with him as our head, through the Spiritual union to the real flesh and blood of Christ means we have what Christ has.
He was vindicated in the resurrection (1 Tim 3:16). So we are (Rom 4:25). He is glorified, and so our destiny is glory (Rom 8:29–30; 1 Cor 2:7). In him, God mediates the benefits of our salvation to us.
What Christ did and became in his human body, we are credited as having done and will become in our human body. So Paul tells us that our destiny is to follow our firstfruits (Christ) into incorruption and immortality (1 Cor 15:49, 53).
Without the resurrection, Death reigns. Due to the resurrection, Life reigns. Christ is Life (John 14:6), has Life in himself (John 5:26), and mediates Eternal Life (John 17:3; 1:18).
Easter Sunday means that if you trust in Christ, then “you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Easter means that Christ rose so that in him you rise.
Paul wrote, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ” (Col 2:13)
He rose to judge on our behalf and to give us the kingdom
He is risen, and so he ascends to the right hand of the Ancient of Days to reign (Dan 7:13). The ascension follows after the resurrection. It is the end of his ascent into heaven. And there the Son of Man ascends to the right hand of the Father to reign over all creation.
The ascension grounded Stephen’s confidence during his martyrdom. At that time, he saw “the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
So the Son of Man visits the churches in Revelation (Rev 1:12–17; 2–3). But as the narrative of Daniel 7 and Revelation both point to: the Son of Man ascended to receive the kingdom and presumably to receive judgement. As Jesus says, “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).
When our current life ends and our new life begins because of Easter, we can say with Stephen: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). He judges on our behalf. And in him, that judgment is “Yes and amen.”
In Revelation 1, Christ reigns over the earth and makes us a kingdom (Rev 1:5–6), which John shares in as well as the tribulation and endurance that are in Jesus (Rev 1:9). We all do because Christ has moved us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Col 1:13).
In this kingdom of light is the Life of God: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Ps 33:6). Jesus is Life (John 14:6). Jesus is the Light (John 8:12). He illumines all people (John 1:9). Jesus gives us “the light of life” (John 8:12).
And so his reign of light creates a kingdom out of every tribe, tongue, and nation by delivering them from the domain of darkness.
His luminous kingdom follows from his divine Life (John 1:1) which unites to humanity (John 1:14), so that his divine and human life can renovate from the inside out all those in the kingdom of God’s glorious Light. We are, after all, new creations (2 Cor 5:17).
“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything,” explains Paul. He continues, “what counts is the new creation” (Gal 6:15). We have become the New Human Being (Eph 2:15) in Christ Jesus because of his glorious Life and Life and Kingdom.
Death is dead, sin has been crushed, Satan cast down, and Life, abundant Life is ours in Christ Jesus in the kingdom of glorious Light because Easter is true.
Christ has risen. And in him, we rise.
*On this topic, see Rowan Williams, Christ the Heart of Creation