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How Do I Talk to My Friends about Easter?

"Jesus will walk with us through suffering and through death and bring us out on the other end into resurrection life. It’s a message that we often sell short." — Rebecca McLaughlin

How can we talk with unbelievers about the truth of the resurrection in a way that makes sense? We all know it can be difficult—and sometimes intimidating—to talk about, but Jesus’s resurrection from the dead is central to the Christian faith. Join Natalie Abbott and Rebecca McLaughlin as they talk about how they connect with unbelievers when initiating conversations about the resurrection of Jesus, how the resurrection offers us great hope, what Jesus accomplished for us in his death and resurrection, and an important question Jesus asks in the Gospel of John that we should all be asking. The truth of our verse this month makes all the difference, and we know this episode will be an encouragement to you as you prepare to celebrate the reality of Easter and have conversations with others about the true hope offered in Christ!


He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. — Matthew 28:6a


10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (And Answer) About Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin

Dwell Differently Membership

Free Devotional Resources

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Hey friends, it's Natalie, and before we get started with this episode, I just wanted to give some of you a heads up who are like, where is the teaching episode? We always have a teaching episode at the beginning of the month. Well, we've decided to swap our teaching episode in our guest episode because RebeccaMcLaughlin, our guest today, does such a fantastic job of talking to us about the resurrection and how we can really understand it and explain it to our friends, because y'all, Easter is coming. (READ MORE)

Natalie Abbott: Hey
friends, it's Natalie, and before we get started with this episode, I just
wanted to give some of you a heads up who are like, where is the teaching
episode? We always have a teaching episode at the beginning of the month. Well,
we've decided to swap our teaching episode in our guest episode because Rebecca
McLaughlin, our guest today, does such a fantastic job of talking to us about
the resurrection and how we can really understand it and explain it to our
friends, because y'all, Easter is coming.

Natalie Abbott: We want
to give this to you as soon as possible. So this is a great episode for just
considering the resurrection and understanding the resurrection, and
specifically how do we talk to our friends about Easter and the resurrection?
So buckle up and join us. It's such a great conversation, and we're so glad
that you're here.

Natalie Abbott: Well,
welcome back to the Dwell Differently podcast. I'm your host, Natalie Abbott.
The memory verse for our month is, "He is not here. He has risen, just as
he said." It's from Matthew 28:6a, and it just almost chokes me up to
think about this idea that Jesus rose from the dead, just like he said that he

Natalie Abbott: And
so we're gonna be talking about that today with Rebecca McLaughlin, and she is
kind of an expert in terms of. Helping us understand Christianity, how do we
explain it to other people? I just finished reading a book with my daughter
that she wrote called 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask and Answer About

Natalie Abbott: But
Rebecca, I know you have like an adult version. I just haven't read that. So
welcome, welcome to the show. And can you tell us what, what's the title? It's

Rebecca McLaughlin:
yes. 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion

Natalie Abbott: Yes.
I mean, honestly, I'm sure that I could maybe tackle that as an adult, but I
tell you what, just going through the 10 questions that every teen should ask
and answer was just so instrumental.

Natalie Abbott: My [00:02:00] daughter actually ended up giving it to
like her youth group leader and wanted her to read it too. And, I just think it
has, it was really. Helpful in thinking about how we think about what we
believe, and so thank you so much, first off, for writing that book and for
giving us a jumping off point into sort of those deeper questions that maybe we
don't even know we have sometimes, you know, those kind of menacing little in
the back of our mind doubts that we've never really come up with an answer for,
or that, you know, our kids maybe ask us and we're like, um, you should ask
your dad, you know? So I just, I really have appreciated that.

Natalie Abbott: But,
but before we get started talking about Easter and what Easter means and, and
the resurrection of Jesus. I would love to hear a little bit about who you are
so that our guests can know who are you?

Rebecca McLaughlin: I
sent a text to my best friend earlier to say that I feel like so totally
uninteresting today. It's like one of those days where I kind of, you know, so
I was like, I think who I am, I am an adult human female who will one day be
raised from the dead by Jesus.

It's like, that's the basic summary. Beyond that, I, I come
from the UK as discerning listeners may have noticed from my accent. I was born
and raised there and, never actually intended to leave the UK. I, it was very
strange for me to move from a relatively gospel poor country to a relatively
gospel rich country.

