The Best News Ever Heard
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
The story of Christ’s appearance to Mary Magdalene and his commissioning her to tell the disciples of his resurrection concludes with the statement that she did what he told her to do. This is deceptively simple because it is actually a record of the first announcement of the best news this world has ever heard. It was an announcement of the Lord’s resurrection.
When World War II ended, the joyful news was flashed around the globe, and at once people everywhere were ecstatic. I was just a lad at the time. My father had been in the service for some years, and the family was then stationed at a large military base in the southern United States. We were far from the action. But even now I can recall the yelling and shouting that occurred when news came of the war’s end. The ending of World War II was great news. Yet, great as that news was, it did not compare with the truly stupendous news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This message was better then, and it is even better today.
Let me ask a very simple question and then give a few plain answers. Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ the best news the world has ever heard? The answers are: because it is true, because it came after an apparent defeat, because of all that it proves, and finally because it demands a lifesaving response from each of us.
First, Jesus’ resurrection is good news because it is true. It is always possible to have reports of events that sound like good news but later prove to be disappointments because the facts of the reports are wrong or the events did not actually happen. Referring again to World War II, this very thing occurred several times before the war really ended. False reports of the war’s end spread; they were eventually proved false and so were terribly disappointing. The same was true of reports of a near end to the war in Vietnam. This was not the case with news of Jesus’ resurrection.
We do not have space in one message to go into the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ at length, but we can suggest a few of them. The first great evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the evidence of the narratives themselves. These stand up to the most stringent of critical scrutinies. To begin with, they are apparently four independent accounts. They were obviously not made up in collusion; for if they were, they would not possess the number of apparent contradictions they contain: the number of angels at the tomb, the number of women who went to the garden, the time of their arrival, and other things. These accounts can be harmonized, but the point is this: had the writers gotten together to make up a story, the apparent discrepancies would have been eliminated. On the other hand, it is also apparent that they did not make up the stories separately, for if they had done this, there would never have been the large measure of agreement they possess. The setting and the characters are the same, and the sequence of events makes sense. What does this mean? Just this: If the accounts were not made up in collusion and if they were not made up separately, the only remaining possibility is that they were not made up at all. That is, they are four true, independent accounts by those who knew the facts they wrote.
Next there is the evidence of the empty tomb, coupled with the evidence of the moved stone and the undisturbed graveclothes. How are we to account for these things? Some have imagined that either the Roman or Jewish authorities moved the body. But they had no reason to do this, especially since it would have involved violating the officially sealed tomb; and, had this occurred, it is inconceivable that the true circumstances would not have been revealed later after the disciples had appeared in Jerusalem, proclaiming their belief in Jesus’ resurrection. It would have been easy for Jesus’ enemies to produce a body had there been one. On the other hand, the friends of Christ did not steal the body of Jesus, for they would hardly have been willing to die (as most of them later did) for a deception.
It is possible to add the changed character of these men as an evidence, for whatever happened turned them from disillusioned cowards into mighty proclaimers of the Christian message.
Then, too, we must add the fact that Jesus appeared, not just to one or two women in a garden under somewhat eerie circumstances, but to a wide variety of people in numerous circumstances. Paul lists many such appearances, noting that one time Jesus appeared to a group of five hundred believers (1 Cor. 15:6).
Again, one of the great evidences of the resurrection is the unexpected and unnatural change of the day of worship from Saturday, the Jewish day of worship, to Sunday in Christian services. Nothing but the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday explains it.
What are we to say of these evidences? Matthew Arnold, not overstating the case, once said, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best attested fact in history.” Lawyers in particular have seen this truth. Some of the best books on the resurrection have been written by lawyers, some of whom originally set out to disprove it. I am thinking of men like Frank Morison, Gilbert West, J. N. D. Anderson, and others. Sir Edward Clark, another English jurist, once wrote, “As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the first Easter day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling.… As a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of men to facts that they were able to substantiate.”
This is the first reason why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is good news. It is good news, not merely because it is a nice story which gives us an opportunity for a holiday once a year, but because it is true. As truth it is one of the most stupendous and important facts of history.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is good news because it came after an apparent defeat. A victory is always good news, but news of victory after news that a battle has apparently been lost is even better.
