Based on my interaction with Christians – both young and old, seasoned and brand new coverts – I’ve observed we typically give much more attention to the death of Christ rather than the resurrection of Christ. We are quick affirm the resurrection as an orthodox Christian belief, but most Christian have very little reason or rationale behind the belief. So why did Christ literally and physically rise from the dead?
The 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians is the Apostle Paul’s lengthy treatment on the significance of the historical resurrection of Jesus. As you read the chapter you will find it to be full of rational argumentation (reason) for the validity of Christ’s resurrection. For Paul, Christ’s physical resurrection was not wishful thinking. It was actual and enormously significant because the entire Christian message culminates in the resurrected Christ – “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (vs. 14)” and “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins (vs. 17).” For Paul, if Christ has not risen, nothing else mattered!
But W h y ? Why is the resurrection of Christ so significant? The short answer is that Christ’s resurrection ushered in the beginnings of a new world and a new humanity (or the renewed world and renewed humanity) which promised long ago in the Old Testament (Genesis 3:15; 2 Samuel 7:16; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-9; etc…). A humanity and world where sin, pain, and death are only in our memories. According Paul, the resurrected Christ is the “firstfruits” of this new humanity; that we, though currently ailed by sin, suffering, and death, will one day experience a resurrection into a new physical existence much like Christ’s resurrected body (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). Here’s NT Wright’s explanation via Tim Keller:
"The message of the resurrection is that the world matters! That the injustices and pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that the healing, justice, and love have won...If Easter means Jesus Christ is only raised in a spiritual sense--[then] it is only about me, and finding a new dimension in my personal spiritual life. But if Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world--news which warms our heart precisely because it isn't just about warming hearts. Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things--and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement victory of Jesus over them all. Take away Easter and Karl Marx was probably right to accuse Christianity of ignoring problems of the material world. Take it away and Freud was probably right to say Christianity is wish-fulfillment. Take it away and Nietzsche probably was right to say it was for wimps." ~ N.T. Wright, from his book Simply Christian; as quoted by Timothy Keller in is his book The Reason for God.