Joe Louis, arguably the best boxer of all time, had a spotless record of 27–0 going into his fight with the German Max Schmeling. This was in 1936, when Nazism was at its height, and Germany was the picture of evil. So, the fight between the American and the German took place at a sold-out Yankee Stadium.
Everyone expected Louis to win. But he didn’t. Twelve rounds into a fifteen-round bout, Schmeling knocked Louis to the mat. Louis remained there—out cold. The hero had fallen. The knockout not only rendered a blow to the plight of African-Americans at that time but also to our entire nation. This was not a fight just between two men. It had been a battle between democracy and fascism. Right and wrong. Good versus evil.
And it appeared that evil had won. It was reported that, throughout the country, people cried when they heard the news of Joe Louis’ defeat. All across the country that night when the news came that Joe was knocked out, people cried.
Two years later, a second fight was scheduled between Louis and Schmeling. The location was the same: a sold-out Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. But this time, the fight didn’t even make it out of the first round because Louis came out swinging. In just under a minute, Schmeling went down for the third and final time. Louis had won the match with a technical knockout.
When all was said and done, Louis had thrown forty-one punches to Schmeling’s two. In this rematch, the one who was considered the enemy—the one who had once been hailed as the victor—discovered he had indeed lost. Schmeling later wrote, “The whole area was filled with celebration, noise, and saxophones, continuously punctuated by the calling of Joe Louis’ name.” 1
One day there will be another parade filled with celebration, noise and trumpets. But we will be calling another name, and it will all be because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Scripture says, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). On the Sunday, after His crucifixion and death, Jesus Christ did what no other has ever done.
He got up.
Jesus Christ delivered death its deciding blow. Buddha did not. Muhammad did not. Confucius did not. People like to call Jesus a good teacher and a great prophet, but His resurrection places Him in a class all by Himself. He is the risen Lord. And because of that, He is the only One through whom salvation can be granted. After all, you cannot place living faith in a dead savior. Paul wrote, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1
Corinthians 15:14). Without the resurrection, we would still be dead in our sins.
You may have lived a very good life, but “very good” is not good enough. It’s like an omelet. If you take three good eggs and mix them with one rotten one to cook an omelet, what would you have? Would the three good eggs make the one rotten egg taste any better? No, the one rotten egg would taint the other three. So it is with sin. On your best day, you still sin (Romans 3:23). You can go to church continually, sleep at the church, eat in the church, do your work at the church and die in the church, but it is not good enough to satisfy a holy God. Only Christ’s death and resurrection will count.
Notice that I emphasized “and resurrection.” The death of Jesus is important, but so is His resurrection. Too many people try to lessen its significance.If the resurrection didn’t matter, then the stone would have stayed right where it had been placed. Click To Tweet
If the resurrection didn’t matter, then the stone would have stayed right where it had been placed. But we see in Matthew 28 the angel of the Lord rolled the stone away. The angel didn’t roll it away so Jesus could get out. Jesus had already risen! Locked doors were no longer a barrier for Jesus (John 20:19), so He certainly didn’t need help exiting a grave.
No, the angel of the Lord rolled the stone away to show that the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive. The angel rolled the stone away for all to see: for the women who came first, for the disciples and finally, for us. God wanted us to see that evil had lost its victory because Jesus had defeated the grave.
1 Dettloff, William. “The Louis-Schmeling Fights: Prelude to War.”