Let me illustrate this by the way in which news of the Battle of Waterloo first came to England. There were no telegrams or radio sets in those days, but everyone knew that a great battle was pending and they were anxious to hear what would happen when Wellington, the British general, faced Napoleon. A signalman was placed on the top of Winchester Cathedral with instructions to keep his eye on the sea. When he received a message, he was to pass the message on to another man on a hill. That man was to pass it to another. And so it was to go until news of the battle was finally relayed to London and then across England. At length a ship was sighted through thick fog on the English Channel. The signalman on board sent the first word—“Wellington.” The next word was “defeated.” Then fog prevented the ship from being seen. “Wellington defeated!” The message was sent across England, and gloom descended over the countryside. After two or three hours the fog lifted, and the signal came again: “Wellington defeated the enemy!” Then England rejoiced.
In the same way, Jesus’ death plunged his friends into sadness. It was an apparent defeat. But on the third day he rose again in victory. When Jesus died men might have cried, “Christ is defeated, wrong has triumphed, sin has won.” But after three days the fog lifted and the full message came through to the world: “Jesus is risen; he has defeated the enemy.”
Third, the resurrection is good news because of all that it proves. What does it prove? The answer is: It proves all that needs to be proved. It proves the essential doctrines of Christianity.
In the first place, it proves that there is a God and that the God of the Bible is the true God. Reuben A. Torrey, who often spoke and wrote well on these themes, put it this way: “Every effect must have an adequate cause … and the only cause adequate to account for the resurrection of Christ is God, the God of the Bible. While here on earth, as everyone who has carefully read the story of his life knows, our Lord Jesus went up and down the land proclaiming God, the God of the Bible, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ as he loved to call him, the God of the Old Testament as well as the New. He said that men would put him to death, that they would put him to death by crucifixion, and he gave many details as to what the manner of his death would be. He further said that after his body had been in the grave three days and three nights, God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the Bible, the God of the Old Testament as well as the God of the New Testament, would raise him from the dead. This was a great claim to make. It was an apparently impossible claim. For centuries men had come and men had gone, men had lived and men had died, and so far as human knowledge founded upon definite observation and experience was concerned, that was the end of them. But this man Jesus does not hesitate to claim that his experience will be directly contrary to the uniform experience of long, long centuries.…
“That was certainly an acid test of the existence of the God he preached, and his God stood the test. He did exactly the apparently impossible thing that our Lord Jesus said he would do.… The fact that Jesus was thus miraculously and marvelously raised makes it certain that the God who did it really exists and that the God he preached is the true God.”
Second, the resurrection proves Jesus’ deity. When Jesus lived on earth, he claimed to be equal to God and that God, this God, would raise him from the dead three days after his execution by the Roman authorities. If he was wrong in this, his claim was either the raving of a deranged man or blasphemy. If he was right, the resurrection would be God’s way of substantiating the claim. Did he substantiate it? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Yes, he did! So the resurrection is God’s seal on Christ’s claim to divinity. This is why Paul, who knew that Jesus had been raised, writes that Jesus was “declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). This is good news! If Jesus is God, then God is like Jesus. It means that God is not distant, arbitrary, or unreal. He is a God who loves us and who came to earth to give himself a ransom for our sins.
Then, too, the resurrection proves that all who believe in Jesus Christ are justified before God. Paul teaches this in Romans also, for he states that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). How does this happen? Jesus had claimed that his death would atone for man’s sin. He said that he had come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). He died as he said. But the question still remained: Can it be true that the death of this one man is acceptable to God on behalf of others? Suppose he had sinned? In that case, he would have been dying for his own sin rather than the sins of others. Did he sin? Or was his atonement accepted? Three days pass. Christ rises. Thus, his claim is established. God has shown by the resurrection that Christ was sinless and that he has accepted his atonement.
Torrey said this: “When Jesus died, he died as my representative, and I died in him; when he arose, he rose as my representative, and I arose in him; when he ascended up on high and took his place at the right hand of the Father in the glory, he ascended as my representative and I ascended in him, and today I am seated in Christ with God in the heavenlies. I look at the cross of Christ, and I know that atonement has been made for my sins; I look at the open sepulcher and the risen and ascended Lord, and I know the atonement has been accepted. There no longer remains a single sin on me, no matter how many or how great my sins may have been.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ also proves that the believer in Christ can have a supernatural victory over sin in this life, for Jesus lives to provide supernatural power to do it. This is an argument developed in the sixth chapter of Romans. In the opening verses of that chapter Paul writes, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:4). This means that by faith all who believe in Christ are united to Christ so that his power becomes available to them. We may be weak and utterly helpless, unable to resist temptation for a single minute. But he is strong, and he lives to give help and deliverance. Victory is never a question of our strength, but of his power. His power is what we need.
