The last few weeks I have written on some of the apologetical reasons for the resurrection of Jesus. This 7th Sunday of Easter I focus on the meaning of the resurrection. Acts 9:20 says that after Paul was converted he proclaimed “He is the Son of God.” What is the significance of this title? What does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with this peculiar title? Have we over looked something? I think there is more to this title than we realize.
The resurrection may be the best explanation of the historical data but without understanding the meaning the resurrection could be just another unexplained mystery. N.T. Wright in his 800+ page book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, writes “we can at least hold in our minds the possibility that the resurrection of Jesus could have had a significantly different ‘meaning’, within different hypothetical worldviews, to the meaning the first Christians gave it within theirs.” (721) and “There seems then to be no necessary compulsion, either for those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection or for those who disbelieve it to interpret it within the framework of thought employed by the early Christians themselves.” (723)
Perhaps the most immediate meaning of the resurrection is the announcement of a new age. Israel’s hope had been fulfilled. They were now in the age of “fulfillment” after living so long in the age of “promise”. YHWH, their covenant God had kept his ancient promises and demonstrated once again to his people that he was God Almighty. Messiah had come and now he was in God’s presence mediating on their behalf.
Another significance of the resurrection was that it demonstrated the true sovereignty of the “Son of God”. Jesus is rightly titled “Son of God”, a title commanding allegiance from all including the emperor. According to Wright, the eastern part of the Roman empire was not shy about divinizing their emperors. They would take the title “son of god” to show they had a divine right (divine from the predecessor) to be in that position. As Christians used this title, it made a statement that even Caesar was part of the created order and fallen order, subject to the rule of Jesus. (729)
Lastly, the resurrection of Jesus as the Son of God addresses the initial question. The resurrection speaks about God the Father not only Jesus. The title “Son of God” signified that he was the promised Messiah, that he was the true Son of God that Caesar was trying to be, and that he was revelation and personal embodiment of the true God of Israel. The Warrior God had sent his agent of restoration and commanded all to repent of their rebellion through him. We need to be careful not to think that Jesus became the Son of God at the resurrection. Rather to be more accurate we understand that the life, death and resurrection was the work of God’s Son. The resurrection demonstrated that he was always the Son of God. Christ is risen!