Ezer Equipped Newsletter | A Witnessed Hope
Welcome to this edition of Ezer Equipped!
The gospel is an epic account of good triumphing over evil, complete with cosmic miracles—like resurrection from the dead—which defies all logic and explanation. There are times I’ve shared the gospel with someone—believer or unbeliever—and thought to myself, “All of this sounds completely ludicrous!” Perhaps that’s part of what led Paul to exclaim that if the resurrection didn’t happen, we of all people should be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:18-20).
To be honest, there are moments I’m tempted to believe that it’s all just a myth—the greatest hoax of all time. But then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me of Paul’s words to the church at Corinth:
“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-9 (emphasis mine)
This passage is so encouraging in my moments of doubt. In fact, it is often an anchor for my feeble faith. Our hope in Christ’s resurrection isn’t just some made-up fairytale, but a real, historical event substantiated by many witnesses—actual men and women who saw a living, breathing, walking, talking, eating Jesus who still bore the scars of his traumatic death.
Seeing the resurrected Christ with their own eyes transformed his followers. Despair, confusion, and powerlessness transformed into joy, worship, power, and renewed hope. Peter, whose fear and cowardice led him to abandon Christ upon his arrest and crucifixion, was so changed by seeing and touching the resurrected Christ, that he became a bold professor of the gospel to the point of his own eventual crucifixion. Paul, a staunch persecutor of early Christians, was so convinced of the resurrected Christ, he also endured beatings, imprisonment, and death for his gospel-proclamation. And many other followers—men and women—endured great trials and suffering as a result of their faith and hope in the resurrected Christ. Remembering the testimonies of these men and women solidifies my own faith in those moments of doubt.
It can be easy to breeze past Easter without really acknowledging the fantastic nature of the resurrection. If the Scriptures are the true account of who God is, who we are, and what God is doing in the world, then the resurrection is the linchpin of our hope. Without it, our faith is futile, we are dead in our sin, eternally separated from God, and without hope. In God’s providence, he knew the disciples would need substantial proof of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It is that proof—those eyewitness testimonies—that also gives us solid ground upon which to build our hope.
The resurrection is like the dawn of a new day, that moment when light overtakes the darkness. It’s like the first buds of spring when new life grows out of what was once dormant. The resurrection of Christ is evidence, the first fruit of the coming harvest (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). It breathes fresh life into our flagging spirits; it strengthens our weak hands and steadies our feeble knees. This is the reason we can hope with great confidence that a day is coming when suffering, death, sin, and brokenness will be no more and all things will be made new—a day when there will be no more need for the sun because the glory of God will be our light. And we will behold our risen, reigning, and glorious King!
The hope we have because of a resurrected Christ isn’t empty encouragement or theological pontification; it is full of life-transforming power! This hope reaches into our past and transforms it; upholds us in our present suffering, sin, and brokenness; carries us into our future with steadfastness, perseverance, and great expectation; and ultimately delivers us into the joy of our salvation—the presence of God—for all eternity.
This month, we want to explore the hope we have as believers. And this hope is not only for us, it’s also for the world around us, which is in desperate need of substantive hope. It’s this hope that makes us compelling to the world and creates opportunities to share the good news of Christ.
May our lives be so uncommon, so transformed by our hope in a resurrected Christ, that it not only sustains us but also draws others to Jesus, who is our inexhaustible source of hope.
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. - 1 Peter 3:15
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Take some time this month to read the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. Perhaps spend one week on each passage. Read it a couple of times throughout the week. While these passages are often familiar, ask the Holy Spirit to allow you to read them with fresh eyes and an open heart so that you may be nourished and strengthened in your faith.
As you read each passage, note the following:
- Write down everyone Jesus appeared to in this passage.
- How did his appearance impact them?
- What encourages or strengthens you in this passage?
- How would believing they truly witnessed the resurrected Christ give you hope and change how you live?
Believing in a literal resurrection isn’t hard just for us. Even after hearing Mary Magdalene and some of the other women’s account of seeing a risen Jesus, some of his disciples thought it was nonsense. But Jesus, in his grace and kindness, appeared to them so that they might also see and believe.
“Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ he said.”
This passage covers several accounts of Jesus appearing to his disciples, including that of Thomas who refused to believe unless he saw Jesus’ nail-pierced hands and put his hand in the wound in Jesus’ side. Again, Jesus in his kindness allowed Thomas to see and to touch so that he too might believe.
“That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!”
Jesus appeared more than once to his followers in his resurrected body—walking, talking, touching, embracing, and sharing meals with them—time and again, which provided the disciples with substantive proof of his resurrection and that he, indeed, was the Messiah.
“‘Now come and have some breakfast!’ Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.”
Luke opens his second book of the Bible by highlighting the fact that Jesus logged time with the disciples after he was raised from the dead in order to prove to them that he was, in fact, alive. He met their confusion, doubt, and uncertainty with tangible proof so that they may believe.
“During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.”
Saul, one of the chief persecutors of early believers, had such a transformative experience with the resurrected Christ that he became one of the chief proponents of our faith.
“So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”
Bible Project podcast
This in-depth podcast reminds us that we have a secure hope that cannot be touched by circumstances and asks an important question: How does the hope of the empty tomb so change our outlook on life that we are fundamentally changed?
“Truly seeing Jesus means surrendering our most cherished beliefs about the world, God, and ourselves and allowing the cross and the resurrection to redefine reality for us.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- It is easy to anchor our hope in what this world can offer. We are content and happy when we get what we want; we are restless and discontent when we don’t. Look back over the past five years. Make a list of what you’ve been tempted to put your hope in.
- When our hope is tethered to something that is not strong enough to support and sustain us, we are easily disappointed and find out just how fragile we are. When you are disappointed by what you have put your hope in, how does it impact you and those around you?
- The hope we have in Christ is different. It is strong enough to hold. Think of what the early believers endured because they were eyewitnesses of his resurrection. There is so much in this life that attempts to derail our hope. Yet the hope we have is secure because it’s not based on us. How can having a secure hope change your view of suffering, disappointment, and pain in your past or present?
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
- Our imaginations have been captured by so many other things that cannot provide us with substantive hope. We need to allow our imaginations to be captured by the resurrection. Choose one of the passages to re-read. This time, read it slowly, and put yourself in the story as one of the early witnesses of the resurrection. Imagine yourself spending time with Christ over a period of forty days. Engage all your senses—seeing him with your own eyes, listening to him teach, hearing him say your name, embracing him, and dining alongside him. How would that experience shape your daily life? What would you spend your days doing? What would matter to you and what wouldn’t? Now, think about your life today. What would you change about how you live in light of a living, breathing Savior?
- Memorize Romans 5:3-5:“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
- The resurrection of Christ is not only the cornerstone of our faith, it also shapes how we operate in this world. Use this Christ’s Work, My Inheritance resource to guide you through select passages so that you can fully understand the implications of what Christ has done for you.
Book by Tim Keller
Devotional Book by Nancy Guthrie