Torrey, whom I have just quoted, tells a story that illustrates this point. He tells of four men who were once climbing the most difficult face of the Matterhorn. There was a guide, a tourist, a second guide, and a second tourist, all roped together. As they went over a particularly difficult place, the lower tourist lost his footing and went over the side. The sudden pull on the rope carried the lower guide with him, and he carried the other tourist along also. Three men were dangling over the cliff. But the guide who was in the lead, feeling the first pull upon the rope, drove his ax into the ice, braced his feet, and held fast. The first tourist then regained his footing, the guide regained his, and the lower tourist followed. They then went on and up in safety.
So it is in this life. As the human race ascended the icy cliffs of life, the first Adam lost his footing and tumbled headlong over the abyss. He pulled the next man after him, and the next and the next until the whole race hung in deadly peril. But the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, kept his footing. He stood fast. Thus, all who are united to him by a living faith are secure and can regain the path.
Finally, Jesus’ resurrection is evidence for our own resurrection and of a life with Jesus in glory beyond the grave. Jesus said when he was here on earth, “I am going … to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2–3). He is preparing that place now. Can we trust him? Was he telling the truth? The resurrection vindicates these claims.
Come and Learn
I have given three good reasons why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best news this world has ever heard: (1) because it is true, (2) because it came after an apparent defeat, and (3) because of what it proves. But there is a fourth reason also. Jesus’ resurrection is good news because it demands a lifesaving response in faith from each of us. Have you responded in faith to this One who died for you and rose again on that far-off first Easter morning?
This is worth asking, because we recall that according to Mark’s Gospel those to whom Mary first gave this report did not respond positively. They did not believe her: “When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it” (16:11). It was only after Christ’s further appearances and a further proclamation of the message that they came to him.
There is some news that is restricted by its very nature. It applies to one or two individuals but not to everyone. A promotion is good news to the man who receives it but not to the two or three others who failed to get the job. The results of an election are good news to the winning party but not to the losing party. Even so generally applicable a report as a reduction of federal taxes is good only to those who pay taxes or who live in the country where the reduction is to take place. Almost all human news is so restricted. But the news of the resurrection is for all. What is your relationship to the risen Lord? Have you heard the good news? Have you believed it? Have you trusted in him? This is the heart of Christianity. It is not to be found in the liturgies of the churches, nor in the specific formulations of Christian theology, important as they may be. Christianity is Christ, the risen Christ. He died and rose again for you. Won’t you come to him?
The Greatest News Ever Heard
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:18)
During England’s war with Napoleon Bonaparte, the people of London anxiously awaited news from the battlefields of Europe. On one occasion, a British admiral attempted to convey news of a victory by the Duke of Wellington during his Peninsula campaign. Using a semaphore system, the admiral transmitted his first word: “Wellington.” The next word soon followed: “defeated.” At this moment, fog enshrouded the signals so that no more could be seen. In this form, the news reached London: “Wellington defeated!” It took several hours for the fog to lift, allowing the rest of the signal to be sent. There on the mast could now be seen the final letters of its message from the war: “the enemy.” How this changed everything: “Wellington defeated the enemy!” When this new message was quickly spread, the nation’s gloom was replaced with a great joy.
The news of Wellington’s victory at the battle of Waterloo, when it finally came, was all the more wonderful in that it was so unexpected. England had been led to believe that all was lost, so the news of victory brought great rejoicing. Something similar happened with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross and was buried, a fog fell upon the hearts of his disciples so that their faith virtually died. But when the tomb was found empty on Sunday morning, with angels announcing that “he has risen” (Matt. 28:6), the joy of the believers was all the greater. Even better was the news brought by Mary Magdalene, who reported, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). This was the greatest news ever heard, not only because it was so unexpected but because it is true, because of what it proves about God, and because of what it signifies to us and offers to all.