I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it's, it's the, the
fault of a guy from Oklahoma who, um, moved to England for grad school and we
met there, um, and he, he dragged me kicking and screaming across the pond. Um,
but I'm, I'm, I'm truly glad to be here now. Um, yeah, I, I, I've been pretty
seriously following Jesus since I was at least nine, I, I don't remember a time
when I wasn't, I, I wouldn't have have identified as a, as a Christian, but I
sort of have pretty vivid memories from when I was about nine. Um, and I was, I
was [00:04:00] sure at that point that Jesus
was the only person I could truly count on the, any person who couldn't be just
here today and gone tomorrow.

And I was also pretty sure at that point that following Jesus.
Meant trying to share the good news with our friends. Like it. It was pretty
clear to me. From the first, there's no such thing actually as a Christian
who's sort of keeping their, their beliefs private. Like our beliefs, our
belief in Jesus should be profoundly personal.

And that it, it changes who we are from our inmost being, but
it, it's not something that can be private. And so from that stage, I was
having conversations with non-Christian friends. I was in mostly kind of quite
academic, um, very secular schooling environments, um, for many years. So most
of my friends were non-Christians who not only was, you know, some were just
apathetic toward Christianity, but many actually had principled reasons for not
being Christ. There were, there were significant moral and intellectual
objections that they had to the Christian faith. So I think I, I kind of, um, I
started having conversations at that stage with people about everything from
the resurrection to, um, Christian views of sexuality to, you know, how can you
say there's any one true God, or all these sorts of questions to questions of

And I've, I've been continuing to have those conversations since,
um, after moving to the US 15 years ago. Worked with an organization where I
was at least a big part of my role was connecting with Christian professors at
leading secular universities and helping them to think about how to speak about
their faith in the university context.

And after nine years of doing that, I felt like I had a, a
bunch of kind of insights and stories from them that I didn't want to keep to
myself. So that's why I started writing books. That was the basis for Confronting
, trying to draw on, on the insights and expertise of those
folks and apply them to some of the big apologetics questions that, that we
face in conversation with our friends.

Natalie Abbott: I [00:06:00] love that it was actually the gospel
poverty of your environment that sort of pressed you into having to answer
those difficult questions. You know, I think sometimes when we grow up in a
Christian bubble, we maybe never have somebody ask us a hard question until we
get to like college, and then we're like, what?

Uh, I should know. I don't know. You know? So I think there is
something really significant about having those answers. Our kids go to public
school and my daughter who had read this book with me, she really has grappled
with a lot of these questions already. But she felt like, man, these are some
really great answers that I didn't have before, to kind of help me frame, have
a framework for why, or a biblical foundation for, you know what it is exactly
that I believe. Like I know, I believe that, but have I really explored why I
believe that? Yeah. And how foundational that should be to our understanding of
the kind of framework of what we believe. So I, I, I think that's interesting.

God uses our experiences of, you know, like you said, gospel
poverty to sort of, develop you into somebody who’s been answering that
question or those questions since you were nine?

Rebecca McLaughlin:
And, and one thing I often say to my kids who, you know, like yours are in
public school, they are 12, 10, and four at this point.

And so my, my girls, the, the 12 and 10 year olds absolutely
are kind of, contending for their faith at school and in situations frequently
where they are positioned as, sort of not just diluted for being a Christian,
but actually kind of morally wrong, right? Yep. And one of the things I say to
them is like, Honestly, it doesn't get any easier.

And I, sorry, guys and I don't think it sh it should, like,
it's, it, um, I. I certainly [00:08:00] wish
that I could just have a comfortable Christian life, and I think probably
there's a piece of all of us that would love, you know, a comfortable life
where we, we don't get hurt, and where we aren't feeling like we're sort of
having to, um, put our heart out there.

And in love, seek to share the gospel and, and, and to take
some of the, criticism that's likely to come our way, as a, as a Christian
today. But as you know, the further I go on, on the Christian life, the more I
think Yeah, no, we really are called to actively love non-believers. So not
just sort of insulate ourselves in a Christian bubble with people who agree
with us, as, you know, as much as much as we can. But, but to push ourselves
outside of that and that it should be a painful process. Actually it's not,
it's a vulnerable, hard process holding together what the Bible says about loving
even our enemies, let alone, you know, those with whom we, we disagree. And at
the same time, standing for the truth to, to hold those two things together.

