Luke 24:1-12 (NIV)
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:
7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'”
8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.
11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Which is the greatest miracle of all? Many Christians would point to the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross. The crucifixion-resurrection event is, after all, the basis for our salvation. But why would we consider the death and resurrection of Jesus so great an event? After all, others have died and risen again. Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, Eutychus. Why is the resurrection of Jesus a greater event than the raising of Lazarus from the dead?
Make no mistake, Jesus’ resurrection is a greater event than the raising of Lazarus. Lazarus eventually died again, but Jesus rose to eternal life and glory. When Lazarus rose, a great deal changed for him, but little changed for the world. But when Jesus rose, everything changed.
What was so different about Jesus’ resurrection? The key lies in who died and rose. In the case of Lazarus, a human died and rose again to continue a mortal life. But in the case of Jesus, someone much more than a human died and rose again. Jesus was human, but not just a human. He was both God and human — God in the flesh, God incarnate, both divine and human.
The reason his death and resurrection have such power is not because death and resurrection are the greatest miracle. Rather, it is because his death and resurrection had been preceded by the miracle that truly is the greatest of all: the miracle of the incarnation. Billions will eventually die and be resurrected into eternal life and glory; the incarnation, however, will remain unique.
C.S. Lewis called the incarnation “the Grand Miracle.” He wrote: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation…. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this…. It was the central event in the history of the Earth—the very thing that the whole story has been about” (Miracles, chapter 14).
By a miracle that passes human comprehension, the Creator entered his creation, the Eternal entered time, God became human—in order to die and rise again for the salvation of all people. “He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still … (to) the womb … down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him” (Miracles, chapter 14).
The greatest miracle of all is that wonderful, incomprehensible act by which God became a human, and was born to a young Jewish girl named Mary, in a stable in Bethlehem, about 2,000 years ago during the reign of Herod the Great. The power of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ does not lie in the events themselves. The power of the events derives from the person of Jesus himself: who and what he was and is. His words have power and authority because they are the words of God incarnate. His life has power because it is the life of God incarnate. His death and resurrection have power because they are the death and resurrection of God incarnate.
Is it any surprise then that three of the four Gospels begin their record of Jesus’ work by emphasizing the wonder of his incarnation? Matthew records how Jesus was miraculously conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that he was “God with us.” Luke made it clear that Jesus was the Son of God. John described how the Eternal Word, who is God, had become flesh as Jesus Christ to dwell among us.
The real surprise is that some Christians take so little notice of this greatest of all miracles. A spirit of commercialism has become attached to the Christmas season. Disturbed by these things, some avoid the festival. But too often, they also forget to dedicate time to think about the message Christmas was intended to remind us of: the message of God’s greatest miracle. What a pity that, as a result, some forgot to rejoice in this greatest of all miracles, the birth of Jesus.
Let us not miss the opportunity to celebrate the great miracle: to come in wonder and worship before the One who humbled himself to become a baby, a child, a human; who descended into his own creation so that by ascending again he might lift it up with him from decay and bondage into glory and freedom.