Great News That Is True
We live in an age when readers are jaded by reported news that turns out not to be true. News of a great sale at your favorite store turns out to be a cheap ploy to get customers in the door. News passed along by friends turns out to have been distorted or mistaken. Even news reported in the papers and on television often turns out to have been skewed by ideology or agenda. But the greatest news ever heard—the report of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead—is news that can be verified as accurate and true. This is why the Christian church has delighted to repeat the words first spoken by the angel in the empty tomb: “Come, see” (Matt. 28:6). We invite the world to examine the proofs for Jesus’ resurrection, asserting with the apostle Paul that God has publicly proved the claims of Christ, giving “assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
So compelling is the evidence for Christ’s resurrection that it has been described as “the best attested fact in history.” Let me develop this evidence. First are the New Testament documents, which come to us with far more reliable attestation than any other such ancient testimony. All four Gospels attest to the resurrection. Some people are troubled by the minor variations in the different Gospel accounts, but that is consistent with what we would expect of an honest recounting from different perspectives. Furthermore, telltale signs of tampering are absent. For instance, in the Jewish culture of the apostles’ time, women had such low standing that their testimony was rejected in the courts. Yet the Gospels present women as the first eyewitnesses, hardly a strategy that one would employ to commend a faked story. The Gospel records present themselves as credible testimony to the resurrection.
Second, there is the matter of the empty tomb and the missing body. Matthew states that the authorities drummed up a false story that the disciples came at night and stole Jesus’ corpse (Matt. 27:62–66). This proves that the Jewish leaders did not have the body, for with it they could easily have discredited the resurrection. Moreover, are we to believe that the disciples overcame the Roman guards, broke the seals without being noticed, and made off with Jesus’ body from a rock tomb? None of the disciples were men of power or wealth, and they all had scattered in fear. Furthermore, it is quite clear from all the Gospels that despite Jesus’ advance warning, the disciples were not expecting him to rise from the dead but were as surprised as anybody else. Therefore, the stolen-body theory fails as simply ludicrous, and the missing body speaks eloquently for the resurrection.
This leads, third, to Jesus’ postresurrection appearances. The Gospels record a great many of these. Matthew tells us that the group of women ran into the resurrected Jesus outside the tomb. John adds that later that day, Jesus appeared and talked to the gathered disciples (John 20:19–20). Many subsequent appearances of Jesus are also recorded in the Gospels, including Jesus’ ministry to overcome Thomas’s unbelief (John 20:26–28) and Luke’s record of Jesus’ ministry to the Emmaus road disciples (Luke 24:13–35). The book of Acts tells us, “He presented himself alive to [the disciples] after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Finally, Paul recounts his own record of Christ’s postresurrection appearances, culminating with his conversion on the Damascus road. Paul writes:
He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and … he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Cor. 15:4–8)
Notice Paul’s claim that at the time of his writing most of the witnesses to Christ’s postresurrection appearances were still living. He was happy to include that detail, inviting investigation. If the Gospel records were a fraud, there were plenty of living witnesses to expose it. Nor can these visitations be written off as delusions, for so great a number of people on different occasions can hardly conspire to have the same hallucination.
That leads to a fourth piece of evidence. The first is the Gospel records themselves, then the empty tomb and missing body, and then the postresurrection appearances. There may be no better attestation to Christ’s resurrection, however, than the resulting transformation of the disciples. Somehow we have to account for the energizing of a dispirited group of fugitives into the fearless band of apostles who boldly proclaimed the gospel of Christ in Jerusalem so soon after Christ’s execution and then intrepidly took that same message across the ancient world to the seat of power in Rome itself.
Let us delve deeper here. Perhaps the resurrection was a hoax. If it was, then Peter and John certainly knew that it was, for not only were they the leading disciples but the Gospels make it clear that they were witnesses of the empty tomb. Whatever they saw powerfully motivated them, Peter especially. The Gospels, in their astonishing honesty, admit that on the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter three times denied knowing Jesus. This was before Jesus was even tried or executed. How is it, then, that after seeing the instructive example of Jesus’ torturous death, this same Peter stood before the Jewish leaders just a few weeks later and passionately preached the first Christian sermon? Peter declared to the same violent leaders who had crucified his Lord: “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 2:23–24 niv). What can explain this turn of events except the resurrection itself?
Predictably, Peter was threatened and beaten by the authorities. Yet Peter and John did not relent in their preaching of the risen Jesus. Luke tells us how they responded: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41–42).