I think, um, our society is definitely pushing us away from tha
and, and it's something that I think as followers of Jesus, we need to lean.

Natalie Abbott:
Absolutely. Actually, I had a non-Christian friend say to me once that she was
pointing out how my friends were weird, you know, she was like, why are you
friends with such a weird group of people, like a motley crew?

And I don't know what it was that possessed me in the moment.
I, I was just like, I think the love of Jesus compels me to do that. You know,
he's the one who even though I was estranged from him, even though I was
strange and, and even shaking my fist at. He's the one who pursued me, and so I
don't feel like as believers we get the option to sort of wall ourselves off
from others, you know? And like you said, our enemies, people who disagree with
us, like e everybody, like our friend group, our associations should look kind
of strange to the world because I think in the, in the eyes of the world, [00:10:00] you become friends with the people who are
like you because you share interests and, and you, you know, enjoy one
another's company and, and whatnot.

Not that you shouldn't have friends that are like you, of
course you should, but, they shouldn't be your only friends as a believer. You
should be the kind of person who would welcome anybody to that door of your
heart, you know?

Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah.
I love the firsts where Paul says, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed
you, and you think, okay. How, how has, how has Christ welcomed us? Well, like
you say, he's welcomed us when we were sinners, when we were his enemies, when
we, there's nothing desirable about us at all. Yeah. And he, he actively
welcomed us to the point of death. That's the kind of welcome that we need to
be extending to one another within the church and, and then flowing out from
that, to those outside the church.

Natalie Abbott: So
right now, Rebecca, I'm going to switch gears just a little bit. You, what you
do is essentially write and teach on just exactly what we're talking about.
Like how do we engage our non-Christian friends? What is most exciting to you about

Rebecca McLaughlin: Gosh,
so many things.  I think the, the further
I go on in the Christian life and that the more that I. get exposed to other
ideas, the more I try to sort of educate myself on, on various fronts, the more
convinced I am that Jesus, really is the answer. Not just in a sort of Sunday
school, Jesus is always the right, always the answer, but that actually, I, I
think it's really easy for us as Christians and, and often for our non
Christian friends as well, to think that, they're comparing Christianity with
all its crazy beliefs.

Like, you know, the belief that this first century Jewish man
literally physically rose from the dead. So they're comparing that to a
perfectly kind of coherent secular worldview that does all the work that
Christianity does, but without own to believe in crazy things, and, and the
reality that there is no such alternative.

Rebecca McLaughlin:
Like actually it's crazy, the world is crazy, whichever way you look at it and
I'm increasingly convinced that following Jesus is, [00:12:00]
is the least crazy option. Still crazy, but right? But actually the most, the
most compelling, way of looking at the world that makes the most sense of the
world as we see it.

Natalie Abbott: I
kind of came to faith in the opposite way that you did. I got a Bible when I
graduated from high school from my great grandmama, and I was an English major,
so I just started reading it. And at that time I thought, well, if there is a
God, I should, you know, investigate this. So I started kind of investigating
major religions and reading their texts and arguments for and against and

And really like, the thing about the Bible that was so
compelling to me was, How truthful it felt, how the, the heroes of the Bible
are sort of anti-heroes – other than Jesus. And you know, there was something
so wonderful about it and it was crazy, like, yeah, it really did come off as
crazy. But as I'm looking at these other quote unquote crazy ideas about how
everything exists and, and you know why? We believe in purpose and yet there
can't be purpose if we have no souls, if we're just, you know, evolutionary
matter. But as I was kind of weeding through all of those ideas, that's really
what struck me was like, if this is true, This is actually the most beautiful,
radical, completely other way of understanding what everything is all about.

And there was a, there was a a long period of time where I just
kind of held that tension of like, I, I really, really want this to be the true
thing. Like all of the other things kind of fell by the wayside, and yet the
Bible remained the one thing for me that was like, this is different. This is
something new.

