What the Resurrection Meant to the Friends of Jesus

WHAT THE RESURRECTION MEANT TO THE FRIENDS OF JESUS*

The message of Jesus Himself and of the early disciples was not just one of forgiveness of sins, but rather was one of newness of life – which of course involved forgiveness as well as His death for our sins. And yet that newness of life also involved much more also involved much more beside. To be “saved” was to be “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son,” as Colossians 1:13 says. We who are saved are to have a different order of life from that of the unsaved. We are to live in a different “world.”

It was because this was the sort of salvation to be accomplished that the resurrection, not the death of Christ, was the central fact in the gospel of the early believers. As we’ve already suggested, the resurrection had the meaning it did to those early believers just because it proved that the new life that had already been present among them in the person of Jesus could not be quenched by killing the body.

The resurrection was a cosmic event only because it validated the reality and indestructibility of what Jesus had preached and exemplified before His death – the enduring reality and openness of God’s Kingdom.  It meant that the Kingdom, with the communal form His disciples had come to know and hope in, would go on. The “gates of the grave” would not prevail against it, as Matthew 16:18 states. That, and the fact that Jesus was not dead after all – and that when we die, we won’t stay dead – is what made the resurrection earthshaking, transforming good news.

With all this clarity in view, it becomes understandable why the simple and wholly adequate word for salvation in the New Testament is “life.” “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” says John 10:10. “He who has the Son has the life,” says 1 John 5:12. “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, God made us alive together with Christ,” says Ephesians 2:5.

* From Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 36-37.

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