An essential doctrine of the Christian Church states that Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was buried. The Church also confesses, “The third day He rose again according to the Scriptures” (Nicene Creed).
The phrase “rose again‚” is a teaching from the Bible, as the Nicene Creed says, quoting the New Testament, “And that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4).
But when the Nicene Creed uses the words “according to the Scriptures,” the expression really refers to the Scriptures as they existed at the time Jesus rose, and later when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15:4. In other words, it means the Old Testament.
One such Old Testament passage is, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol [the grave], nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). Like many of the Psalms, this expresses a prayer of God the Son to God the Father, so that the word “You” means the Father, while “my soul” and “Your Holy One” refer to Jesus. This passage means that the Father participated in the resurrection of the Son.
The New Testament speaks this way, too. St. Paul told the Jews in Antioch in Pisidia, “But God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 13:30). And Paul also wrote, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
When St. Paul introduces his letters, he often summarizes the essential core of the Christian faith in connection with himself and his readers. So in Ephesians, he expressed his desire for them, writing: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory… that you may know… what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:17–20).
In a similar way, the holy apostle connects the death and resurrection of our Lord to the Baptism that Christians receive: “In Him you were… buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11–12). And in the passage cited in the Small Catechism of Dr. Luther, St. Paul writes, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Who raised Jesus to life from the grave? It was God. When Scripture describes Christ’s resurrection as His own doing, this fully agrees, because Jesus is God the Son. But more often we see it described as Jesus being raised by God, and specifically by God the Father. The Father is the One whom Jesus mentioned in John 12:45, “And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me” (John 12:45). The Son was sent by the Father and reveals the Father to us. As John also wrote in his first letter, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
The task that the Father assigned to the Son was the salvation of the world. This was to be accomplished through His death by crucifixion, as He bore the guilt of the whole world. Jesus put it this way: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14–15).
When Jesus’ task was finished, He was raised to life again because the guilt of all humanity that had been laid upon Him was no more. There was nothing left to hold Him in the grave. The Father confirmed this for the world by raising Jesus to life. As death has no more hold on Jesus, so it also has no hold on us (Romans 8:38–39).
St. Paul proclaimed this truth and hope for all time: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).
Reverend Jesse Jacobsen
Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Dalles, OR
Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church
Hood River, OR