And I, I [00:14:00] wanted so,
so badly for it to be true. And it wasn't until I kind of came up against my
inability to, to meet any sort of moral standard. And the, the understanding
that Jesus met that standard that he had to sacrifice his life on my behalf,
that made that all make sense. And in, in a heartbeat, it was like, ugh, this
is the thing. This is it. And if it's true, like I really believe it's true. It
changes everyting.

Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting you mentioned the anti heroes and the Bible. I think
one of the most compelling reasons for taking the Gospels very seriously as
historical documents, is quite how embarrassing they are for the early
Christian leaders.

I mean, really like if you think about it, like think of Peter.
Yeah. If anyone in the early church had the power to influence the message, and
to sort of edit out things that were embarrassing or, you know, weren't, you
know, portraying him in the best light, Peter had that power. Like he was very
central to the early Christian movement, and yet all the gospels record his
most shameful failure.

Like, I wouldn't have done, honestly, I wouldn't have done that
. I'd have been like, you know, the gospel authors, they're all, they're all selecting
down from a, a massive wealth of eyewitness testimony. They could easily have
left out the time when Peter promised that he was like, ready to die with
Jesus, and then denied him even knowing him three times like that, we could
have said, you know what?

There just isn't room for that. Like, like I would, that's
probably the approach I would've taken. And yet Peter and, and the other
apostles as well. They don't come out well from the gospel texts. Only Jesus
comes out, you know, well among, that group. And it's, yeah, it's one of the
reasons I think, you know, when people say, well, the message of the gospels
was probably changed for

I'm like, really? Like if, so they did a very, very poor job.
Like this

Natalie Abbott: is,
who was that editor?

Rebecca McLaughlin:
Yeah. They completely botched it.

Natalie Abbott: Well,
I think, you know, as we talk about this, the, the, the truth, the veracity of,
of the word of God and how it, it sort of hits you either from a sense of, you
know, growing up in the church or you know, how it hits you for the first time.

Like, whoa, this is different. This is crazy. I think about how
people who haven't heard that message or haven't, like if you grew up in the
church, maybe you've never thought about. The resurrection is weird. You know,
like, because you're used to it and it's just a story that you've heard every
year, you know, in April or March, you know, on repeat.

But like if you really think about the resurrection, it's
totally bizarre. So how do we broach that topic with our friends? Say we invite
somebody to Easter with us this, this year. And, they are like, what is this
weirdness? How do we talk about it in a way that makes sense?

Rebecca McLaughlin: I
think we start by acknowledging quite, how weird the resurrection is, as you
mentioned that we are not saying, oh, this is just like a perfectly normal
thing that will neatly fit into the rest of other stuff that you believe, like
no big deal. Right?

You know, it's a sort of little extra spirituality on the side.
Jesus rose from the dead isn't that lovely? That's not an, that's not an option
like truly. Yeah, it's not an option. The, the thing we have in our favor is
the reality that whether we like it or not, and we don't like it, all of us are
going to die.

And that's true for our non-Christian friends, just as it's
true for us. And it's actually one of the strangest things about being alive
because I don't feel like I'm going to die, like the, the, the idea that I am,
in fact, you know, one day it will be my last day on this earth and whether I
die suddenly in a car crash or whether I have a, like, long protracted case of
cancer and I know that I'm gonna die for a long time and a half and slowly in
hospital I'm gonna die.

And, and so all of my non-Christian friends and, and lightly,
depending on how old they are and the kinds of life experiences that they've
had, our friends may or may not be, um, managing to shield themselves from that
reality. Yeah. You know, my guess is those of those of us who are listening who
are older than you and I, Natalie, and may have had like many of their friends
die, they're in a generation, where it'll be increasingly hard for them to put
out of their minds the reality of death. Those in their twenties, thirties, or
even forties, can often actually kind of push the reality of death to the
sidelines of our lives and, and live as if it's not coming.

But as I say, for all of us, I think death is weird. I, I think
from a non-Christian perspective, and especially from a sort of secular
perspective, and you know, most of my friends, at least in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, who are, who are not Christians, you know, some, specifically
religious, you know, Jewish or, or, or Muslim, um, or Hindi, most are actually,
kind of, generally not would say they're non-religious, right? Like
non-practicing. Yeah. And so, so they are having to hold the tension of, on the
one hand, believing that they are a real being and that their lives in some
sense matter, and that the lives of those around them, in some sense, matter.

