You will want your groups to know that Jesus is risen. But to what extent is this a credal belief – Christianity 101 – and to what extent is it a historical fact that truly changes everything for you and your groups? Sarah Yardley reminds us why we can trust this with our very lives.I still distinctly remember the conversation when I realised that the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything about our faith. I was sitting in a sunny coffee shop in California, chatting to a lifelong friend. We laughed about our current family drama, our mild obsession with coffee, a few of the trends we were watching unfold on social media. Then he leaned in, and began to speak with me about the simple truth of Jesus, the resurrected Saviour. We had heard of this truth all of our lives, but somehow we were both experiencing a new awakening to this reality:
If Jesus really rose from the dead…it changes everything.
I believe that this truth, when understood correctly, shapes our lives and hearts in powerful ways and gives us the authority and confidence to proclaim a faith and a God who is stronger than death. I also find that many youth and family workers, even if they have some form of theological training, can struggle to articulate the hope of the resurrection. This short article is written to give you a few clear reminders and practical tools as you enter into the Easter season with your young people.
We are told in Scripture that the resurrection is shown by “many proofs” (Luke 1:3), that understanding and confessing the resurrected Jesus is necessary for salvation (Romans 10:9) and that without the power of the resurrection our “faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Many excellent books have been written on this topic, but this article will explore two simple reminders of why we can be confident that the resurrection of Jesus Christ holds historical and eternal authority.
"If Jesus really rose from the dead…it changes everything"Firsthand accountsWhen we hear a story firsthand, it holds a different weight. We have seen this played out powerfully in the 21st century. Most recently the firsthand documented footage of George Floyd’s death became a catalyst for many to speak boldly for justice, stirred by the power of a personal story with eyewitnesses.
The first clear proof of the resurrection is the significant weight of firsthand testimonies. The crucified and resurrected Jesus appears to:
As early as the first century, there were some questioning the proven reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and Paul’s response was a reminder that the risen Jesus appeared to over 500 followers, many of whom were still living at the time of that writing (1 Corinthians 15:6). In these accounts, the resurrected Jesus also invites a physical interaction to remind us that this isn’t just a spiritual apparition; he shares food (Luke 24:30), invites a doubting disciple to touch his hands and side (John 20:26-27) and even cooks breakfast (John 21:12).
The truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection has been captured, not just by one or two firsthand testimonies, but by over 500 individuals who saw, heard, walked, ate and spent time with Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. This reality shifts the resurrection from a nice idea to a confirmed account, from a hopeful expectancy to a life-altering reality.
"We live in the cosmic power of the God who conquered death"Confident followersThe reality of the witnessed truth of the resurrection changed wandering disciples to fearless followers. The disciples and followers of Jesus included a group of twelve radicals, rebels, tax collectors and ordinary fishermen who spent three years living with him. Twelve disciples were in daily contact, but many others, both men and women, were faithfully engaged with the wider work and ministry of Jesus (Luke 8:1-3; 10:1).
And yet, at the cross, Jesus died forsaken by most of his followers. We read that “his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things” (Luke 23:49). The agony of his most painful hours included the separation and abandonment of not just these who would have been both followers and friends, but also the agony of Jesus on the cross, crying out to the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Jesus’ death on the cross marked the end of hopes, expectations and longing desires. It marked the bittersweet end to many dreams. Three days later, when the resurrected Jesus began to appear to disciples, we see many reactions: tears, fear, doubt, fear, hardness of heart (John 20:13,19,25; Mark 16:14). After a series of personal appearances, the resurrected Jesus ascends to heaven, promising that his disciples will “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
The book of Acts traces the story of the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, blowing through their lives like a rushing wind, lighting their souls on fire, giving them a new vocabulary and power (Acts 2:1-4). The disciples then begin to speak in radical ways of the resurrection of Jesus; the first recorded message, given by a formerly faithless Peter in Acts 2, tells us of these truths revealed in the resurrection:
- It is not possible for the power of death to hold a living God (v24).
- Our souls will not be abandoned to Hades – Hebrew Sheol, place of the dead (v27).
- This power was expected by prophets from long ago (vv29-31).
- There will be a visible expression of this power through the promise of the Holy Spirit poured out on the followers of Jesus (v33).
The continued story of the book of Acts (which some would say is still being written in the Church today) is the story of the formerly weak, weary and discouraged disciples living with an exemplary, confident, transformative boldness, a boldness so radical that it was shouted in the streets: “those men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6).
It is commonly believed that every one of the original disciples was martyred, save Judas who took his own life and John, who died a natural death, although one in exile. Surely, if the resurrection was a cleverly fabricated fable, one of the other ten disciples would have caved on confidently telling the story, would have at some point traded their telling of it for a safe and comfortable life. The fact that these ten went to their death, being burned, stoned, clubbed, stabbed or crucified, lends a significant weight to the historic authenticity of the resurrection. Good men do not die for mere fables.
What does this mean for us today?I believe that the truth of the resurrection is the truth that changes everything. We live in the cosmic power of the God who conquered death, who promises us: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). When understood clearly, I believe these truths accomplish three simple realities in our lives and youth work.
First, we find great boldness.
The story of Acts traces this simply and clearly: “and with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). The power of the Spirit gives us creativity and confidence to share this truth, but if you find that you cannot speak about the resurrected Jesus without stumbling over your words, then practise. Speak to a close friend, an individual teen, an older leader and work out how to articulate the testimony in your own life of the power of the resurrected Jesus.
Second, we find genuine life.
The hope of the resurrection gives us a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). Phil Wickham wrote the song that declares the power and authority of this reality; that the grave has no claim on us because of the victory made known through Jesus Christ. Sing, announce and expect that the genuine life of the resurrection has awakened us not just to eternal life, but to a more vibrant and beautiful life today.
Third, we find great love.
In the resurrection, we see that the life and family of God did not end with the death of Jesus Christ. This life is available to us today and it is because of the resurrection that we can read and trust these words: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
When we know we are loved, when we believe this is more than just a helpful idea, it changes everything. Receive these truths. Live these truths. Tell these truths. The resurrection gives us the tangible hope to dare to believe we are greatly loved, and that the love of God is stronger than death.
is a Californian based in Cornwall who loves Jesus, family, friendships, coffee, travel and guacamole. She grew up at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, served at Reality Carpinteria and currently serves full-time with Creation Fest UK and Tubestation in Polzeath.