Today while reading in Acts 2 (preparing for this week’s sermon) I was struck by the words of Peter in Acts 2:24, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” NIV. I was particularly struck by that last phrase, “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
Sometimes you read a passage over and over, time after time, and it doesn’t really grab you. Another time you read it and it so grabs hold that you can’t think of anything else. This was my experience with this passage this morning. I find myself mulling over that phrase, “it was impossible.”” Impossible,” of course, means “not possible.” Something impossible is not just improbable (probably will not happen), but in no way is it possible (cannot happen). One reason this so resounds with me is that, in the rules of logic, when something is not possible it is the same as saying, “If A is not possible then it is necessary that not A.” Necessary and possible are two very important words in philosophy, especially in metaphysics and ontology (the study of existence). If something exists necessarily then it would exist no matter what other circumstances occur or do not occur. In the same way, if an event occurs necessarily then it happens no matter what other things do or do not occur. Such an event needs no causes; needs no catalysts. By saying it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Jesus, Peter is saying that it was necessary that Jesus rise (it was necessary that death not keep its hold on him). In this case, this is not only a soteriological point, like the very true statement, “it was necessary for Jesus to rise for us to be saved.” Instead, this is saying there was no way, no possible set of circumstances, no possible world in which Jesus would not have risen from the dead, because there was no possibility of death keeping hold of him. Jesus’ resurrection was not a response to circumstances surrounding his death or even his life. Jesus resurrection was because of who he was and who he still is. Jesus’ resurrection was not just one of several possible scenarios—stay in the grave, come out of the grave physically, come back only spiritually. His resurrection was the only possibility.