Rebecca McLaughlin:
And, and even holding some deeply held moral beliefs like, you know, or the
universal equality of all human beings around the world and, and the, the
massive value of every human being, regardless of culture or race or age or or
ability level, they're kind of holding that together with the reality that they
will one day be, you know, essentially compost material and the, the, the crazy
message of the gospel speaks hope into that situation. Now I'm always conscious
of the fact that it's, there are parts of the gospel. It's easier for us to
share and parts that, that it's hard. So it's much easier for us to say, Hey,
Christianity gives you hope beyond death, than is to say, if you do not repent
and believe in Jesus, you are facing God's eternal judgment.

The last thing that I personally want to talk about is hell. So
there's a, there's a sense in which I kind of always have to be in reminding
myself I do need to talk about God's judgment. But I think in, in, in terms of
sort of making a, a, a first connection and helping people to see the, the
relevance of the resurrection to their lives.

I think leaning into the reality of death, that is a shared,
like, whatever we believe about death, we all know that we're going to die.
Like, at least on some level, however much we don't want to think about it, right?
That's something that we and our non-religious friends share. And I think, you
know, asking them, “Hey, hey, what, what do you think about death? How do, how
do you approach death?” Um, and we'll get a range of responses. There'll be,
some people will say, “Well, you know, I, I, I like to think that we'll go to a
better place,” like people who have no actual belief in God will often think
that they're going to a better place or that somebody they love who's died is
like looking down on them. It's utterly irrational. Like if there, if there is
no God, there is no better place. Like we're just, you know, atoms and
molecules and we're, we're, you know, compost at that point. But to maybe start
to, to just sit with them and then, and like ask them about that belief, I
think we as Christians should be.

curious about the beliefs of our friends. Because we want to
understand what they individually believe, not just what you know, Jews in
general believe, but what our particular Jewish friend believes. Not just what
sort of agnostics in general believe, but what our particular agnostic friend

And I think listening to somebody and kind of loving them
enough to, to actually help them think through some of those big questions is
a, is an act of love on our part. And it also kind of creates space for them to
ask us about our beliefs, and, and why we have hope in the face of. Yeah, and,
and I think that there is something un you know, profoundly beautiful about the
Christian message, which is not that we will be spared all suffering and that
we will not die, but that Jesus will walk with us through suffering and through
death and bring us out on the other end into resurrection life. And I think
it's a message that actually often, even as Christians, we sell short because
we talk about, “Oh, well one day my soul will go to be with Jesus in heaven.”

Right. That's not actually what Christians believe. Like we, we
believe like there is a sort of temporary, state of our bodies being dead, but
the, the, actually our hope is in our resurrection when Jesus calls us back to,
to life and gives us a new resurrection body and that we will have a kind of
embodied, everlasting life with him.

That is, that is our hope, and that's a hope into which we can
call our, our non-Christian friends. However crazy it might sound.

Natalie Abbott: I
think that's a really great point of just like understanding their pain point.
Essentially. It's a pain point that we all have as humans, you know, that we
have to grapple with our own mortality at some point in our life.

Yeah, and and I think too, like I feel like there are
opportunities. Sometimes that sort of lend themselves to those kinds of conversations.
 Not just, you know, going to an Easter
service. That may not be the time to talk about it, but there are times when we
experience, you know, tragedy and loss and the world that we live in is just
not an overly friendly place.

And I think when we are praying for those opportunities, when
we're aware that they are always going to come up to the surface and when we're
people that, like you said, are approachable and relatable to our friends when
we, when we show interest in them and when we care for them, then they would
naturally want to talk to us about what they believe or how they're struggling
with these kinds of things.

Rebecca McLaughlin: Funny
story, I, um, I wrote a little short book about, um, Easter called, Is Easter
Unbelievable? and in my original introduction to the book, I was basically
making the point, Hey, non-believer you're gonna die. Like, I'm just sort of
leaning into that. I was like talking about a funeral. I just walked past and
my editor, who, who, who's actually, she's a, a great editor. She was like, can
we have a like little more on the Easter Bunny and a little less on death. I
mean, like, she was slightly kidding, but she was like, um, non-Christians
desperately in my experience, don't want to think about the fact they're going
to die.

