Imagine the most hopeless time of your life is suddenly changed to the most joyful time of your life!
Read Jesus' most controversial story here (John chapters 20-21).
All four books of the Gospel describe the story of Jesus’ coming back to life and his appearance to many people. There were also hundreds of other witnesses. Until today, the resurrection of Jesus has not been denied by any professional historian. All contemporary circumstantial evidence supported this account.
Did God reveal to the Prophets about the Messiah’ death and coming back to life?
Yes. God did it to many prophets, but the most explicit example was with Moses and Aaron. Do you remember God’s laws regarding the Day of Atonement?
According to God's instructions, the High Priest would "confess all the wickedness and sins of the people over the goat" (Leviticus 16:21). Then a chosen man would bring the goat into the desolate wilderness. "The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place" (Leviticus 16:22).
But this is not the end! When the man had taken the goat (i.e. the sins of the people) to die there, he himself would come back alive and rejoice with the people (Leviticus 16:28). This chosen man's return would mark the accomplishment of the Atonement of the people's sin.
Jesus did not only die, he successfully fulfilled the ultimate requirement of God’s Day of Atonement: He bore all the sins of the world upon himself, brought them to hell, and came back triumphant. These are also direct fulfillment of God's revelations to many Prophets.
As Jesus claimed to be the Messiah promised by God, his' victory over death and sin is the proof that God has given to us. No human has power over death. But the one anointed by God does. God promised that any one who believes in the Messiah can be saved and forgiven.
"I'd never believe Jesus has come back to life from death unless I __________."
What would you fill in the blank above?
Although Jesus has repeatedly predicted his own death and resurrection, his disciples were still in shock and despair because they could not believe it. How could anyone have power over death?
John chapter 20 tells us how Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John encountered Jesus first. Jesus appeared and spoke to Mary first at the tomb while she was weeping and overwhelmed by sadness. Later Jesus appeared to ten of the disciples.
Thomas initially refused to believe their account. He said,
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
But later when Jesus appeared to all eleven of them, he turned and spoke directly to Thomas, inviting him to touch his pierced hands and side!
Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)
What happens when you deny the Messiah three times?
In the next chapter, Jesus appeared to seven of His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
He asked Peter three times,
“Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17)
This was a very significant encounter with Jesus. Peter was full of shame for denying he knew Jesus three times while Jesus was arrested and killed (see John chapter 18).
Jesus gave Peter a chance to acknowledge his love for Him three times, and commissioned him to feed His sheep. He even foretold the martyrdom of Peter.
What does the story tell us about how Jesus relates to us today?
Note how people who should have known Jesus most could not recognize him at first. It was Jesus who opened their eyes and let them see, by calling their name and by having a fellowship with them.
Jesus did not judge or recall all the foolishness, denial and betrayals people did to him which led to his painful suffering. Instead, he focused on reinstating their faith and a new relationship with him.
Jesus also allowed doubt and challenge. Thomas could not believe Jesus was alive and demanded a personal encounter and undeniable proof. Jesus appeared to him and gave him exactly what he asked for. It was both an intellectual and emotional encounter with Jesus.
Jesus’ victory was not a military or political victory. In fact, His Church has outlived all military and political powers in human history. Jesus’ victory is about a new relationship of reconciliation between God and the world. It was a victory over sin and death.
Jesus came as a Son of Man (as envisioned by Prophet Daniel), bore the sins of the world and took the punishment on himself (as predicted by Prophet Isaiah), as a lamb for the sacrifice which God has prepared (as foretold by Prophet Abraham), die for the atonement of sin and came back to signal the banishment of sin (as symbolized by Moses’ Law), and defeated Satan once and for all (as promised to Adam). God displayed His love, power and faithfulness to us.
And Jesus didn’t just leave us afterwards. He promised to send the Holy Spirit, and be with all his believers until the end times.
Your Response: Listen to God and Pray…
1. How would this encounter of Jesus after His death changed Mary, Peter, and Thomas?
2. Would you believe in the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection? Why or why not?
3. What truth presented in John Chapters 20-21 has had the strongest impact on you? How would you want to live in response to that truth?
4. Who will you share this story with?