Is there anything that is not possible when we think of God? On the surface, we think not. But a little further delving tells us that there are things God cannot do. God cannot be not God. God cannot lie, as lying is against his nature. God cannot sin. God cannot go from greater to lesser or lesser to greater, as God is already utterly perfect.
In Acts 2, we find another impossibility for God.
Acts 2:22-24 – 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
This little 3 verse section shows us the cross and resurrection work of Jesus. Evil men thought they were accomplishing something, but they only served to do what God had foreseen and foreordained that they would do. Lawless men sinned against God even as they were used by God to accomplish the saving work of Jesus. The Savior died. HE was buried.
But then comes the impossibility. Jesus rose from the grave. Why? It was impossible, absolutely unthinkable, that he would be held by death.
Why is it impossible for Jesus to be dead? Why could he not remain dead? I would suggest two ideas, though much more could go into this. On the one hand, Jesus cannot remain in the grave because of the nature of death. Paul tells us that the wages of sin is death. Death is the right and perfect response from God to our sin. But Jesus, by his very nature and life, is utterly sinless. While he voluntarily died as a sacrifice for our sins, taking upon himself the punishment for our guilt, Jesus remained sinless. HE suffered the effects of eternal death, of hell, on the cross. But once that work was finished, it was impossible that he would remain in the grave forever.
And, Jesus could not stay dead for the simple fact that Jesus is God in the flesh. The grave cannot hold Jesus because of who Jesus is. In John 1, we read that in Jesus was life, and that life is the light of men. Jesus does not represent death to us. His nature is not death. HE is the eternal God who eternally is. He cannot wink out of existence. HE cannot cease to be. And he cannot remain in the grave.
Christians, we should become more and more resurrection minded. We love to talk about the cross, as it depicts for us the perfect mercy and judgment of God. We love to think about the fact that Jesus took our sins upon himself as our perfect sacrifice. But so often we add that Jesus rose from the grave as almost an afterthought. WE explain his life and his sacrificial death with great detail. Then, we throw in, “O, and he rose from the grave,” as if this is a small detail we know we ought not leave out.
But look at Scripture. Look at Acts. Read Paul and Peter. The fact that Jesus is alive is at the very heart of Christianity. The idea that Jesus is alive is proof of Jesus’ identity as God, his perfection, and our hope. Lose the resurrection and you lose Jesus. Ignore the resurrection, and you ignore the faith. Focus on the resurrection, and you include that which led up to it, Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death.
I’d recommend that you take time to ponder the impossibility mentioned in verse 24. I’ve given you a couple of my best guesses as to why it is impossible that death could hold Jesus. They encourage me and call me to worship. Perhaps the Lord will help you see even more reasons why it is impossible for Jesus to have stayed in the grave. Perhaps the reasons I’ve given will call you to praise the Savior too. I would encourage you to let a focus on the resurrection lead you to hope, joy, and worship.