So maybe that's not your lead in . And so, you know, I, I don't
think it's that we should start every conversation with, you know, “Hi Sally.
Isn't it interesting we're all going to die?” At the same time, I think that
there are, there are ways in which our, our friends are actually hungry for
conversations that, um, touch on the, the greatest and most painful realities
of human life, and we have something incredible to offer.

Natalie Abbott: Yeah.
We do. What, what strikes me is I, so my husband being a pastor, he knows lots
of other pastors and, you know, we have a lot of Christian acquaintances. It's
shocking to me how many pastors or people who really are devotedly religious
and would call themselves Christians who believe that the resurrection is a
metaphor. Like a helpful way for us to think about death. What would you say to
somebody who would sort of demote the resurrection to this part of, sort of a
fable, you know, kind of what helps us deal as humans with the, the reality of

Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah.
I'd say a couple of things. First, I like literally have a PhD in metaphors, um,
which is funny. It's not the most - my academic background is in English
literature. And so there are many things I talk about that are, are not, you
know, I'm not sort of specifically trained to talk about, God help me, but when
it comes to metaphor, I'm specifically trained. And one of the big confusions
people often have about the Bible in general, and the, and the gospels in
particular is they think that you either, you know, take the Bible literally,
or you don’t. And that if you say, as I would say, there's actually some parts
of the Bible that we aren't meant to take metaphorically and other parts that
we are very specifically not meant to take, metaphorically that you're kind of
picking and choosing. And so you could just pick and choose you know, you
could, uh, make anything that seems really, um, difficult or uncomfortable or,
or kind of hard to believe, like the resurrection you can say, well, that's
probably just a metaphor. Actually, if you read through the gospel text, it's
very clear that there are some things that are intended to be taken as
metaphors. So for example, when Jesus says, I am the true vine, he's not
claiming to be a literal plant. And that there are many, many times in the Scriptures
where God is using metaphors to speak truth to us in ways that draw on our, on
our hearts. But it's very evident, you know, when Jesus says, I'm the good
shepherd. He's not saying he spends a lot of time with furry animals, at the
same time, it's, it's equally clear in the gospels that the resurrection claim
is a, is a literal physical resurrection.

It's not a parable, it's not a metaphor. Um, it's, it's, it's
not a story in the sense of, of a non, non historical. So we are kind of left
like if, if we, if we want to say, well, I think Jesus resurrection was, was
metaphorical, we're going to have a very hard time with the text. So that's
like, you know, first point, um, second point - if Jesus' resurrection is just
metaphorical, then Jesus is not who he claims to be because he very
specifically, and as our, as our verse for today, points to, he very
specifically predicted that he would both die and, and be raised again. His
disciples didn't understand this. They didn't want it like they were, you know,
Peter famously tried to rebuke Jesus when he first right, taught this, and, and
Jesus had some very hard words for Peter at, at that point.

But the, the claim is very clear and very specific, and it
validates everything that Jesus has said up to that point. And it gives us a
hope beyond death that Christianity is honestly dead in the water without. It
also honestly makes no, no logical sense because if there, if there's no God
then miracles like the resurrection or like the virgin birth come to that are
completely, you know, none of us should believe in miracles if there is no God,
right? But if there is a God who made the universe, then actually it's not at
all irrational to think that he could work miraculous things.

The virgin birth or, or Jesus' resurrection. And so we're sort
of in, in odd, logical territory if we want to say yes, there's a God, he made
the world, you know, yes, he sent Jesus as the Savior, but, but we don't, we
don't actually believe that he, he could have done what the Gospels claim and
raised Jesus physically from the dead.

I think we also – this third thing. We undersell the importance
of the physical to us. So, you know, I have three kids and thank God all of
them were born without any, you know, major problems and there was no question
of whether they would live or die at the time of their birth. But if I had been
through the tragedy of giving birth to a baby who died in the process of being
born, and then somebody had said, “Well, it doesn't really, doesn't really
matter whether your baby is like literally alive or dead because you know all
the hopes that you had for that child, you can kind of continue or they can
continue on in your heart.”  I mean, that
would be an incredibly insensitive thing to say to someone who'd physically
lost their baby because we know that actually no embodied life matters
desperately to us, right? And the hope that Christianity offers is a hope of
embodied life.

