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Jesus Has Patience For Doubting the Resurrection, So Should We — An Excerpt From "Raised?"

Categories Theology Book Excerpts

9780310517351I find it increasingly challenging to minister in our post-Christian, postmodern world—a world that doubts institutional truth claims, like those from Christianity, at every turn.

Many doubt that in the beginning God created. The Red Sea's parting, Jericho's falling walls, and Jonah's big fish are roundly doubted. Others doubt Jesus' miracles, and the belief that He is the only way, truth, and life.

And then there's that bit about the resurrection. To the modern mind, the notion is utterly implausible. With such an incredible assertion at the heart of the Christian faith, should it come as a surprise that some people struggle to believe?

Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson, authors of a new, fresh book on the resurrection, say it shouldn’t. And where our first impulse might be to implore people to get over their doubt and just believe, they say otherwise.

In Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection, Dodson and Watson say Jesus Himself has room for doubt, even invites it. They insist Thomas' experience is proof positive:

[Jesus] invites Thomas to place his hands on his tender crucifixion wounds, to feel the truth. This scene is palpably human and curiously divine. We can identify with Thomas’s response, but Jesus’ tender patience is superhuman...

In other words, Jesus has patience for doubt—even of His resurrection. And so should we.

Unlike any other book on the subject, Raised? grapples with the believability of the resurrection and encourages your people to doubt in order to believe. Dodson and Watson don’t shy away from the hard questions or settle for easy answers. They will help your people see how the resurrection changes everything, offering hope for the future and answers to the life and death questions we all have.

The excerpt below explains why Jesus allowed doubt, even embraced it. It also encourages you to do the same for the sake of reaching an increasingly doubting culture with the gospel.

-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)

Check out the books website (www.raisedbook.com) for more information and resources to help your church and groups study the resurrection. Also, be sure to watch the video "Doubt," the first in a fourt-part documentary that's designed to be watched and discussed in small groups.

 

One out of every five Americans does not believe in a deity. The “none” category in religious polls has doubled over the past ten years, and less than half of the population attends religious services on a regular basis. As statistics rise on the decline of Christian faith in America, you may find yourself wondering if Christianity is really worth believing. After all, the Christian faith makes some audacious claims.

AUDACIOUS CLAIMS OF THE GOSPEL

Some of Christianity’s most audacious claims are made right at the center of the faith — the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though particulars vary, the gospel is something all Christians agree on: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3 – 4). At first glance, the death of Jesus of Nazareth is easy enough to embrace. While there has been considerable debate over the so-called “historical Jesus,” it is beyond dispute that Jesus existed in history. It is also well documented that the Roman authorities crucified people regularly, and in fact, Jewish historian Josephus documented Jesus’ death.  What ruffles feathers is the God-sized claim beneath his self-sacrifice. Jesus asserted his death was necessary for humanity. His insistence that we all need an atoning representative troubles our dignity. Jesus represented all of us? What gives him the right? Who says we need a representation or sacrifice anyway?

The bull’s-eye of the gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus. We don’t have to dive deep to surface doubt regarding the resurrection. Its surface value is, well, incredible. The notion that a first-century Jewish man, crucified between two common criminals, was actually God and rose from the deadis hard to believe. In our experience, people don’t beat death, especially after being in a grave for three days…

If you doubt the resurrection, I’m glad. Anything worth believing has to be worth questioning, but don’t let your questions slip away unanswered. Don’t reduce your doubts to a state of unsettled cynicism. Wrestle with your doubts. Find answers.  If you call yourself a believer, don’t settle for pat proofs, emotional experiences, or duty-driven religion. Keep asking questions. Those who haven’t questioned their faith can easily become doctrinaire, even detached from the everyday struggle of faith. Whether you are a skeptic, believer, or somewhere in between, press into your doubt or push back on your faith…

OTHERS WHO STRUGGLE TO BELIEVE

If you struggle with belief in the resurrection, you’re in good company. The story of the resurrection includes many doubters — Jesus’ friends, contemporary Greeks and Romans, and countless Jews…

Christians have derided Thomas for his demand for evidence, calling him a pessimist and double-minded.  But who can blame him? After all, didn’t the other disciples get to see the risen Christ before coming to certain conviction? Thomas critics will be quick to point out his stubborn insistence that he not only see but also touch Christ, and not just his body, but his wounds as well. Obstinate skeptic!

But aren’t you glad there was someone there who didn’t just take the word on the street, someone who valued proof, someone who knew that the wounds couldn’t be faked? I am.

Put yourself in Thomas’s shoes. If you had spent every day with Jesus for roughly the last one thousand days, knew his mannerisms, loved the timbre of his voice, embraced his teachings, seen his miracles, and wept at his death, and then heard from trusted friends that Jesus had risen from the dead, proving that he is not a spirit, wouldn’t you be a bit skeptical? You might even demand proof. But what if Jesus appears right in front of you, and then, without a word, he quotes your earlier demands back to you: “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe’ ” (John 20:27). Then you might quiver, perhaps even cower, like a child expecting a stern parental rebuke. How would you expect Jesus to respond?

Now, put yourself in the shoes of Jesus. You’ve spent all this time with Thomas, poured out your soul to him, prayed relentlessly for him, taught him numerous times about your impending death and resurrection, and then he doubts you, even after the other ten disciples have assured him of your resurrection and seen you eat a fish. Do you think your patience would run a little thin? I know mine would. I expect Jesus to rebuke Thomas, making him an example for everyone else, telling him to accept it and get with the program. 

But that’s not what Jesus does. Instead, Jesus has room for Thomas’s doubt. He even invites Thomas to place his hands on his tender crucifixion wounds, to feel the truth. This scene is palpably human and curiously divine. We can identify with Thomas’s response, but Jesus’ tender patience is superhuman….

Jesus has patience for doubt.

If you doubt the resurrection, you are in good company. Jesus understands your doubts, and he welcomes them. To those who are skeptical and struggling with belief, Jesus remains ready to receive your questions. He will listen to your doubts. (pgs. 9-17)

Old Testament Today, 2nd Edition

Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection

By Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson

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