What difference does Jesus’ resurrection make?

If the Biblical record is true that Jesus came back from the dead and actually appeared in human form to hundreds of his followers, some amazing things should have happened, right?

Well, one hundred billion Christians since that time is pretty amazing. Without Jesus’ resurrection the movement Jesus began would have fizzled out, Jesus would be just another failed revolutionary leader, and his followers would have disappeared back into the woodwork.

The fact that billions of people believe Jesus was raised from the dead, and many willingly went to horrible deaths because Jesus’ resurrection proved he was who he said he was, surely indicates something remarkable happened back there that still reverberates in people today. But what noticeable difference has it actually made in people?

To answer that I’ve tried to imagine what difference it would have made in me had I seen Jesus alive after he was dead. God gave us an imagination that enables us to think how we might react in a situation, so, after the shock of realizing Jesus was alive again, what would I have done next?

Well, my first reaction would likely be wanting to tell people about it, as anyone with shocking news would, but then it would be down to the business of what Jesus was resurrected for. It would obviously be to continue what he started, so that would take me back to what he spoke about and did in his human form before he died. And in his own words he came to announce the Kingdom that God was creating in this world, how God and his Kingdom operated, and that God was inviting us to join him in the creation of it – and especially now that the resurrected Jesus is fully in charge without anyone being able to stop him.

I’d be studying into the shape of that Kingdom, therefore, and what a citizen of such a Kingdom would look like, as taught by Jesus to his twelve disciples. And the obvious fact that his teaching from Matthew chapters 5 to 7 would change the world if everybody followed it would surely make me want to live it so well that it would change the world where I lived to prove it was true. And I’d hope for the rest of my life that I could keep that as my focus rather than trying to argue people into believing in Jesus resurrection, based on a few sketchy stories from long ago.

But that’s the catch with Christianity. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s by living what Jesus taught that the difference in Jesus’ resurrection can best be seen and experienced.

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Was Jesus’ resurrection fake news?

We live in an age where anybody can make something up, spread it as news, and people believe it. So was that the case with Jesus’ resurrection?

If it was then it has to be the best fake news ever invented, because billions of people have fallen for it since it was first broadcast, billions more are still falling for it today, and billions more will likely fall for it in the future.

So what makes it so appealing?

Well, who wants to die? The idea, then, that someone came back from the dead, and in a human body too, has to be the most appealing thing possible for people who like life, like being human, and would rather not die. It makes us susceptible to believing a lie, yes, but there’s no denying the appeal.

And there’s no denying the appeal of being restored back to life and to all those things we love about this world that we never got the chance to explore and enjoy in this life now. Even if it’s only a daydream, what more appealing daydream is there?

Being resurrected back to a restored body and a restored world would also mean an end to pain and suffering. All the mental and emotional junk messing up our heads gets cleared up, no more anxiety and depression, and no more wrecked hopes and dreams from accidents, parental neglect, political turmoil, greedy cheats and scammers, disease, pollution, poverty, and all the other plagues and evils of this world. Imagine a world free of every physical, emotional, mental, and social hang-up and handicap. And all because a man who predicted such a world was resurrected from the dead to prove what he said was real.

And wouldn’t it be nice to know that a human just like ourselves, who understands us, is now in charge and has everything under control, and he’s bringing us all along the same route he went so we can be resurrected to life after death too? It really is appealing, but what if it’s all a terrible lie, conjured up by people who knew how to appeal to our base instincts to – to accomplish what, though? What gain was there to those who told the lie?

It got them a following and money, perhaps, but so what, when eventually they died? And by now, surely, we’d be able to see through their scam. But what if what Jesus said he’d do for us begins to happen to us when we believe him? Because that’s what makes his resurrection believable to all these billions of people, not because a few first century people said his resurrection happened.

If only Jesus had NOT been raised from the dead…

I imagine a lot of very bright, intellectual people have thought to themselves, “If only Jesus had not been raised from the dead,” because they’ve had to spend much time in heated and often fruitless debate with Christians trying to convince them the resurrection of Jesus never happened.

That’s because Christians insist Jesus was raised from the dead as the reason Christianity exists at all, and with so much at stake Christians have used every tool and argument possible to prove Jesus’ resurrection was real. And that has put huge strain on human brainpower to refute that Christian claim, because how do you prove that one hundred billion Christians through the ages have all been deluded?