It is, it is the hope that death is, is not the end, but that
actually there is a life beyond death that is, is far more beautiful and real
and tangible and love-filled and exciting than your and my life is today. And
that actually the very best things that we can experience here and now today
are, are tiny glimpses or like echoes, foreshadows of what we will one day
experience in resurrection life if we put our trust in Jesus.

Natalie Abbott: When
I think about kind of what you're talking about and the, the need that we have,
like, like that our bodies do matter. And that this is a, this is a real hope.
It reminds me of the verse that talks about how if, if Jesus Christ is not raised
from the dead, we are the most pitiable of people.

You know, that, that our hope is, is a lie. Why would you go
about your life, you know, living, taking up your cross as Jesus tells us to
do, and, and living a sacrificial, other centered kind of lifestyle when you
could just go about living for yourself? Because this is all that there is?

Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah.
I mean, as Paul puts it, if Christ is not raised, then our preaching is
useless. And so is your faith. Like the resurrection isn't like an, uh, a nice,
you know, extra add-on to the Christian faith. It's like the central engine
without which Christianity simply doesn't work.

Natalie Abbott: So
what is, what does Jesus accomplish for us in the resurrection? What makes the
resurrection the central idea that we can't, we can't have Christianity without

Rebecca McLaughlin:
Yeah. So I think often people kind of try to drive a wedge between Jesus' death
and his resurrection. As if these are kind of fundamentally separable ideas
and, and some folks would want to prioritize one and not the other. Actually,
you know, some people who would want to kind of talk about resurrection hope, but
really don't want to face up to the reality of, of Jesus's substitutionary
death for us on the cross, you know, taking the punishment for our sin, and
others who would, you know, focus on, on Jesus taking the punishment for us sin
on the cross but the resurrection becomes a kind of afterthought. You know, I
think one of the things that actually makes, Jesus' death and resurrection and their
vital importance for us makes sense, in a, in a way that, that we sometimes
sort of struggled to get our heads around is what theologians call our, our,
our union with Christ, like the doctrine of our, of our union with Christ.

If we put our trust in. then we are joined to Jesus more, intimately
than a husband, a wife, a joint in marriage, more intimately even than the,
than a head and a body joined together. What is true about Jesus becomes true
about us because we are kind of in, you know, we we're not just kind of, we are
like included in Jesus.

And it's that union with Christ, which makes sense of Jesus's
death in our place. Cuz people sometimes legitimately wonder, “Well, you know,
how is it fair of God to take this innocent bystander, Jesus. And hold him in
to pay the price for your own, my sin?” Like how is it fair to punish this guy
over there for, for our sins over here, but, but if you and I put our trust in
Jesus, we stop being kind of totally separable entities like that guy over
there, me over here, we actually become united to where Jesus can take on my
sin and I can benefit from his death and my place. And likewise in the
resurrection because Jesus not only died for me, but also was raised to life,
that my resurrection life is also guaranteed in him. So that there's a sense in
which, a powerful sense in which my future is guaranteed by Jesus'

And there's also a vital importance to the resurrection in the
sense that I, if Jesus is who he claims to be, then he is the rightful king of
all the universe. And the rightful king of all the universe must be alive, like
actually, the resurrection, not only proves that Jesus is the, is the son of
God as he claimed to be, but it it's also how he, he showed that he, he
conquered sin and death and that he now is meaningfully reigning today and
ready to reign in all his glory when he comes.

So, um, it, it's not that Jesus took on human flesh at the
incarnation and then kind of lived as a human for a while and then died and
kind of went back to, to being God, but not also being Man. No, Jesus' humanity
continues to this day and will continue into, into eternity, and it is as, as a
resurrected man.

He sits in heaven today and will one day rule the heavens and
the earth in all his glory.

Natalie Abbott: Isn't
that just like the most wondrous idea though, that he is still physically
human? That he, you know, condescended, he humbled himself to the point of, you
know, him, the creator becoming, you know, one of the things that he inhabiting
a body that is what he created?

