What’s New About the Resurrection?
When doubt turns to faith, the power of Christ’s resurrection makes you new.
by JAMES MACDONALD
THE RESURRECTION is all about newness. Easter’s empty tomb has never been and will never be old news. As dark as things were on Good Friday, conversely, that’s how bright and new everything became on Easter Sunday because of the empty tomb, because of the living Savior.
The message of the resurrection is the ever-new, good news about Jesus Christ who conquered sin and death, who rose from the grave. And everything He touches becomes instantly and eternally new. Philippians 3:10 says, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection.” This statement is true in a real, personal, direct, applicable way for each of us.
In fact, here are five places where Jesus’ resurrection power and newness make a life-changing difference:
- PAST SIN. Because of all Christ accomplished on the cross and confirmed by rising from the dead, we are not under sin’s condemnation. This means that even regrets need not be a part of your life in Christ anymore. The Savior declares those things forgiven. Jesus Christ pronounces them done, handled, gone, buried, behind us, over, finished!
- PRIVATE DOUBT. A lot of people struggle with doubts — and you can bring yours to Jesus. If you’re sincerely wrestling with “Can I trust God?” or “Can I trust His Word? Is all of this real?” you don’t have to be afraid. From the flaming questions of Job to the stubborn “Show me!” of Thomas, God has demonstrated an incredible capacity to deal with the doubter. In Jesus’ presence, doubts vanish.
- PERSONAL NEED. Perhaps you have been dealing with a specific need. You are waiting and praying for a significant change. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ is alive! And I believe He wants to touch every need in our lives.
- PERSISTENT STRUGGLE. Maybe there’s a particular sin that rings your phone, and every time you answer, you wonder, Will I ever get victory here? Will I ever be able to leave this addictive pattern behind? Know this: Those are the exact areas Jesus wants to step into and conquer with His resurrection power!
- PATTERN OF DISCOURAGEMENT. Maybe you’ve been heavyhearted or overwhelmed from carrying some other weight. Jesus Christ wants not only to address but also to incinerate your discouragement.
With His resurrection newness, Jesus can touch any area in our lives where we have struggled. He did when He left the grave, and He’s still doing it today.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus mattered back then, and it matters now. People responded to His rising from the dead much the way they respond now. Even His closest followers didn’t believe easily, and neither do we. The answers God gave nearly 2000 years ago are the same answers He has for us today.
Each time the risen Christ appeared to people, He addressed a different response to His resurrection. He also gave them and us a glimpse of the new power unleashed when He defeated death. In the case of Mary Magdalene, Jesus delivered new hope for deep discouragement (John 20:11–18). For the disciples gathered on the evening of His resurrection, He brought peace to replace their fears (John 20:19–23). To the absent Thomas, Jesus instilled faith to settle doubts (John 20:24–29). The Savior brought resurrection power to bear on the destitute feelings of seven disciples (John 21:1–14). He also provided powerful restoration for Peter’s divided heart (John 21:15–19) and a new sense of purpose to a distracted John (John 21:20–24). Whatever your attitude about the risen Christ today, one of these encounters has an answer for you.
The way we respond to Jesus’ resurrection usually triggers other reactions. Starting with any of the responses listed above, we can quickly get to a place of doubt. That was the situation with the disciple Thomas.
It’s easy to call Thomas a doubter, but we need to realize how much we are like him. Doubt in itself is not necessarily a negative response; it’s an unsettled state of opinion regarding the certainty of something. Doubt is when I don’t resolve the uncertainty. Doubt is different from unbelief: doubt is in-between, on the fence, yes-and-no.
In Thomas’ case, he missed Jesus’ appearance to the disciples, so it’s not surprising that he doubted. But there are different kinds of doubt. Here are four statements that reveal different expressions of doubt:
- Believing would require information I don’t have — yet. This was basically Thomas’ situation.
- Believing would require conclusions I don’t see. The answer seems clear, but what about exceptions? For example, if God is real, why is the world so messed up? The best resolution of that doubt is not to deny the existence of God.
- Believing would require forgiveness I don’t believe is possible. Doubt can be a cover for guilt and shame.
- Believing would require changes I don’t want. I think this is the most common one — the moral doubter. When you’re in charge of your life and calling all the shots but come up against what the Bible says, you realize it’s going to require something from you. But your reaction is, “I don’t want that!” Your doubt is simply a cover for willful rebellion.
If your disinterest or ambivalence about Jesus’ resurrection boils down to one of these doubts, He wants to bring new life where right now there is only deadness.
- Thomas was a doubter like many of us, but he was willing to have his doubts answered. Take a moment to read John 20:24–29. Jesus settled Thomas’ doubts and challenged him to pursue a faith that moves beyond doubts. We can trace in Thomas’ experience the development of faith:
- Faith is kindled when the heart identifies the obstacles (20:25). Thomas was honestly stating his reluctance to accept his friends’ witness about Jesus’ resurrection. Despite Thomas’ lack of faith, he stuck close to the other disciples. He gave Jesus the benefit of his doubts.
- Faith is sparked when the Lord reveals Himself at our point of need (20:27). If your doubts are honest, God will either provide an answer or show you that your doubts are no reason to prevent you from trusting Him.
- Faith is ignited when the heart submits to the revelation (20:28). Thomas didn’t need to poke or touch once he was confronted with the risen Christ. He immediately worshiped.
- Faith is ablaze when it comes before seeing (20:29). The assertion that we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) becomes real as we realize Jesus is very much alive, even when we cannot see Him.
Whatever you are facing today, I’ve got breaking news: The resurrected Jesus is alive! And He is ready to make Himself known powerfully in your life — to make you forever new.
JAMES MACDONALD (D.Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founder and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel. James also founded Harvest Bible Fellowship, a church planting ministry, and his practical exposition of God’s Word is broadcast around the world on radio and TV through Walk in the Word. James has authored several books and Bible studies, including Act Like Men, Authentic, When Life Is Hard, Always True, and Come Home. He and his wife, Kathy, live in the Chicago area. Find out more about James and his ministries at JamesMacDonald.org, HarvestBibleChapel.org, HarvestBibleFellowship.org, Instagram: @pastorjamesmacdonald, Twitter: @jamesmacdonald, and Facebook: James MacDonald — Walk in the Word.
This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine (March 2016). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.