There are many twists and turns in the stories Jesus told and ultimately in the story He lived. Just when we think it is final, it is over, there is nothing more to this story, He surprises us. His enemies seem to triumph, His mission seems lost beyond hope as He breathes His last, but the story is not over. Even the most final enemy, the most absolute defeat, namely, death is about to be reversed.
In Mat 21:33-42 Jesus told a story of the master of a vineyard and unfaithful stewards. These stewards kills all the messengers send by the master and eventually even kills his son. Jesus asks what should be done. They all agree that it is judgement time – he should destroy them utterly.
On the day of pentecost Peter speaks to these same people … they still have their own judgement ringing in their ears and it has became painfully clear that they were the wicket stewards. Peter says: … you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. (Acts 3:15)
No wonder they are ‘cut to the heart’ – they expect judgement … a judgement that will utterly destroy them.
If God was in any way vengeful, if He had any desire to ‘get even’, then the resurrection would have been the ideal opportunity to do that. However Peter presents their victim coming towards them with forgiveness!
There is a big twist in the gospel story. Lets look at it from another perspective:
Man is responsible for the death of Jesus, God is responsible for the resurrection of Jesus.
If you need to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus from a legal point of view, consider the following example.
Humanity is accused in the cosmic court of the ultimate crime: you have murdered the Author of life. The charge is clear and our guilt is beyond dispute, but the story is about to take an unexpected turn.
The first witness is called.
Jesus walks into the courtroom … very much alive. The one we are accused of murdering takes the witness stand! This makes a verdict of “guilty of murder” very unlikely. This is why Paul says we were vindicated by the resurrection!
You see, if the death of Jesus was the legal payment for our sin, then His death would have saved us … and his resurrection would not even have been necessary. However Paul says in 1 Cor 15:17 … if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
In other words it is not the death of Jesus that solved the sin problem, it is the resurrection.
His death revealed our guilt, exposed the depravity of our own wisdom and religious philosophies. His resurrection reveals God’s stubborn refusal to give up on man, for he knows true man – man created in His image and likeness. In the resurrection God simply reverses man’s greatest evil and justifies the ungodly.