Some of you have been watching the NCAA men’s basketball playoffs over the past couple of weeks. As you may know, when the tournament brackets are drawn up, four teams receive a #1 seed and one team is considered the overall #1 team. This doesn’t guarantee a win, but it does suggest who is most likely to win, based on the best analysis.
If we had analyzed Jesus’ power over Satan during His ministry, and projected who was going to win the ultimate conflict, we probably would have ranked Jesus #1. Not only was He an incredible teacher, but He had the power to heal disease, calm angry storms, cast out demons and raise the dead. How could He not do anything that needed to be done?
Then came the cross, and for the first time Jesus’ disciples had to face the reality He might not have been One they thought he was. Even Jesus’ enemies at the foot of the cross rubbed it in. They yelled out, “He saved others! Why can’t He save Himself?” As Jesus died on the cross, it must have seemed like the biggest upset in history! But things are not always as they seem. When it comes to Jesus’ battle with Satan, He was actually handing him a huge defeat at the cross. By dying in our place, Jesus was breaking the power Satan had over us and ending His game of oppression. Yet, as they took Jesus down from the cross, He didn’t look much like #1. That’s where the resurrection comes in. In fact, what Jesus did on the cross didn’t come into full focus until He rose from the dead.
It is important that we recognize something about the resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection isn’t one of those optional pieces of scripture we can take or leave. We can’t claim to worship Jesus as our Lord, and we certainly can’t claim to be redeemed by Him and discount the resurrection.