Priorities For The Lord Jesus: The “Must” of His Resurrection

For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” This declares the Lord’s priority to glorify His Father in a glorified risen body.

When John arrived before Peter at the sepulchre, he stooped down to look in, and “saw (i.e., at a glance) the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in” (v5). When Peter arrives, he goes straight into the sepulchre, “and seeth (i.e., a detailed survey) the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (vv6-7). Peter pays careful attention to the undisturbed orientation of the grave clothes and the separate napkin.

Testimony of His Bodily Resurrection

These details are given to indicate that when the Lord rose from the dead, He came totally through the grave clothes in His glorified resurrection body. The grave clothes were left lying the way they had been around His body and the napkin was positioned where it had been around His head. The stone was not rolled away to allow the risen Lord to come out of the tomb, but rather to let those disciples in to see this tremendous testimony to His resurrection. In His glorified body, He would have been able to pass through the stone. Later, He was able to pass through the walls and the closed doors of the upper room, to appear in the midst of the disciples, and then He would vanish out of their sight, as He also did in the house of the two travellers (Luke 24:31). Such will also be the character of the changed and resurrected bodies of believers at His coming: “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body (His body of glory), according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil 3:21).

Testimony of the Scriptures

When John followed Peter into the sepulchre, “he saw, and believed”(v8) the visible testimony to the Lord’s resurrection. But verse nine takes us to the ground of faith: “For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” We do not look for evidences; the only basis for faith is the testimony of the Word of God. If we are looking for proofs to corroborate and confirm what the Bible says, then our faith will remain weak. Our faith will be strong when we hold to everything written in the Scriptures concerning Christ. The Lord said to Thomas, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (v29). This is the faith that comes by believing the Word of God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17).

It is therefore the testimony of Scripture that the Lord brings to His disciples later that day: “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me” (Luke 24:44), and “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46). His resurrection was a priority, in order to fulfil Scripture. “For Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew Me the path of life” (Psa 16:10-11).

The Preeminence of His Resurrection

The Lord Jesus is “the firstborn from (among) the dead” (Col 1:18). As such, He is first in resurrection as to rank and position, for a number of reasons. The holiness of God’s Son demanded that He must be raised out from the dead, for death had no claims upon a sinless Man. It was a moral impossibility that He be held in death. “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains (bands) of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).

Those previously raised from death by the prophets, and by the Lord Himself, were all raised in mortal bodies, and returned back in to death again. But the Lord Jesus was unlike Lazarus; in death He saw no corruption (Psa 16:10), and He was raised in a glorified, incorruptible body.

He rose from the dead in His own power. “Destroy this temple (His body), and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). “I lay down My life, that I might take it again … I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18).

Uniquely, “Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom 6:4). As long as He remained in death, the Father’s glory was at stake; the glory of the Father demanded He must be raised, and thus He was raised in accordance with His necessity to glorify His Father.

He rose to die no more. “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:18). He lives “after the power of an endless (indissoluble) life” (Heb 7:16).

As believers, our links are with the risen Savior, exalted in glory at God’s right hand. We rejoice to know that “now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1Cor 15:20). As such, He is first in order as to time, and by implication others must follow. Just as “He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9), so too must others. “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” (1Cor 15:23). “The dead in Christ shall rise first” (1Thes 4:16). His resurrection is the pledge of a future great harvest, the resurrection of the saints.