I want you to notice something— a piece of the Gospel story you may have missed. Once you see it, you’ll never miss it again, though. I promise.
Let’s talk about Jesus after the Resurrection…
Mary Magdalene, who loved Jesus dearly as He had rescued her from a previous life in which seven demons tormented her, saw Him at the tomb early on the first Resurrection Sunday. As she wept in the garden upon discovering that the tomb was vacant, she noticed a man whom she thought was the gardener. She asked him to tell her where the soldiers who had been on guard took Jesus— if he knew (John 20:13-15).
You know that story and where it ends. The “gardener” is Jesus!
But, it’s only after He called her by name, “Mary,” that she recognized Him.
How did this happen?
How did a trusted friend not recognize Him just a few days later?
I think His appearance after the Resurrection was different— infinitely better— than His appearance even before He was bruised. (Of course, that appearance was better than what He looked like before clothed in all of those wounds.)
This wasn’t an isolated instance, though. Two disciples walked the road to Emmaus when Jesus began hiking stride for stride with them (see Luke 24:13f.). It was a few days after the Resurrection. They didn’t recognize Him either, even though He taught them from the Scripture about Himself the entire 7-mile journey.
“We thought He was the one who would redeem us,” they said.
Jesus explained the teachings of Moses and the messages of the prophets to the two disciples. Throughout this entire time, they still didn’t make the connection that the Redeemer— their Redeemer— was walking with them.
The story gets even more interesting. Jesus departed (He “vanished”) after the eyes of the two disciples were opened to see who He really was (Luke 24:32). The two of them immediately returned to Jerusalem, located the disciples (which infers these two must have been “insiders,” as the eleven were at that time hiding for fear of their lives), and exclaimed to the eleven that Jesus was alive. They detailed how they recognized Him only after He broke the bread, just as He did at the Passover meal the night before His betrayal (see Luke 24:35, 22:19).
As they spoke, Jesus appeared to all of them again:
Yet even then His disciples didn't recognize Him. They were afraid and presumed He was a ghost, despite just hearing the previous story (Luke 24:38).
Lest you think that resolved the issue, the disciples missed it a second time. A few days later, seven of them went to fish, apparently catching nothing all night (see John 21:1f.). At some point, early in the morning, a man called to them from shore.
He shouted, “Do you have any fish?”
They confirmed they didn’t, so the stranger told them to toss the nets on the other side of the boat. They obliged and caught so many fish that they couldn’t haul the net into the boat. At this point, John recognized the man as Jesus! Apparently, they had been close enough to hear His instructions, yet they still couldn’t see who He was. It took Him performing a similar miracle to the one they experienced when He first called them to help them clue in (see Luke 5:1-8).
Do you see what happened?
Jesus looked different before carrying the weight of sin, while carrying our guilt and shame, and after being free from it…
Because once the wounds of sin are dealt with, once you encounter redemption, you're identity isn’t only restored, you actually find yourself in a better place than you ever were before.
(A few pages ago we saw this reality in Peter’s life— he looked radically different pre-Resurrection and post-Resurrection. We will, too!)
Since we’ve been “included” in all of Christ, like we discussed in the previous chapter, we’ve also been included in this Resurrection too. That means our lives before awakening to our Resurrection will look different than our lives after. And, although we often relegate this fact to simply moral behavior (i.e., we sinned a lot before our profession of faith, we don’t sin as much afterwards), we’ve got to remember that Jesus knew no sin before His Resurrection. Yet, even at that, no one recognized Him. In other words, the change had less to do with sin and more to do with the supernatural overflow of the Resurrection itself.
We’re also included in His Ascension. Moreover, we shouldn’t just understand the Ascension as a geographic move by Jesus from Earth to Heaven. Rather than a simple change of location, the Ascension is a qualitative change— a transition that makes new things possible, opening new possibilities that were once merely impossibilities. For instance—
Let’s build on that last idea, that we can now live the presence of the Kingdom in a way that others— even the disciples who walked & talked with Jesus daily— couldn’t do. After all, Peter— the very man we referenced when discussing how Jesus reveals to us who we really are— writes that the prophets and writers of old were all aware that they weren’t merely serving themselves, they were experiencing something that would only reach its fullness in us (see 1 Peter 1:12).
To move forward, we’ve got to dig again. You see, buried in the New Testament we find an interesting title given to Jesus. Actually, we find two of them that correspond to each other. They’re so closely related that they’re virtually inseparable. Yet, as important as they are, I bet you’ve never heard a sermon on either one:
Yeah, those are confusing titles aren’t they?
Let’s take a closer look.
We find them both in 1 Corinthians 15:45-47 (AMP, emphasis mine):
Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being (an individual personality); the Last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit [restoring the dead to life]. But it is not the spiritual life which came first, but the physical and then the spiritual. The first man [was] from out of earth, made of dust (earthly-minded); the Second Man [is] the Lord from out of heaven.
Notice what Paul writes here.
First, Adam was the “first man.” Everyone, everywhere on the planet knows that. He’s the first guy that ever walked on this planet. No argument about him being the first man, so let’s move on.
Second, Jesus was the “Last Adam.” I made it bold in the passage above so it stands out, so you can find it quickly.
What does Paul mean by this?
Well, he’s telling us that Jesus ended something that Adam began.
Most people believe that we all descended from Adam. The truth is that we did…
… and we didn’t.
Somehow in the great scheme of it all, we can theoretically trace our lineage back to him. Given enough time and help from ancestry.com or some intensive archaeological work, we can map our family trees all root right back down to him. Physically, that is.
But Paul tells us there’s another kind of life— a spiritual one. The physical one came first, and then the spiritual one emerged (15:46). Jesus has given us a new spiritual DNA. And, as you might suspect, He’s done this because we’re included in Him like we discussed in the previous chapter.
What does that mean for us today?
Well, theologians (guys and gals with lots of advanced degrees who sit around and study the Bible for a living) talk a lot about “original sin.” They write about the “fallenness of mankind.” They pen huge books about how “bad” people are and how there’s little hope for them. (OK, not all Bible scholars do this, but— no doubt— you’ve probably heard this line of reasoning before enough to know that I’m on to something, right?)
But Jesus didn’t have a “sin nature.” He didn’t have the propensity to do wrong that Bible thumpers often say is inherent inside of mankind. As the “Last Adam,” Jesus walked this planet as the final man born in that spiritual line.
Third, we see that at the same time He lived as the Last Adam, He began something new. He became the “Second Man” (v47). Jesus literally launched a new race of humanity— one unchained to sin yet bound to freedom!
Yes, you’re related to Adam… physically. You have his physical nature. You didn’t descend from an ape (or even an amoeba), you descended from Adam.
Spiritually, though, you stand in the lineage of Jesus. You have His spiritual nature. The “us” that was born in the image of Adam was crucified, died, and was buried. We arose— re-made in the image of Christ.
You see, the first Adam started a tidal wave of sin. The Last Adam stopped it dead in its tracks, stripping it of power.
Romans 5:12,15,19 says it like this (AMP, emphasis added):
Sin came into the world through one man, and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men sinned…
But God’s free gift is not at all to be compared to the trespass [His grace is out of all proportion to the fall of man]. For if many died through one man’s falling away (his lapse, his offense), much more profusely did God’s grace and the free gift [that comes] through the undeserved favor of the one Man Jesus Christ abound and overflow to and for [the benefit of] many.
For just as by one man’s disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness, and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one Man’s obedience the many will be constituted righteous (made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him).
I created the following chart to help you see how this works:
The Bible tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
If you grew up in Church like I did, you’ve probably read that verse a few dozen times. So, I want to slow down, rewind it, and then clarify what it means to be “new” in the way that the Bible says we’re new. This one’s going to blow your mind, by the way. Often, when we think of something that is new, we envision a “better and cleaner version of the old.”
Before I go there, let’s be honest. Being “new” like that (i.e., clean slate, sins forgiven, etc.) would be a great Gospel— the idea that we get to start over, that the things we’ve done… well… we get a pass on them, that it’s as if those bad deeds we did and the good deeds that went undone never existed…
However, the Gospel is better than that. Way better. The word Gospel literally means, “to-good-too-be-true-but-still-true-news!”
Read the verse again (2 Corinthians 5:17, emphasis added):
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The word Paul used when he penned this verse of Scripture doesn’t mean “new” in the sense that we often use the word— it means “completely different.”
There are two Greek words used in the New Testament for the word new: neos and kainos.
Neos is how we most often use the word “new.” Neos means “new with respect to time.” It is new of “the same kind and quality” as the original.
Here are two examples.
With young kids in my house, we bump into this one just about every single month…
One kid says, “My favorite pair of shoes wore out, so I need to go to the store and get a new, neos pair.”
No, they don’t speak in Greek like Paul, but you get the idea— you know what they’re asking for. They want a replacement for the pair of shoes they scuffed up. This happens more often from “wear and tear” than from out-growing the shoes in my house!
Here’s the next example…
“I was crawling in the backyard in my brand new school clothes, I got a tear in them, so now I need a new pair that’s not shredded. I need a neos pair of jeans.”
My kids don’t speak in compound sentences and, again, they don’t drop Greek words in their statements… and, I usually have to pry this stuff out of them, less they get scolded for ripping, shredding or tearing yet another _______________ [fill in the blank of the latest garment to be destroyed], but you get the idea… When we replace an article of clothing we generally purchase something that closely approximates what we originally had. Something identical to the old pair— except they are neos.
But “just getting cleaned-up” isn’t the Gospel. Jesus doesn’t just cleanse us; rather, He includes us in everything He’s experienced. The old dies; something totally different and unrecognizable emerges. So, Paul uses a second word for new when he writes that we’re “new.” He uses the word kainos, a word which means “new as to form or quality, is a different nature from what is contrasted as old.”
The kainos kind of new is superior to the previous product. It’s both different and of a better quality.
You might think of the difference like this:
Sure, my example is a little far-fetched, perhaps, but that’s exactly point. The Bible does not say we are neos (i.e., “You have a clean slate”), as profound of a message as that would be. The Bible goes farther and says that we are kainos.
Again, Paul declares, “If anyone is in Christ... the old has gone... the kainos has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Read yourself into the verse like kainos is defined— as completely different, as far superior, and as totally unlike the previous.
You recognize a new (neos) pair of shoes as compared to the old ones, right?
But you don’t recognize a new (kainos) person when they’ve been resurrected— even if they never sinned before their resurrection, even if you knew them intimately just a few days earlier…
(In fact, we often second-guess and insist on visible proof— “fruit”— for what the Bible declares as true, placing a burden on people that the Scripture never does!)
It’s time to bring back the graphic from chapter 1 and add more to it. The Bible tells us that the fullness of God occupied Jesus: “For in Him the fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9 ESV). We’d expect this— because Jesus reveals exactly what the Father is like.
Paul, the one who writes this, continues the same sentence by declaring “… and you have been filled in Him” (Colossians 2:10). He says this not once, but multiple times. He reminds us that the fullness of Christ actually fills us.
In fact, a few sentences earlier he says that this was a mystery that had been hidden throughout the ages of history, something no one expected (Colossians 1:27). Yet, now we enjoy this reality.
For virtually every day one summer I wore my day-camp shirt when I was a kid. It was from a church camp. Yellow with green words. And a green outline of a butterfly.
The shirt displayed the 2 Corinthians verse we just discussed on it, written in small print, on the front. The words NEW CREATION were highlighted to stand out, somehow signifying something about the butterfly.
Think about where butterflies come from— because this illustrates the point perfectly. A weary caterpillar makes its way to a branch, creates a cocoon, and hibernates. In time, although it seems that nothing has happened, the insect struggles and pushes its way through the hiding place…
A completely different creature emerges— something so incredibly better and qualitatively different that there’s no recognition between what existed before and what exists now. In fact, the discrepancy between the old and the new is so radically different that no part of the first would make you possibly think it could become the second.
One of the guys in a 12-step small group I attended last year told me this: “Somewhere I read that a caterpillar doesn’t just go into a cocoon and grow wings. Instead, everything about that caterpillar dissolves… into nothing. It goes away. It’s just goo that’s left. Then, miraculously, once it’s nothing, the Lord starts rebuilding it into the butterfly.”
“It’s almost like the caterpillar has to lose it’s life— or what it thought was its life— in order to find it,” I said, recalling Jesus’ words from Matthew 10:39.
That is the Gospel. This is the life you’ve been given. It’s a totally new life, a resurrected life, an unrecognizable life which is void of any semblance from the past.
Yes, we’ve exchanged our old life for the life of Christ. We haven’t just traded the current version of ourselves for a clean version.
Why does it matter?
Well, if we have the spiritual make-up of Jesus, that means we’re incredibly well-equipped to live His presence in the world, living in the very way He lived. Next time we’ll take the conversation further.
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