Summary: If there was no resurrection, 1. Death 2. Darkness and 3. Evil would have won. But death was defeated, darkness was vanquished, and evil was conquered.
In 1981 there was a devastating flood in central China. During the flood an ancient pagoda collapsed at Famen Temple. A few years later, archaeologists were digging through the rubble when they made a startling discovery. Sealed in a miniature stone casket, they found what they believed to be part of one of the Buddha’s fingers. It is now touring Taiwan, and was for a while on display at a mountain-top monastery. The finger was housed in a miniature golden pagoda as tens of thousands people came to pay homage to it. They burned incense and placed flowers all around the relic. One visitor said, “I was born more than 2,000 years after the Buddha, but I feel moved and touched to have seen the finger.” Some said they felt as though the Buddha was actually sitting in front of them.
How tragic. How utterly empty. People sitting before a piece of dismembered, mummified flesh feeling as though it was something special. Could the finger of the Buddha help them? Could it reach out and touch them? Could it heal them? Could it raise them from the dead?
Christians would react quite differently if someone claimed to have a preserved finger of Jesus. They would not revere it at all. In fact, if someone could find a finger of Jesus it would literally destroy the Christian faith per se. The whole Christian faith rests on the fact that there is no such finger to be found. There is no finger, no hand, no body — for Jesus rose from the dead and his body is gone and his tomb is empty. As we come here today we are celebrating the fact that Christians believe in an empty tomb. There are no relics because Jesus was bodily resurrected from the grave. We are not here to have a memorial service for a great religious teacher who lived 2000 years ago; we are here to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is alive and reigns as King of the universe. When the women arrived at Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning, the angel said, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:5-6).
The first thing that we need to understand is that if there had been no resurrection: Death would have won, and the life of Christ would have been exterminated. If Christ had not been raised he would have no power over death. We would have no hope of life beyond the grave. We would not be able to say with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26). If death had conquered Jesus Christ it would mean he could not conquer death for us. Everything rests on this, for the Bible says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). This is the underpinning of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection Jesus Christ is just another dead religious teacher. But because of the resurrection, he is Lord of all. He has conquered death, sin and hell. He has said, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
The second thing we need to understand is that without the resurrection: Darkness would have won, and the light of Christ would have been extinguished. How dark the world would be without the hope of life after death. Even at the funerals of people who do not believe in Christ, do not live for him and have no use for him, people still talk about them being in heaven. They may reject Jesus, but they want to believe there is something more. They want to believe that their loved ones continue to live in some way. The resurrection of Christ brings the light of hope into the world. Without the resurrection we would not talk about heaven because there would be no life after death. The Bible says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19). If Christ is not alive then the light of the world has gone out. He who said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), has been extinguished. If Christ’s light had been extinguished, the light in your heart would have gone out as well. There would be no light in the world or in you. The hope of eternal life and heaven would be gone.
We would be like the three buddies who were discussing death, and one of them asked the others: “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?” He said, “I would like them to say about me, ‘He was a great humanitarian, who cared about his community.’” The second one said, “I want them to say, ‘He was a great husband and father, who was an example for many to follow.’” The third guy said, “I want them to say, ‘Look, he’s moving!’” With no hope of heaven that is what all of us would want them to say.