John 20. John’ account of the resurrection. As I reflected on the sermon this week, I wondered why John includes this episode. The Synoptics seemed to have it covered, so John must have a theological purpose in including it. Somehow it must be vital to the story. We’ve pointed out some of those things like the fact that the relationship between the disciples and Jesus has changed from that of friend to brother…as believers we have a familial relationship with Father God. We also noted that the disciples were given new life when Jesus breathed the Spirit on them. And Thomas’ statement, “My Lord and My God” points to Jesus as both human and divine. Three extremely important theological reasons to include this episode which will be further developed by Paul. But John wraps those truths in a story that includes characters who respond in very different ways to Jesus’ death and the possibility of resurrection.
A few questions that come to mind…What if Jesus really was raised from the dead? What if Jesus really is alive? In other words, what is the significance of a resurrected Jesus? Besides having a major holiday commemorating it, what difference does a resurrection make? If Jesus’ death on the cross allows for the forgiveness of sins, do we really need a resurrection?
There are four characters in the story. All four had believed in Jesus as the Messiah. His death paid the penalty for sin. At that moment we could say they were all Old Testament saints much like Abraham or David. But they had yet to pass from Old Testament saints to New Testament believers. Mary Magdalene is totally focused on her grief…let’s call it the circumstances she finds herself in. Her situation has so consumed her that she is unable to recognize resurrected Jesus even though He is right there in front of her. Peter is confused. The evidence is inconsistent with a grave robbing, but resurrection isn’t on his radar. The disciples are fearful. They are meeting behind locked doors. They gambled everything to follow Jesus. They went all in…and now it looks like they may have lost. Their expectation of Messiah has gone through some serious revisions and now a major disappointment. When Jesus shows up, twice He speaks peace over them to calm their nerves. The resurrection is unanticipated. Thomas refuses to believe resurrection with out seeing the evidence for himself. His doubt is representative of where all the disciples were prior to Jesus’ appearing.
A couple of observations…First off, all of these guys totally miss it. Resurrection is not even a consideration. They are totally focused on earthly realities…the heavenly has not entered their field of vision. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Secondly, they all respond with joy when they encounter the resurrected Jesus. Distraught, confused, fearful, and doubting to rejoicing…not a bad trade. But in order to get there they had to meet Jesus…the real Jesus…the resurrected Jesus who was fully God and fully Man. Finally, and my favorite, Jesus meets each of them where they are. He patiently waits for Mary to recognize Him. He speaks peace over the disciples who are fearful. He even returns to allow Thomas to “see” the evidence.
As I thought about the resurrection question, there were some truths that came to mind: The resurrection is God’s “YES”, His stamp of approval on everything Jesus said and did. Jesus truly is all that He claimed to be. The resurrection is also proof that Jesus “freakin’ crushed sin and death for all eternity” (as a friend of mine put it). Jesus’ death pays the penalty for sin. However, if we stopped there, we might be forgiven; but where’s the empowerment for life? It is the life of Jesus that allows us to experience life today…real, abundant life.
And while I readily affirm those truths today, many times I practically live like Jesus remained in the tomb…I know I’m forgiven, but I still tend to be totally consumed by the circumstances – broken-hearted, confused, fearful, and even doubting that Jesus can/will bring me out of the current situation. John says that he wrote “these things that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and that believing we might have life in His name.” While Mary and the disciples had believed in Jesus…their experience of a crucified Jesus hadn’t brought life (fear, doubt, distress, confusion). Although Jesus was alive and although He had crushed sin and death, they were not experiencing the victory. That comes only with resurrection.
But what about you? “Think back this week, is there a worry, fear or circumstance in your life that drew your attention away from Jesus? Financial uncertainty, marital conflict, illness… ” a time where you were so focused on protecting, preserving, and ultimate investing in the “life” that you have “created” for yourself here on earth, that you don’t, can’t and fail to even think about investing in the “TRUE LIFE” that He has created for you through His resurrection, the eternal kingdom that will not pass away.
Some of us are believers…we’ve believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins but we are not experiencing the life of Jesus that is ours by birthright through His resurrection. Maybe we are like Mary…distraught and broken-hearted, focused on our circumstances and having a hard time seeing Jesus. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Maybe we are like Peter…confused and unable to put it together. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Maybe we are like the disciples…fearful, betting on Jesus but feeling like you are on the losing side. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Maybe we are like Thomas…doubting, needing evidence that Jesus can help us in our present predicament. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. For those of us who are Mary’s or Peter’s or disciples, or Thomas’…we need to be reminded of the truth of the resurrection. Jesus is alive. He died and rose again to give us life.
Some of you reading this post would not put yourself in the believing camp. You are somewhere on the road of your spiritual journey. These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Jesus is patient with us and not afraid our questions and doubts.
For those of you who are experiencing the resurrected life of Jesus today, praise God! These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. Strengthen and encourage your brothers and sisters.
My prayer for all of us is that we live like Jesus really is alive, that we may truly experience life in His name…a life that radically impacts the way we love others this week.
Until next time…stay salty.