On the other hand, maybe that’s not such a hard task, because more recent history has shown that billions of people can easily be deluded. People by the billion still vote for politicians, for instance, because they believe what politicians say is true. The shattering proof of our own experience, however, is that what politicians say and promise has little connection to what they do when voted into office, but people keep on voting for them anyway.

Delusion is easy, then, when people want to believe something is true. But does that apply to Christians? Well, awkwardly not, because Christianity didn’t begin with people wanting to believe Jesus was raised from the dead. According to the Biblical record no one, not even Jesus’ closest friends and followers, believed he’d been raised from the dead. They totally dismissed it as nonsense, and even ignored eyewitnesses. No argument convinced them.

Clearly, then, they didn’t want to be bothered by the idea that Jesus had been raised from the dead either. It was all too fantastic for them too. It was terribly disappointing that Jesus wasn’t the great Messiah they were hoping for, but that’s life, so back to their fishing boats they went, and the story of Jesus would have faded away into nothing. And for many critics of Christianity that would have been a much better ending to the Christian movement. But instead they’re stuck with all sorts of people who believe Jesus was resurrected, because what other plausible explanation is there for why this disconsolate, unbelieving group of disciples suddenly believed Jesus really had risen from the dead – and put their lives on the line to spread the news of it too?

And what has made one hundred billion people through the ages believe it’s true too? Is it the simple question, that “Without Jesus’ resurrection what would be the point of our human existence?” I wonder how the brightest and the best would answer that.

Can we be resurrected from the dead today, right now?

The bad news is, that “death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)

But the good news is, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ,” (Colossians 2:13).

The bad news is, “For you died.”

But the good news is, “your life is hidden with Christ in God,” Colossians 3:3.

The bad news is, “we were dead in transgressions.”

But the good news is, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:5-6).

The good news is, we have a Great Resurrector, who lifted all humanity out of its dead state of “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts,” Ephesians 2:3, and united us with Christ so that “our old self was crucified with him,” Romans 6:6. But it didn’t end there, because “If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection,” Romans 6:5, so “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” verse 11.

So that’s where we are right now: Thanks to the Great Resurrector raising Jesus from the dead “we too may live a new life,” verse 4. But what kind of “new life” is it?

It’s a new life of constant resurrection from the dead, for “he who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you,” Romans 8:11. And what the Spirit enables us to do every day is “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by evil desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” Ephesians 4:22-24.

Our minds are being lifted – or resurrected – from “the futility of their thinking” (verse 17) to living “as children of light,” Ephesians 5:8, the clear fruit of which is “all goodness, righteousness and truth,” verse 9.

And that, to Paul, is like being raised from the dead every day. So “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you,” he cries in verse 14, because imagine the impact our new life of the Spirit can have on a dying marriage, on an addiction that’s killing us, on moods we cannot shake, or on anything “beyond our ability to endure,” that makes us “despair even of life,” 2 Corinthians 1:8. In all those things we can rely on God “who raises the dead,” verse 9.

But that’s the Christian life for you; it’s a life of constant resurrection from the dead.

What kind of bodies are WE resurrected into?

Jesus gave us very few hints as to the kind of bodies we receive when we’re resurrected from the dead. Lazarus was raised from the dead, yes, but he was still in the body he had, which would die a second time. Staggering though the miracle was, in reality Lazarus was just a corpse being revived. And all the other people whom Jesus raised from the dead would die again too.

The resurrection we receive, however, is much different to that. In Romans 8:29, Paul tells us that God is conforming us “to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers,” so whatever Jesus is like in his resurrected state right now as the firstborn of many is the likeness we will have when we join him as his resurrected brothers.

So what is Jesus like now? In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul talks of “The first man Adam,” who “became a living being” (quoting Genesis 2:7), but “the last Adam,” referring to Jesus, is “a life-giving spirit.” Jesus’ flesh and blood body was transformed in his resurrection. It became a “spiritual” body, which Paul defines as powerful, imperishable, and immortal (verses 42-44, 54). But most important – he had a body that could give life too.

Does that mean we’ll have that kind of body too? Yes, verse 49, for “just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” The body Jesus now has is the body we’ll be given: It’s powerful, imperishable and immortal. It is also capable of giving life. So in the same way that Jesus’ power “has given us everything we need for life and godliness,” enabling us to “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world,” we will have that same power too.

Paul made that very clear in Philippians 3:20-21, when he talks of “the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they (too) will be like his glorious body.”

