John 20: February 16—Resurrection meaning
Feb 9, 2014

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
“Doubting Thomas’” expressed the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus. Drawing a comparison to the famed words of Neil Armstrong, one theologian conveyed the significance of Thomas’ confession (my Lord and my God): “one small verbal step and a giant leap of faith and theology.” The resurrection of Jesus communicates the significance of the person of Jesus. 

The Fourth Gospel contains three great confessions of faith. The disciples confessed Jesus as “the Holy One of God” (John 6:69). Martha confessed Jesus “the Messiah, the Son of God” (john 11:27). Thomas uttered the greatest confession literally translated from the Greek as “The Lord of me and the God of me” (John 20:28). As “my Lord and my God,” Jesus deserves and demans loving submission. He is the Lord and the God in contrast to all other claimants to the title designating the ultimate allegiance of our commitment. 

At the time the Apostle John wrote the Fourth Gospel, the Roman emperor Domitian demanded people ascribe to him the titles “Our Lord and our God.” Because of the resurrection, Jesus alone is to receive our worship and adoration.

The resurrection of Jesus is the central proclamation of the Christian faith. Paul highlighted the importance of the literal resurrection by mentioning the sad consequences for life if Jesus remained did not rise from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12-19). The Apostle John emphasized the positive consequences for life because of the resurrection of Jesus. 

What does the resurrection of Jesus mean for daily life?

First, the resurrection of Jesus signifies the beginning of a new creation. This Gospel opens ascribing to Jesus the agency of creation (John 1:3-5) – the creation of thinks, life, and light. John 1 then describes one week in the life of Jesus culminating in the first sign, the creation of new wine (John 2:1-11). The resurrection of Jesus serves as the culminating eight sign of the Four Gospel marking a new beginning after seven signs connected to the old order (water into wine, healing of a child near death, restoration of a paralyzed man, multiplication of loaves, walking on water, restoring sight to the blind, and raising Lazarus. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims the new creative power of Jesus and the dawn of a new era in history.

Second, the resurrection of Jesus emphasizes the importance of belief. The verb “believe” occurs ninety-nine times in the Fourth Gospel. The beloved disciple walks into the tomb and believes (v. 8). Thomas boldly confesses his belief after seeing Jesus. Jesus pronounced a blessing on individuals believing without seeing (v. 29). The purpose of the Gospel is that people may come to faith in the resurrection of the Son of God (v. 31). On-going, continual “faithing” serves as the key to this biblical book. Yet, the historical resurrection of Jesus provides a secure basis for “faithing.”

Third, the resurrection fulfills the theme of the Holy Spirit within this Gospel. John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus would baptize people with the Spirit (1:32-34). The Spirit is the agent of new birth (3:5-8). The Spirit flows out of the heart of believers to touch spiritually thirsty individuals (7:37-38). Jesus promised to send the Spirit to assist His followers to bear witness (14:16; 15: 26; 16:7-15). As God breathed life into Adam in the first creation, the resurrected Jesus breathed the Spirit on the disciples to equip them to proclaim the message of forgiveness (2022-23).

Fourth, the resurrection of Jesus means that Jesus is the temple bringing God and man together. Jesus stated, “Destroy this Temple, and I will raise it up in three days” in reference to the temple of His body (2:21). The resurrected Jesus fulfills the temple as the means by which God and humans commune. 

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