Jesus was raised from the dead bodily on the third day following his death, according to the Hebrews’ inclusive manner of counting time. That is, he died on a Friday and was raised on Sunday (the first day of the week). Friday, Saturday, Sunday: the third day is Sunday. Jesus taught several times from the Hebrew Scriptures (our “Old Testament”) the necessity not only of his death for our salvation, but also of his resurrection—and that specifically on the third day (Matthew 16:21; Luke 18:31-33; 24:46). Jesus believed that someone who understood the Scriptures would conclude that the Messiah’s resurrection would necessarily take place on the third day. Paul also maintained the Scripturality of the third day resurrection as being of primary importance in the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:4). This assertion might puzzle someone searching the Old Testament for a simple, declarative, propositional statement on the matter.
We must learn to read the Old Testament as Jesus and Paul read it. From the beginning, the Scriptures have portrayed creation as containing within itself the “seed” of new creation that comes through death and resurrection. On the Third Day of creation (Genesis 1:9-13), God created “plants yielding seeds” (Heb., zera) and “trees bearing fruit in which is their seed” (v. 12, emphasis added). Seed plants are “resurrection” plants; new life is created as the seed falls to the ground and dies (John 12:24). It is a pattern, a paradigm, a principle of God’s creation—life, death, resurrection—that we have codified on the Third Day through the idea of the seed. On the Sixth Day, man—uniquely among all living creatures—is given this spiritually significant Third Day food to eat: seed-fruit plants, resurrection food to give life to our bodies as we take it in to ourselves. Then, in Genesis 3, after the fruit rebellion, God promised that the seed (zera) of the woman would deliver humanity from the power of the serpent, which is death (Hebrews 2:14). The implication is that the Savior would bring new life to a world under the rule of death through the Third Day seed-fruit process—through his own death and resurrection.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is no one’s opinion, but a decisive, historical, public event (Acts 26:23, 26; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). As the seed of the woman, the firstborn of the dead (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5), Jesus is the firstfruits of the new creation (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). He is the proof of God’s good intentions toward humanity, the fulfillment of all God’s promises. He is how humanity is supposed to be, immortal and glorified in body and soul, resting in his victory over all God’s and our enemies. Our humanity has been made right in his resurrection (Romans 4:25). The resurrection of Jesus Christ has always been God’s plan for the renewal of the world. And his resurrection is paradigmatic of God’s power (Ephesians 1:18-20). Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have permission to see that God’s resurrection power is always at work among us and on our behalf, even when—perhaps especially when—circumstances appear most dire and bleak. God specializes in resurrection, as seen most clearly in his Son Jesus Christ. His resurrection changes the meaning of everything in the world, a fact we celebrate as we gather weekly for Worship on the Day of the Lord’s Resurrection (1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10). He is risen. He is risen indeed.
Can you believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead? Don’t you want to believe it? How does this essential tenet of the Christian faith rank among your personal core beliefs about God, salvation, and reality? When do you most need to remember Christ’s resurrection? What are some of the real ramifications of Christ’s resurrection? What are some of the implications of your believing Christ’s resurrection? Do you see the resurrection as a central element of the proclamation of the Gospel? Of your personal evangelism or encouragement of other believers?