Imagine having the same power Jesus has IN FULL to give life to others. But we’re already experiencing a taste of it even before we’re resurrected. Right now the Spirit is transforming us into Jesus’ likeness “so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body,” 2 Corinthians 4:10. Already the life-giving spirit of Jesus “is at work” in us, verse 12.

It’s a lovely taste of the kind of bodies we’ll be resurrected into, as Jesus is already giving life to people through those who are “one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17).

What visible difference does Christ’s resurrection make?

What visible difference has Christ’s resurrection made to death, evil and suffering? On the face of it, none, because we still die, do terrible things to each other, and pain, grief and mental turmoil are epidemic. Accidents haven’t stopped either, nor have natural disasters.

Even Scripture says “the whole creation has been groaning,” Romans 8:22, and it certainly got that right, because animals, forests and oceans are groaning under the weight of human stupidity and greed. Humans groan in frustration too, verse 20, because we still can’t stop ourselves getting old and sick, or stop what wrecks human lives and kills us.

So what has Christ’s resurrection done that’s actually changed anything?

Well, it did create Christians, who’ve done all sorts of things through the centuries to improve people’s lives and ease human suffering. But for all the good they’ve done, Christians still haven’t eradicated war, famine, disease, cruelty, crime or poverty, nor have Christians themselves escaped those things either. They too have been victims, and they too suffer like everyone else. So, what proof do even Christians have that Christ’s resurrection has made a difference, other than provide hope that there’s a better life after this one? But other religions, that have no belief in Christ’s resurrection, have that hope too.

Is there some other visible evidence, therefore, that demonstrates the difference Christ’s resurrection makes? There must be some obvious difference, surely, when it dawns on a person that Jesus being raised from the dead proves he was who he said he was, and that everything he said was true.

Like what, though?

Well, one of the things Jesus said in John 11:25 was, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” Oh. So if I’m facing terminal cancer, or I lose a child to suicide, I have absolute proof in Jesus’ own resurrection, and in this statement he made in John 11:25, that he has the power to resurrect me and my child. Death, therefore, is only temporary. Does that then add weight to that other statement Jesus made in John 14:27, when he said, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives”?

It should be obvious in a Christian’s life, therefore, that he is visibly at peace, even in the face of horrible things happening in this life. Like Paul said in Philippians 3:10, therefore, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection,” and in this very real way too, of not “being anxious about anything” (4:6), and having “the peace of God guard my heart and mind” (verse 7). And if that’s visible to others, even better.

Did Jesus really come back from the dead?

The key to any event in history being credible and true is witnesses. The proof, for instance, that the insanity and terror of trench warfare in World War 1 was tragically real is the men who wrote in their diaries about it, sent letters home about it, took photographs and painted pictures of it, and many of those who survived wrote books about it and told stories to their children and grandchildren.

A veteran could stand up before a room full of school children, therefore, and none would question his credibility, even though none of the children had witnessed World War 1 themselves. He was believable because he’d been there. He’d been a witness.

It’s an accepted tradition throughout the centuries too, that if there is some record of an event preserved by people of that period, whether it be a document like the Magna Carta, or paintings on a Pyramid wall, or the scribblings of an arrogant tyrant etched in rock, that there must be some truth to it. The record may be exaggerated or skewed by a bloated ego, or it may deliberately stretch the facts to support a national agenda, or there may be many different and even contradicting reports of an event, but none of those things has stopped events in the past being taught and accepted as fact, so long as there were witnesses.

It makes my job a lot easier when telling the story about Jesus being resurrected from the dead, because it’s already an accepted tradition that witnesses are the key to an event in history being credible and true. What applies to other historical events being true must apply equally to Jesus, therefore. So long as there are witnesses who made records of what happened, it doesn’t matter if the records are exaggerated, skewed or they differ widely, because none of those things have mattered in accepting other historical events as being true. Differences in stories don’t mean the event never happened. Witnesses to a road accident, for instance, differ widely sometimes in their memory and view of what happened, but it doesn’t mean the accident never happened. They were witnesses and that’s all that matters.

When Jesus told his disciples in John 15:27, therefore, that “you must testify about me, for you have been with me from the beginning,” he too was simply working on the accepted principle that credibility depends on witnesses. And yes, even his witnesses differed in their view and record of what they saw, as we see in the differing stories of those who witnessed his resurrection, but never have differing stories in other events been reason for dismissing them as never happening.