Every one of the gospel writers tell much the same story about the reaction of Jesus’ disciples regarding the early news of His resurrection. Even though He had told them repeatedly that He would rise again, they were slow to believe that that wondrous event had actually occurred. “…some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17); “…they would not believe it.” (Mark 16:11); “…angels…said that he was alive.” (Luke 24:22). And Mary Magdalene, upon seeing Jesus (without recognizing Him) said “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15).
Actually there was no way for them at that point to begin to comprehend the significance of that most monumental of all events. His resurrection was not just another unusual happening. In its significance it was nothing like any of the resurrections that had previously occurred in history. Other people had been raised from death, but none possessed the significance and power of Jesus’ own. Elijah had raised a widow’s son (1 Kings 17:7ff). Jesus had raised another widow’s son (Luke 17:11ff). Lazarus had been brought to life after four days in the tomb (John 11). But Jesus’ resurrection was not like these. All these people would die again. Theirs may have been indicators of a greater resurrection to come, but Jesus’ resurrection was the real thing.
Just before Jesus’ ascension into heaven the disciples asked Him: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:6). By the time we get to the third chapter Peter is now looking for a restoring of all things. He says of Jesus: “…whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things…” (Acts 3:21).
Actually, the restoration of all things began with Jesus’ resurrection. He became the “firstborn from the dead,” meaning that His resurrection was like none before it. His resurrection was a proof and a pledge of the resurrection to come “when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). What was this but the restoration to the life that had been lost when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Resurrection is the undoing of death, the restoring to wholeness or completeness that every person has lacked because of sin. We begin that resurrection life when by faith in the resurrected Lord we turn away from sin and identify with Him by being buried and resurrected with Him from baptism to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-5).
Jesus’ resurrection was just the beginning of the renewal/restoration process. That process is an ongoing endeavor with a renewed humanity in the form of Christians – those who have been “born again” – undergoing the transformation into “new creatures” or a new creation. That objective will be reached when the Lord comes again and all the dead are raised from their graves. Then, like the Hank Williams song said; “I’ll have a new body, Praise the Lord, I’ll have a new life.” Indeed, it will be a new body but only in the sense that it will be immortal, no longer be subject to death.
We know that in the figure of the “new birth” or in being “born again” we do not literally become entirely new human beings, but our lives are renewed and we begin to view life in an entirely new and different way – the way God intended for us to live from the beginning. In the same way, the renewing or restoring of the creation will take place and creation will again be what God always intended it to be, a place where we can live in a perfect relationship with Him and with our fellow redeemed ones. (Romans 8:18-25; Revelation 21:1-8 ). Lord, hasten the day!