The resurrection of Jesus was not an arbitrary act of God. Rather, it was the definitive conquest of other-centered love over the death-dealing principle of self-centeredness inherent in all sin.
According to Paul, “the law of the Spirit of life” and “the law of sin and death” waged their decisive conflict in the person of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:2). Having taken upon Himself our “sinful flesh,” Jesus lived a life and died a death that “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). He lived a sinless life, uncorrupted by selfishness, in the very human nature in which the principle of sin had always reigned. Sin never owned Him. By virtue of His unrelenting love for sinners and His unbroken trust in the Father, Christ neutralized the power of sin in the very humanity we bear. His resurrection is proof of that victory:
“God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24, NIV).
Why was it impossible for death to hold Him?
He lived a sinless life, uncorrupted by selfishness, in the very human nature in which the principle of sin had always reigned. Sin never owned Him.
Precisely because sin, which is the causal power of death, had never taken hold of Him! The Father did not resurrect Christ by stealth or fiat, but by rightful conquest. The resurrection of Jesus was not an arbitrary act of God. To the contrary, it was the revelation of the fact that eternal life is inherent in selfless love. It was impossible for death to hold Him because He did not selfishly grasp onto His own life in resistance to death. Moved by the power of selfless love, He laid down His life for the salvation of the world. His death was a free act of love:
“I lay down My life,” Jesus explained, “that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17, 18).
The fact that no one took His life against His will proves that it was given voluntarily in love.
Having abandoned self for the good of others, He triumphed over the principle of sin, thereby nullifying its power to destroy Him. The fact that no one took His life against His will proves that it was given voluntarily in love. If men had taken His life against His will, the very resistance of His will would have proven Him incapable of loving others at any cost to Himself. Sin would have prevailed over love. But because He submitted to the complete loss of self, love remained the dominant force in His heart. The words, “I lay down My life, that I might take it up again,” establish a vital connection between His willing sacrifice and His victorious resurrection. For if sin is the power of death, and if the essence of sin is selfishness, then it follows that the selfless love of Christ, maintained even to the point of death, is the power by which He overcame “the law of sin and death.”
It was Satan’s diabolical purpose to thwart the love of Christ for fallen mankind and to break His trust in the Father. The condemnation of our sin upon Him, the corresponding sense of separation from the Father, the abuse and cruelty heaped upon Him by those He came to save—all was calculated to wrench love from His heart and force Him into self-centeredness.
The religious leaders derided Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God” (Luke 23:35).
The Roman soldiers joined in with the taunt, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself” (Luke 23:36).
One of the criminals hanging beside Him pressed the message upon Him, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us” (Luke 23:39).
The irony is, He could have saved Himself and abandoned us to our selfishness and hate. But He simply, profoundly, chose not to.
Everything about the cross event was bent to the task of pressuring Jesus toward self-preservation. The core essence of God’s character was under siege. The pivotal question of the ages hung before men and angels, Who is the Ruler of the universe? What is He really made of at heart? Will His love prove itself a sham under pressure, or will He plunge to the deepest depths of total self-sacrifice for others?
When taunted by the ugliness of our selfish hatred, will Christ continue to love us with selfless abandon, or will He crack? When confronted with the darkness of complete separation from His Father, will He keep putting us first, or will the impulse to preserve Himself at our expense arise within Him?
All intelligent worship and all true loyalty are forever His by virtue of the cross.
As the Savior hung tortured in body and soul upon the cross, despised by men and apparently forsaken by God, utterly alone in the deep darkness of our shame, love and selfishness stood face to face in raging combat. In Christ, the law of sin and death measured strength against the law of life, and life, by love, gained the victory. In the final, expiring breath of Jesus, Calvary placed on record for all eternity the indisputable fact that God is infinitely selfless. All intelligent worship and all true loyalty are forever His by virtue of the cross. And all rebellion against such a God as this is manifestly unjustifiable.
The empty tomb proves the triumph of love over selfishness. This is the monumental achievement on display in the risen Christ.