Who Raised Him From the Dead?
We are in the season of Easter—the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That truth, that reality, is central to the Christian message of “good news;” it is at the heart of the Gospel. (See how Paul underscored that in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19.)
But have you ever contemplated: “Who raised Jesus from the dead?” And, if you have reflected on that question, have you ever wondered: “Why does it matter that we think well about who raised Jesus from the dead?”
At this time for celebrating that life-altering event, let’s reflect for just a few moments on the answer to such questions.
In a very basic way, the simple answer to that question is that God raised Jesus from the dead; that is what Peter clearly declared in Acts 2:24. But the New Testament provides some additional—and provocative—insights into the resurrection of Jesus.
Apparently, the Father had a role in raising the Son up from death. Paul says that we are waiting for the return of “His Son . . . whom He raised from the dead” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is quite clear: “Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1).
But that is not all. There are indications in the Scriptures that the Spirit, as well, had a part in the resurrection of the Son. There is some debate about what Peter meant when he wrote: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). But it might be that we should understand his words to say that Christ was “made alive by the Spirit.” In the opening chapter of Romans, Paul says that the Son’s resurrection from the dead was “according to the Spirit” (Romans 1:14). Later in that letter, Paul also explained that the “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in [all believers]” (Romans 8:11). So, although perhaps not as explicit as the mentions made of the Father’s role in the resurrection of Jesus, it does appear that the Spirit was involved.
And what of the Son Himself? Did Jesus, the incarnate Son, have a role in raising Himself from the dead (as strange as that idea might seem to be to us)? Jesus explained that no one was taking His life from Him, but that He was going to lay it down on His own initiative and then followed up by saying: “I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). In John 2, we hear Jesus making reference to a future destruction of “this temple.” Those listening thought He was speaking of the Temple in Jerusalem, but the Gospel writer lets us know that Jesus was speaking of Himself. And what Jesus said underscores His role in His own resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22).
What are we to make of such references? The essence of these passages (among others) is provocative and clear: The resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate was a work of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit. There was not one person of the Triune Godhead who was not active in the resurrection we celebrate.
But why does this matter? What difference does it make that we grasp this?
The resurrection is something the Father did. The resurrection is something the Spirit did. The resurrection is something the Son did. The resurrection is, in some real sense, an expression of the glorious character and nature of our Three-personed God. It is not only a saving act (for which every Easter celebrant should be eternally grateful), but it is a revelatory act. God, in His tri-partite fullness, is active in the resurrection–just as He is in all the work of redemption.
To see this is to realize something about our God. Although the Father and the Son and the Spirit do not have fully identical parts to play in the work of redemption (for, after all, it was the Son who died and was raised and not either of the other Persons), nevertheless our redemption is a work of and an expression of the Triune God we worship.
We do celebrate the risen Jesus–the second person of the Godhead incarnate. But we should also be celebrating the glories of the Triune God who undertook this amazing redemptive work and, in so doing, has given us a glimpse into His own expressive nature.
Holy, Holy, Holy, God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity!