The church calendar marks fifty days for the celebration of Easter, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. During this Easter season, I’m writing a series of notes on the account of the resurrection in John’s Gospel. In my first note, I highlighted John’s use of new creation imagery. In this second note, I want to consider what his account of the resurrection says about our identity. John not only wants us to see the resurrection of Christ as the inauguration of the new creation, he also wants us to the resurrection as the declaration of our new identity in Christ. We see the world around in the light of Jesus’s resurrection, but we also see ourselves in the light of Jesus’s resurrection.
The Apostle Paul teaches us that the resurrection of Christ is the first-fruits of the future resurrection (1 Cor 15:20; Rom 8:11). Just as Christ was raised in glory on the third day, so we will be raised in glory on the last day. The Apostle John has the same hope: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We long for that day, when we will see him as he is and we shall be like him. We wait for that day, but notice what John says about today: “beloved, we are God’s children now.”
How can he make such a declaration? Is he speaking about humanity in general? Is this just a truism that all people are God’s children? No, he declares this because of what the risen Jesus said to Mary Magdalene in the garden outside the empty tomb: “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17). Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly speaks of his Father. Everything he says and does is directed by “my Father” and his own identity is defined by his unique relationship with “my Father.” At the last supper, Jesus spoke about his love for his Father and his Father’s love for him. No wonder Thomas cried out: “Show us the Father!” (John 14:8). At the end of the meal, Jesus prayed to his Father on behalf of his disciples: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
Jesus’s words to Mary in the garden reveal the glorious scope and depth of our redemption in Christ. Thomas dared to ask, “Show us the Father!” Jesus’s answer is abundantly far more than Thomas could ask or imagine: I will not simply show you the Father, I will take you to my Father and your Father. Through the death and resurrection of Christ we are not only delivered from our sin and condemnation and from God’s wrath, we’re adopted and received as dearly loved children of our heavenly Father. This is why John would later write to believers in Asia Minor and assure them: “Behold 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). Yes, and so we are: “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’”(John 20:17). When Jesus appeared to his brothers later that evening, on the first day of the week, “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). This is the Spirit of Adoption, by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” In this Easter season, we remember who we are: brothers and sisters in Christ and dearly loved children of our heavenly Father and “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16).