You might explain this transformation as the power of a delusion or the determination to play a losing hand all the way to the end, but the only credible explanation is that Peter and John saw the empty tomb, met the risen Lord Jesus, and knew that the resurrection was a fact. They were personal witnesses, and their lives were transformed with power. Along with all the other disciples, they cheerfully faced years of hardship and persecution for the gospel, all but one of them suffering death for a message that they refused to betray. G. Campbell Morgan concludes:
It may be that in the history of the race, individual men have been found, who, swept by some fanaticism, have been willing to die for fraud.… But this is not a case of isolated individuals, but a whole company and society of men and women and children, ever increasing in number, all of them more or less having to suffer in those early centuries; and the central fact, for the declaration of which they endured all things, was this story of the resurrection.
The fifth and last evidence is the Christian church. The New Testament says that in the power of the Holy Spirit, secured for the disciples by the risen Lord Jesus, the gospel message would demolish strongholds of enemy thought, bringing men and women from all over the world to a saving knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, creating in him a new society of holiness and love. This is precisely what has happened, and we gather today to add our ongoing testimony to the reality of Christ’s resurrection power in the world.
“I have seen the Lord,” Mary Magdalene said (John 20:18), and her message of Christ’s resurrection is set before the watching eyes of the world. The great Princeton theologian Charles Hodge evaluated these proofs for Christ’s resurrection against accepted standards of legal veracity. He pointed out that for a fact to be proved, it must be of such a nature as to be capable of verification and certain knowledge by the witnesses. The witnesses themselves must be of sound mind and integrity. Hodge concludes, “If these conditions be fulfilled, human testimony establishes the truth of a fact beyond a reasonable doubt. If, however, in addition to these grounds of confidence, the witnesses give their testimony at the expense of great personal sacrifice, or confirm it with their blood … then it is insanity and wickedness to doubt it. All these considerations concur in proof of the resurrection of Christ, and render it the best authenticated event in the history of the world.” According to Peter, preaching in Jerusalem just weeks after Christ’s crucifixion, so sure are the proofs of Jesus’ resurrection that they enable us to “know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), morally obliging us before God to accept the evidence and believe on Jesus as the resurrected Savior.
Great News about God
Seeing that the Gospel record of Jesus’ resurrection is proved to be true, Mary’s message of seeing the Lord is also great news because of what it tells us about the God of the Bible.
First, Christ’s resurrection proves that the God of the Bible is the true and living God. Reuben A. Torrey explained: “Every effect must have an adequate cause … and the only cause adequate to account for the resurrection of Christ is God, the God of the Bible.” After all, Jesus spent his years of ministry teaching about the Bible’s God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, and the God and Father of Jesus himself. Before his arrest, Jesus made the claim that when he had been crucified, God would raise him from the dead. Torrey writes: “This was … an apparently impossible claim. For centuries men had come and men had gone, men had lived and men had died, and so far as human knowledge … was concerned, that was the end of them. But this man Jesus does not hesitate to claim that his experience will be directly contrary to the uniform experience of long, long centuries.… That was certainly an acid test of the existence of the God he preached, and God stood the test.”
The fact that Christ’s resurrection proves the God of the Bible is good news, because the Scriptures proclaim a God of glory and grace. True, the God of the Bible is sovereign, righteous, and holy so as to judge all sin with the curse of death. But the Bible also reveals him as a God of compassion and mercy for sinners. Most notably, the Bible says that God “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Speaking of God’s Son, the resurrection also proves the deity of Jesus Christ. It cannot credibly be denied that during his time on earth, Jesus claimed to be equal to God and taught that God would prove Christ’s deity by raising him from the dead on the third day. One of the accusations at Jesus’ trial had been that he claimed that Jerusalem’s temple was a symbol for him, the One in whom God dwells with his people (Matt. 26:61). When asked for a sign to prove his divine claims, Jesus pointed to Herod’s temple, which had taken forty-six years to build, and compared it to himself: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). John explains that Jesus was referring to his own death and resurrection, a proof of Christ’s deity that the disciples remembered after Jesus had risen from the grave (2:21–22).
Harry Houdini became famous as the world’s greatest escape artist by having himself chained inside a nailed crate and thrown into a river, emerging alive just in time to survive. But not even Houdini could do what Jesus claimed that he would do and then did. Jesus was publicly tortured and put to death at the orders of a Roman governor, his death overseen and assured by a battle-hardened Roman centurion. When Jesus had been publicly certified as dead, his body was provided to a rich believer, who performed the accepted burial rites on Jesus’ body. The body, wound with spice-laden strips of cloth, was placed in a tomb, the door of which was shut, sealed, and then guarded by Roman sentries who watched over the grave on pain of death. Virtually nothing more could possibly have been done to prove that Jesus really was, as the Apostles’ Creed puts it, “crucified, dead, and buried.” Yet Jesus still rose from the grave, providing such clear proof of his resurrection that only rebellious obstinacy can account for its denial. As the apostles would go on to preach, the resurrection set God’s seal on Jesus’ claim to deity. Paul wrote to the Romans, for instance, that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).
