Summary: A key accomplishment of the empty tomb is so Jesus might be “the Lord of both the dead and the living.” Lordship implies ownership or the right to exercise authority over another. When we come to Jesus, we're under new management.
“Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.”
A few months ago I was summoned to serve jury duty for a serious murder case. Because of my former work with law enforcement and corrections, I wasn't selected, but I followed the case, which (to no one's surprise) ended in a guilty verdict. We are all under a guilty verdict due to sin...but Easter proclaims our pardon. The Judge Himself takes our punishment. “At Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel, 'God with us.' At Easter, we celebrate the cross, 'God for us'.” (David Wells).
The cross reveals human depravity at its worst, and God's love at its best. Christ's love endured it, His strength bore it, and His power overcame it. Because of the cross and empty tomb, we know that sin is defeated and death cannot win. We are under no condemnation. We are declared “not guilty.”
Jesus was raised to restore the rule of God. Once we encounter the risen Christ, we can never be the same. Back in Romans 10:9 Paul spells out the way of salvation, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” This means total surrender and submission to Christ's lordship.
Embracing the Lordship of the risen Christ provides us the ability to live as we ought. Jesus makes us holy. He transforms our desires. He makes us grow. He makes something of us. We develop and advance by His grace. If there is truly new life in us, there will be evidence that a change has occurred. We will see progress in our spiritual walk.
Christ's empty tomb guarantees our victory over sin and death. Without the resurrection we are spiritually dead, enslaved to sin and under God's wrath. When we turn to the risen Christ, His life becomes our life. The risen Jesus stands in the doorway of death, time, and eternity. He has unlocked the door to everlasting life. “Because death was not the end of Christ, then it will not to be the end of us” (Frederick Buechner). The power that raised Jesus from the dead effects a difference in us. The light of the resurrection penetrates our helplessness and hopelessness. We're given new life, new hope, a new direction and a new destination! And not in our strength but in God's enabling! The cross pays the price; the resurrection imparts power. “The cross deals with our guilt; the resurrection gives us victory” (Warnock). The dying Christ purchased our salvation; the risen Christ sees that we get it.
Verse 9 declares that one key accomplishment of the empty tomb is so Jesus might be “the Lord of both the dead and the living.” Lordship implies ownership or the right to exercise authority over another. When we come to Jesus, we're under new management. He is Lord over both life and death. We are made alive in him, meaning death has lost its sting. Death becomes, with Easter-faith, a non-issue. Death is defeated. The door which had been locked, at the empty tomb, was forced open. C.S. Lewis noted: “Nothing will reconcile us to death's unnaturalness. We know that we were not made for it; we know how it crept into our destiny as an intruder; and we know Who has defeated it. Because our Lord is risen we know that on one level death is an enemy already disarmed.”
Paul talks of the “judgment seat” in verse 10. This is where judges stood at the athletic games and where they awarded prizes to those who won; if they saw an athlete break the rules, he was disqualified. When we take Jesus as Lord, we have no fear of judgment. Paul says near the end of his life in II Timothy 4, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing.”
As a former runner, I know what goes into running a race (since retiring from the Army I’ve switched from running to kayaking). Not everyone trains or runs properly. Here in Boston we all remember Rosie Ruiz, who infamously cheated in the Boston Marathon. She didn't run the entire course. Spotters at checkpoints didn't see her. That's because she'd been on the MBTA. Rosie was disqualified and stripped of her medal. One day all wrongs will be uncovered; there will be a day of reckoning. Our only hope is in the resurrection of Christ.
Coming under Christ's Lordship involves some self-judgment. We're much better at judging others. We judge people by their actions; we judge ourselves by our intentions. Jesus cautioned, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24). We do so by appraising people and discerning situations, without condemning them. If we're honest, we will see our own ruin and trust the remedy. If we really “get” Easter, we see that it is about Jesus repairing our brokenness.