To state that a human being rose to life from death is audacious. To then claim this human did this to prove he was in fact God is to go even further into a realm of seeming insanity. However, we must recognize that the resurrection of Jesus is the hinge upon which all of Christianity rests. Easter, though a strange story must be looked at without a whimsical fancy, it must be forcefully reckoned with. We must ask hard questions and let go of our ideals of what is and what isn’t possible. This must be done because an entire movement birthed from this very idea. Many died stating that Jesus was raised to life. N.T. Wright reminds us that two things were needed in order for this to be a reality: an empty tomb and the meetings had with a healthy, risen Christ. He states: “I and others have studied quite extensively all the alternative explanations, ancient and modern, for the rise of the early church and the shape of its belief. Far and away the best historical explanation is that Jesus of Nazareth, having been thoroughly dead and buried, really was raised to life on the third day with a renewed body…” (Surprised by Hope, pg. 63). He then takes the rest of that book to discuss why he feels that way about the resurrection. This does raise many eyebrows and much skepticism and is truly hard to believe.
We live in a skeptical society. We’ve been asking the question What Good is Jesus from many different angles these last few weeks. We’ve seen much of this skepticism first hand, even in our own lives. Jesus resurrection from the dead is one of the most controversial issues of Jesus ministry, many people deny it or are skeptics of it happening. I think this doubt leads to an even bigger question: “What Good is the resurrection?”
What was it that caused so many in the early church to claim these things to be true? What Good was the resurrection to them? Let me also ask us, what Good is the resurrection for us today?
In the Resurrection: Hope is Renewed (John 20:19)
After the murder of Jesus, the disciples were afraid for their own lives. For three years they had spent every day with Jesus. They were his known disciples; there was no denying or hiding that fact. Would they still cling to the ideals and teachings he taught them or would they deny it all and try and save their own necks? I’m pretty sure that this meeting behind a locked door was full of those questions; these men, who when around Jesus seemed courageous and on fire for the things of God were now fearful cowards. Even the sons of Zebedee who declared that Jesus should call down fire from heaven and burn some people up were hiding in this room, with the door locked, pondering the future. They were also most likely wondering who would steal the body of Jesus and what that too meant for their lives and future. Would they get blamed for this deed?
As these and many other fears and worries were going through their heads, Jesus appeared out of thin air; he didn’t knock he just was there. Jesus appearance renewed the hope of these hopeless disciples. They had given up hope, they began to live in fear and doubt but this moment forever changed them. When we feel hopeless, the resurrection of Christ can have the same affect upon us. If he was able to rise from the dead, there is nothing in our lives that needs to have power over us enough to strip our hope. This appearance paved the way of the early church. These cowards, with renewed hope became the courageous men we now know began the worlds largest movement and they were willing to lay everything out on the line because they knew they were dying for the truth, not for a lie. It’s one thing for one person to have a hallucination, but for 10 men to have the same hallucination at the same time is unheard of.
In the Resurrection: Faith comes in the ashes of doubt (John 20:24-29)
If you look at religious history, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that when a deity is questioned, they become angry and forceful (or their followers do on their behalf). Jesus, God Himself never responds with this type of reaction. In fact he reacts completely different. Thomas wasn’t there when the others saw the risen Lord appear, so when they tell him about Jesus appearing, he flat out doesn’t believe them. He declares that they (all 10) must’ve been hallucinating because this can’t be possible. Jesus, instead of smiting him for his unbelief and causing fear to reign about questioning his resurrection, meets Thomas in his doubt and allows faith to flourish as his doubt dies. I imagine the Hans Christen Anderson poem about the Phoenix in this moment, because as the ash of Thomas’s doubt falls to the ground, faith is born. He loudly declares: “My Lord and my God!” When we declare our doubts to Jesus, he’s not afraid of them. He doesn’t get angry and force us to believe or cause fear to rule our belief, he meets us in our doubts and allows faith to develop from the death of our doubts because he, through His love and the truth of who he is will kill our doubts. This is only possible in the resurrection. Only his actual living can cause our doubts to be destroyed. If he stayed dead we would have every right to remain in our doubts. In fact, Paul declares our doubts would be right and we would be in a hopeless situation. In 1 Cor. 15:17-19 he states: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
In the Resurrection: Full restoration is a reality (John 21:15-19)
Peter had seen Jesus resurrected and in person twice already. Yet, he still seems as if something is amiss. He declares: “I’m going fishing”, which wouldn’t seem to odd since he’s a fisherman…yet this is different. Peter knew that Christ called him to something different, something more than, yet in his sorrow he goes back to what he knew before Jesus. His buddies go with him. They go out and catch nothing…which to a fisherman who shouldn’t be fishing brings even more shame. Yet, someone is on the shore. When John declares the Lord is the one on the shore, Peter just jumps out of the boat and swims towards Christ. This might not seem to fit with Peter’s depressed decision to go fishing, even after seeing Christ raised, but in this response we can see Peter is seeking something from Jesus. He’s trying to prove that he is still the “best disciple” even if he doesn’t believe it about himself. He declared the night Jesus was betrayed that even if the others walked away he would die at Jesus side. He then went and fulfilled the prophecy Jesus spoke over him and denied Jesus three times. He was depressed but in this action of leaping out of the boat he still had something to prove.
Jesus then asks to speak with him privately and we see the exchange they had. Jesus asked him three times if he loved him. Peter replied each time with the response of yes, you know I love you. Jesus then tells him to feed his sheep. Peter was the leader and Jesus is here to remind him of who he is. Peter had lost sight of his calling. He had lost sight of what Christ had originally spoken over him; that on Him, the Rock, he would build His church. Peter was broken and even despite seeing Christ rise from the dead; he was still stuck in his brokenness. Yet, Jesus showed him that in the resurrection, and because of the resurrection, FULL restoration is possible. Jesus had conquered the grave; he had grace enough to cover over Peter’s denials. The same is true for you and I. Jesus conquered the grave; he has enough grace to fully restore us as well. Peter felt unworthy to live into his calling, but Christ didn’t. I fear many times we may believe that restoration is possible for others, but not for ourselves. We may think the power of the resurrection is real, but matters for other people. We may feel that our brokenness is too much for God to bear, but if death wasn’t too big of an obstacle, neither is your brokenness. God can and will restore you as he restored Peter. He could’ve left. He had risen, he didn’t need to prove anything else. Yet Jesus saw Peter’s shame and brokenness and restored him.
This restoration is more cosmic than simply personal restoration however. The resurrection is a shift in all things; it is a reversal of the curse upon all humanity, as well as all creation. Creation itself was changed the moment Christ rose from the grave. Aslan puts it best in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when he states: “…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know…if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards…”. Full restoration for the individual as well as all creation is possible. This encouraged the early church to press forward with the Gospel, to die for it and to live for it. The American church today has lost this sense of awe and lost the full vision of restoration from resurrection. May we regain this vision, may we see a revival in our day!
Christ’s resurrection had a huge impact and continues to have a huge impact. Without this reality, the church would never have begun. The disciples would have remained hidden, many would have been stuck wallowing in their doubts and there would have been no restoration. Yet, the church did begin, the disciples came out of there fear and doubts and many have found restoration in Christ because this crazy, thing happened- God conquered Satan, Sin and death when we walked out of the grave that one Sunday morning. Will you believe it and find your restoration from resurrection?