A third great claim that Jesus proved by his resurrection was his promise that his death would atone for the sins of believers. Jesus said that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). He died, but how can we know that his death was acceptable to God as a Sacrifice for our sins? Perhaps Jesus had somehow sinned, so that his death would not be acceptable as a Sacrifice for others. Perhaps his claims were overblown: it was a great claim, after all, that he would pay in his suffering and death the penalty for all the sins of all the people who believe in him. How can we know that by trusting in him, we really are forgiven and justified before God?
The answer and proof of Christ’s atonement and our justification in him is Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. Paul says that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Torrey writes: “When Jesus died, he died as my representative, and I died with him; when he arose, he rose as my representative, and I arose in him; … I look at the cross of Christ, and I know that atonement has been made for my sins; I look at the open sepulcher and the risen and ascended Lord, and I know the atonement has been accepted. There no longer remains a single sin on me, no matter how many or how great my sins may have been.”
Great News for Us
Because it proves Christ’s atonement for our sins, Mary Magdalene’s report, “I have seen the Lord,” is the greatest of all the news that we have ever heard. But there are other reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is great news for us. The resurrection proves that the Savior we trust is a living and exalted Lord. It was marvelous news for the Old Testament Jacob when he learned that Joseph, the son he had presumed dead, was in fact alive (Gen. 45:26). How great was Jacob’s joy when he traveled to Egypt and resumed living contact with his well-beloved child. Similarly, those who read the Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ and see in him the greatest, most sublime, most beloved Teacher, Lord, and Savior are filled with the same joy as Mary Magdalene experienced when we learn that Jesus is not dead but lives in heaven. We can now look forward to an eternity of communion with him.
Not only did Jacob rejoice to learn that Joseph was alive, but moreover, Joseph was seated on the throne of Egypt and empowered to dispense the riches of that mighty realm. How much greater is Mary Magdalene’s report to us, since we find that Jesus has now ascended to the throne of heaven. There, Paul writes, Jesus is seated at God’s right hand, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And [God] put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:21–22). What can harm us now or hinder the cause of Christ’s kingdom, since our Lord has taken the seat of divine, eternal power in heaven? Paul reasons: “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
News of Christ’s resurrection thus assures us of power for our present struggles in life. Paul prayed that our hearts would be enlightened, to know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Eph. 1:17–20). This says that in sending his Spirit to empower us for life and godliness, Christ has given us the same power by which he was raised from the dead so that we might prevail in faith through the many trials of our lives.
Christ’s resurrection not only testifies to the power available to believers in the present, but also assures Christians of our own place in heaven and of a future glorious resurrection of our bodies. Jesus had said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.… And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2–3). He also said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (11:25). Can we trust Jesus for these claims—that he will give us present spiritual power to prevail in faith and a resurrection into glory when he returns? We can believe him, since he proved his claims by his resurrection from the grave.
Great News for All
The final reason why Mary’s report, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18), is the greatest news ever heard is that it is good news for all. Some news is good, but not for everyone. The news of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo was good for the English but bad for the French. Almost all earthly good news is like that: one benefits, but another loses. The good news of Jesus’ resurrection is different because he is the only One who paid the price for the blessings that he now offers to all. Only one thing is required: we must respond to the evidence of Jesus’ atoning death and glorious resurrection with saving faith. We must trust Jesus, based on the Gospel record, to be our Savior and surrender our hearts to him as our Lord. Have you done that? If not, what will you say in your defense when God demands a reason why you rejected the greatest good news, news that glorifies him as the God of grace and truth and conveys his mercy for sinners? Because the resurrection is true, the Bible urges all: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Finally, having believed, and having come to know the living Lord Jesus for ourselves and having felt his saving power in our lives, let us take the place of Mary Magdalene so that others may hear, believe, and be saved. “I have seen the Lord,” she declared. If God’s Spirit has shined the gospel truth in your heart, then you have also seen the Lord in the living Word of the Bible. Now Jesus calls you to take up the calling that he first gave to Mary: to go and tell others the greatest news ever heard, the news that Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, is alive to reign forever and grant eternal life to all who will believe.