What Do We Gain From a Raised Christ? 6 Big, Clear Benefits Say Dodson and Watson
An important new resource for our postmodern, post-Christian world released last week. It's called Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection. In it authors Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson give people the permission to doubt the central claim of the Christian faith: That Jesus was actually, physically raised from the dead.
One of the things I appreciate about this book is how its entirely resurrection-centric. Not heaven-centric or purpose-and-meaning-centric. The resurrection takes center stage as the two authors carefully, pastorally draw readers into Christ's new life.
Furthermore, I appreciate how careful they are not to replace one consumeristic need with another. They make it clear "it's important to see the hope is not gaining a resurrection body. While stunning, the new body isn't the final reward. Christ is the ultimate reward. Jesus is the resurrection and the life…" (emph. mine, 35)
A super-cool new zombie body doesn't replace a super-cool land in outer space—as if escape from death and decay replaces escape from hell. No what we gain is Christ and being found in Him, as Paul writes. Because Jesus lives we live, but in Him.
Ok, fine, but how does that work itself out practically, in our daily lives? What I love most about this book is how Dodson and Watson take great care to apply the deep theological truth that Jesus was raised. The authors suggest we receive 6 big, clear benefits, because Jesus lives.
First Things First: What We Lose If Christ Wasn't Raised
Before getting to the benefits of Christ's resurrection, Dodson and Watson address what we lose if Christ wasn't actually, physically raised. For this they turn to Paul's discourse on the event in 1 Cor 15, particularly vs. 17: "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."
After a helpful discussion and exposé on the faith we all carry, they explain what Paul means here: "if God did not, truly, raise Jesus from the dead, then Christian faith is fruitless. It is misdirected and misplaced." (63)
Which mean we receive nothing of benefit from either that faith or Christ Himself. There's no need to celebrate his great teachings or his well-lived life. In fact the cross itself is meaningless unless Jesus was raised to new life, because it doesn't exist apart from the resurrection.
"Without the resurrection," Dodson and Watson explain, "Jesus' teachings are a sham, half-baked ideas from a wandering Jew with a messiah complex. But with the resurrection, his teachings and actions have power to overturn sin, death, and evil and create a whole new humanity." (65)
6 Things We Gain Because Christ Was Raised
So without the resurrection faith in Christ is useless. But if indeed Christ really has been raised from the dead…well, in their words it changes everything; we receive a whole host of benefits!
The six big, clear benefits we gain from Christ's resurrection: forgiveness, life, fulfillment, authority, identity, and mission.
- Forgiveness From Treasonous Faith. "First, Jesus' resurrection implies his death, which forgives us for the cosmic crime of treasonous faith in other things." They go on: "The resurrection reminds us of the mercy and grace that is bound up in the cross, grace that has the power to change a person," which comes through forgiveness from our treasonous faith. (73)
- The Power of Life. "The second reason Jesus is the right place for our faith is because he is 'the resurrection and the life' (John 11:35)." (74) Our faith isn't in an historical resurrection event; our faith is in an historically resurrected person. And it is through this resurrected person we receive the power of life because He Himself wields that power.
- Forever Fulfillment of Our Desires. "Third, the resurrection tells us that Jesus can satisfy our God-sized desires not only in this life, but also in life after death." (75) But here's the thing: if Christ hasn't been raised then we're stuck in a "tailspin of desire in this life" and will be "denied finding fulfillment in the life to come." But because Jesus has been raised we can have fulfillment of our desires, forever.
The next set of 3 big, clear benefits stem from some of Jesus' final words in Matthew 28:16-20.
- New Authority. "Jesus begins with his place in the world, making a claim of authority. As the one who has laid down his life for the world and defeated death, Jesus now claims to have all authority in heaven and on earth." (79) While living the resurrected life means placing ourselves under His authority, Dodson and Watson also make clear we receive benefits from Jesus' authority: We receive a new community of people who share in our struggles; an invitation to trust and depend on God through prayer; the opportunity to regularly repent and receive forgiveness; and intimate knowledge of Jesus through God's Story.
- New Identity. "Jesus, with complete authority, gives us a new source of identity. Resurrection life is nothing short of an entirely new identity." (81) The authors list several new identifying marks to this new life: Child of God, friend of God, servant, sent one, reconciler, disciple, blessed, new creation, and holy one. (83)
- New Mission. Finally, "Our mission is to make disciples through our words and actions…We make disciples by living resurrected lives and telling people about the resurrected Christ." I like how the authors make it clear "there's not a hint of coercion here. It is a life love." We are extending an invitation, an invitation "to join God's redemptive agenda to restore human flourishing and remake the world." (86)
In the end, what Dodson and Watson offer doubters is Jesus. Not heaven, not purpose, not even defeat of death. The person of Christ:
By faith, Jesus' death and resurrection can become your death and resurrection, releasing you to live a truly human life. Best of all, when we turn away from trusting our unreliable selves and turn to the reliable, resurrected Christ, we gain intimacy with the most beautiful, powerful, creative, and gracious Person the world will ever know.
Life with Jesus is better. He offers deeper joy, more profound meaning, and true purpose. Life with Jesus is truer. He is the one person we were made for. if you join Jesus, you will join the Person who changes everything, even us. (100)
Jeremy Bouma (Th.M.) is a pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. He is the founder of THEOKLESIA, a content curator dedicated to helping the 21st century church rediscover the historic Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and writes about faith and life at www.jeremybouma.com.