In the past, people either accepted or rejected Christ's resurrection as a fact of history. But in today's culture, people are apt to say, "Jesus rose from the dead? So what?" Fortunately, the Bible answers that question. The empty tomb has impacted every life it has touched, from the first witnesses to our lives today.
The power of the resurrection is available to every believer in Jesus Christ, regardless of how powerless you may feel.
"Frightened followers to faithful believers"
Put yourself in the position of one of Jesus' followers the day after His crucifixion. You had placed all your hope in this teacher, this Anointed One, only to watch His life extinguished on a Roman cross.
Thomas saw the crucifixion of Jesus and experienced a complete meltdown. He was overcome with pessimism. Perhaps he lamented internally, "I knew it. It was too good to be true. Why did I even get involved?" He was discouraged enough that he was not with the other disciples on the first day of the week when Jesus appeared in the middle of the locked room (see John 20:19). When the disciples came to tell Thomas, he didn't believe their story. They pleaded with him, but he responded, "I don't care what you say. Unless I touch His wounds, unless I see with my eyes, I am not going to believe you" (see vv. 24-25).
Note that when the resurrected Lord Jesus appeared to Thomas, He did not say to him, "Thomas, you foolish man. Why didn't you believe Me?" Our great, loving Savior said to His doubting and pessimistic follower, "Thomas, come. Feel My hands. Feel My feet. Feel My side. See the marks of the wounds of your sin of unbelief in My body." And Thomas could only reply, "My Lord and my God!" (v. 28). The risen Christ utterly transformed Thomas, bringing him from pessimism to hope, from suspicion to victory, from self-centered doubt to God-centered mission.
The same could be said of Peter. When Jesus was on trial before the religious council, Peter was not standing beside Him, he was in the courtyard denying Him. He folded to pressure not from the powerful Roman Pilate nor from the influential Jewish high priest, but from a common slave girl. Luke tells us that after Peter denied Jesus the third time, "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (22:61). Something inside Peter broke, and he "wept bitterly" (v. 62).
But later the risen Jesus appeared personally to Peter, as He had to Thomas. Jesus met him at the edge of the Sea of Galilee—the same place where He had called the fisherman to follow Him. Jesus restored His failed follower and began the transformation process with a simple question: "[D]o you love me?" (John 21:17). The same Peter who had boasted his willingness to follow Jesus to the death became the humble servant empowered to truly follow and die for Christ as he answered: "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
These are just two transformations among many. After Jesus' resurrection, He appeared to more than 500 other disciples over the course of 40 days. As these followers saw the risen Jesus, their cowardice, doubt, and fear gave way to courage and faith. No longer frightened, they were prepared to face death. Because if Jesus' tomb was empty, theirs would be as well.
IMPACT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
"Faithful believers to empowered messengers"
At the end of the 40 days, Jesus ascended into heaven, but before He left, He gave His followers a commission and a promise. He commissioned His disciples to be His witnesses to all nations. And He promised to give His people the power to complete the task—power from the resurrected Jesus to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus.
On Pentecost, the promised power arrived: Jesus' faithful believers were filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:4). Peter, instead of denying Jesus, became an empowered messenger. Standing before the crowd in Jerusalem, he declared, "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. . . . Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:32, 38).
Peter boldly proclaimed the Truth of Jesus' resurrection, and 3,000 people believed that day. This has been the pattern in the Church ever since. As Stephen boldly faced martyrdom, he saw the resurrected Christ. That same power transformed Saul to Paul—changing the greatest persecutor of Christians to a man sold out for the Gospel. Paul knew the power of the resurrection so intimately he considered it joy to suffer the loss of all things, including his life, for the sake of the Gospel (see Philippians 3:7-14).
After Thomas touched the risen Jesus and made his profession of faith, he did not go home and return to life as usual. He remained with the other disciples. He was in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them. He took to heart the commission of the resurrected Christ and set off to the East. He went to Nineveh, modern-day Mosul in Iraq, and founded a church that is still there today. Then from Nineveh he went to India and established the Church of Mar Thoma, which still thrives today. These churches stand as a testimony to the power of the resurrected Jesus Christ, who overcomes our own doubts and failings.
IMPACT UPON ETERNITY
"From empowered messengers to resurrected conquerors"
Today, Leading The Way receives thousands of letters testifying to the transformative power of Christ's resurrection. Terrorists have turned into evangelists. Criminals have become honest, Christ-loving men and women. Academics who once spent their lives searching for ways to undermine the Christian faith are now its biggest proponents.
Have you experienced this same transformative power at work in your life? The power of the resurrection is available to every believer in Jesus Christ, regardless of how powerless you may feel. It won't give you a prestigious job, wealth, or fame. That's not what Jesus came to do. He came to give us the power to overcome evil, addiction, and even the greatest enemy of all—death.
God privileged the apostle John with a glimpse of the future, a vision of the Church gathered in heaven. John writes, "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death'" (Revelation 12:10-11). These are the true and faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ—people from every nation before God's throne. And note, the people in the vision are alive forevermore! They have experienced resurrection just as their Lord did, demonstrating what the future holds for all those who belong to Christ.
What difference does the resurrection make? Every difference in the universe. The risen Jesus turns frightened followers into faithful believers, faithful believers into empowered messengers, and empowered messengers into resurrected conquerors. How else can we respond but in worship?