For Jesus, being the Christ meant that He so closely identified with His people that whatever can be said of Him can, at least in principle, be said of them. For Christians (both Jews and Gentiles, see Rom. 9:4–8), then, this means that they participate in God’s covenant, becoming by faith heirs of His promises, faithful to His will and purpose, precisely because Jesus already was. The apostle Paul meant nothing less when he wrote that we have been “baptized into Christ Jesus” (see Rom. 6:1–14).
Many Christians seem content to leave Jesus on the cross, while the resurrection often suffers from neglect. That the cross receives so much attention, however, is not without warrant. After all, the event was the “one act of righteousness” that led “to justification and life for all men” (Rom. 5:18). That is to say, the one Man’s act of righteousness is the climactic act of Jesus’ life-long fidelity to His Father’s will and purpose, when He offered up His life for His people. Taking it one-step further, many of us are inclined to say that we will live under the public disgrace and outrage of the cross until Christ’s return, that it defines the age in which we now live. Since we live in a suffering world, as the thinking goes, the crucifixion provides the perfect revelation of God’s empathy with His creation. Yet the whole reason that the one act remains pivotal is precisely because Scripture deems it the decisive victory by the One who hung dead upon it. But what kind of victory would have Christ hanging upon it still? Wherein lies the triumph in the story of a disillusioned Galilean who could not get God to establish His kingdom on earth? There is none. Without the resurrection, the cross is foolish indeed.
All of this to say that the cross itself is entirely inseparable from God’s other redemptive acts through Jesus in history — His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost — all of these form a unified front upon which the age of sin and death met its match. And never was the defeat of those two horrors more boldly proclaimed than on Easter morning. The resurrection stands as the single, most powerful declaration by God that this truly human Jesus “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” was also “the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness” (Acts 2:23; Rom. 1:4). Jesus and His mighty works were vindicated when God raised Him from the dead, exalting Him as “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), no longer lowly and limited, now Messiah of His people and Ruler of the entire world.
If the resurrection did not happen, then we followers of Jesus, along with Saint Paul, “are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).