The Risen Christ Changes Everything
By Davy Ellison
The Gospel accounts of the risen Christ make it apparent that he has changed everything. From the awestruck disciples in Matthew, to the trembling women in Mark, to the two on the road to Emmaus in Luke, no-one who met the risen Christ remained the same. The risen Christ changes everything. Today I want to draw your attention to John’s Gospel and three episodes recorded in chapters 20 and 21 which further evidence this reality.
The Risen Christ Soothes our Sorrows
As Jesus interacts with Mary Magdalene in John 20:11–18, we learn that the risen Christ soothes our sorrows.
Mary is distraught. Four times in this episode the reader is told that she is weeping (vv. 11, 13, 15). This isn’t a sob, Mary has not yet run out of tears. The term is referring to a loud wailing. Mary’s grief is not simply at Jesus’s death, but the fact that someone has gone to the effort of stealing his body. Her grief is compounded.
All of this changes with a single word uttered by the risen Christ: ‘Mary’ (v. 16). As soon as she hears that voice she knows it is him. There is no questioning as to how. There is doubting as to who. There is no hesitancy in reaching out to him. It is the risen Christ, and with one word he soothes Mary’s sorrows.
The risen Christ likewise soothes our sorrows. He does not remove our sorrows—he soothes them. The fact that he is risen prompts us to remember that he lives, that he was the first among many to rise and that one day all who are his will follow. Like a parent soothes a child with scraped knees with the truth that the pain will not always be so, Jesus soothes our sorrows with the truth that it will not always be so. One day we too will be resurrected to dwell in the new heavens and the new earth where there will be no sin, sorrow or suffering.
The Risen Christ Dispels our Doubts
Jesus proceeds to interact with Thomas in John 20:24–29. In this episode we learn that the risen Christ dispels our doubts.
Thomas gets a bad press. He is fiercely loyal to Jesus, declaring that he is willing to die with Jesus (John 11:16). Due to circumstances, however, Thomas misses Jesus’s first resurrection appearance to his disciples. As a result he is sceptical about their testimony. Perhaps he is afraid that he is the subject of a cruel group prank. Either way, he needs to see it for himself if he is to believe (John 20:25).
The evidence isn’t long in appearing (see v. 26). Note how Jesus deals with Thomas, however. There is no scolding, raised voices or exasperation. Jesus is patient and gracious with Thomas, inviting him to touch the resurrected scar tissue (v. 27). In response to this experience Thomas declares: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (v. 28). All doubt is gone.
If you are reading this with a nagging doubt in your mind do not despair. The risen Christ dispels your doubts by inviting you to look at the evidence. What evidence? The evidence of Scripture—the very word of God. In the Gospels we have a first-hand historical document based on eye-witness accounts. In fact, dispelling your doubts is the very reason that John wrote about the risen Christ (20:30–31).
The Risen Christ Confirms our Calling
In virtually the final episode of John’s Gospel Jesus engages with Peter (21:15–19) and in doing so teaches us that the risen Christ confirms our calling.
Given Peter’s denial of Jesus on the night he was crucified it is not surprising that he receives special attention from the risen Christ. It is hardly accidental that Jesus asks Peter the same question three times (21:15–17) since Peter denied Jesus three times. While Jesus gives Peter the specific calling to love him and feed his sheep, it is all encapsulated in the single call: ‘Follow me’ (v. 19).
None of us are perfect. We all sin. We all reject our Saviour. We all neglect our calling from time to time. Despite our failings, however, we can resume our service for God. Our faltering following does not signal the end of our usefulness to our God. Jesus is gracious (and powerful) enough to use faltering disciples like Peter, like me, like you. This is a significant encouragement: the risen Christ confirms us in our calling.
Everything is Different
The risen Christ changes everything. He soothes our sorrows, dispels our doubts and confirms our calling. The reality that Jesus walked out of the tomb alive means everything is different. There is tremendous joy in this truth and we celebrate it with gusto—Christ is risen, hallelujah!