Like how could he have possibly thought of us and said, you
know what? I love them so much that I will take on their form that I will not
only take it on, but I will endure the shame of their sin and their rebellion
against me, and then I will take that form back up eternally. It's just mind
boggling that God would do that.

The minute that that concept kind of strikes you, it's like you
can't go back .

Rebecca McLaughlin:
Yeah. Yeah. You know? Yeah. And you mentioned earlier you are kind of worried
that your kids might grow up feeling like the resurrection is normal and
mundane, cuz we're sort of so familiar with the idea. I think likewise it's,
it's hard for us today to get our heads around quite how extraordinary the
claim that a guy he was crucified is in fact the rightful ruler of the world
would've sounded to first century is. And there's a British historian named Tom
Holland who, um, wrote a, a massive book called Dominion, How the Christian
Revolution Remade the World
. Um, and he identified as agnostic and would
not have considered himself a Christian at all when he started researching this
book, sort of history of Christianity in the West over the last 2000 years.

In the process of writing the book, he discovered a number of
things, including the fact that many of his deepest moral beliefs are actually
Christian beliefs and not kind of basic moral common sense. But one of the
points he makes is that whereas for the Greeks and the Romans, The idea of a
human being also being divine was not completely alien like it was, it, it
wasn't unheard of for Greek and Roman gods to impregnate human women and for
like, demigods to arise. And it wasn't unheard of for the most impressive,
glorious humans like, you know, amazing emperors to then be recognized as gods,
right? Um, for Jews, all of that was completely out. But like from a Greek and
Roman perspective, that all made sense.

The thing that would've been utterly shocking and bizarre and
absurd from a Greek and Roman perspective was the idea that that Jesus, who
wasn't a, a ruler or a general or an emperor, like he, he wasn't a kind of
massive human success story, but in fact, someone who died the most shameful
imaginable death, like a death typically reserved for slaves, the claim that
that guy was the rightful king of the all the universe would utterly at like
crazy from a, a first century Greek and Roman perspective. And I think it's
hard for us to really kind of wrap our minds around it. Cuz again, we are used
to the idea, oh yeah. Ideas died on the cross and then it was rose, the son of
God. Like that's wild that the son of God died on a cross like that voluntarily
and then was raised from the dead.

Rebecca McLaughlin:
Like it's the whole thing. is completely wild. And at the same time, if it is
not true, my life is pointless. And so is yours.

Natalie Abbott: Well,
I think, um, I've got one more thing for you, Rebecca. As we, you know, as
we've talked about this idea of the resurrection being so central to what we
believe. I think so often when we talk about what we believe, What makes it
most compelling is that we, it's, it's affected us.

You know, that the resurrection isn't just the most magnificent
thing that's ever happened, but it's the most magnificent thing that ever
happened to me. And when you think about your own testimony, like what does the
resurrection mean to you personally? How does it apply to you?

Rebecca McLaughlin:
One of my absolute favorite chapters in the Bible is John 11, when Jesus is, is
called by his friends, Mary and Martha because their brother Lazarus is, is
very sick and I love that chapter.

The sort of headline use of the chapter is Jesus Raises Lazarus
from the Dead, but actually the story along the way teaches us so much. And it
is a story that I personally go to in moments when I feel like the world is
kind of spinning around me, or the, the ground is falling out from under my

Rebecca McLaughlin:
Because there's this moment in that story when Jesus meets with Martha after
her brother Lazarus is dead. In fact, after Jesus has deliberately waited and
let Lazarus die, and he comes to Martha and she says to him, Lord, if you had
been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever
you ask God, he will give you, you know, she's got this incredible faith like
a, a brother's dead and buried and she still thinks that Jesus can heal him.

And Jesus says, you know, your brother will rise again. Um, and
she thinks that he is referring to the, the common Jewish belief at the time
that, that God one day would raise his faithful people from the dead. So she
says, you know, I, I know he'll rise again at the resurrection on the last day,
but you can almost kind of hear the disappointment in her, her voice at that
point, because she didn't call Jesus in the first place because um, you know,
she was hoping that Lazarus would be raised on the last day she was called
Jesus so Lazarus to be healed now. And then Jesus looks into her eyes and he
says, I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me, even
though he dies, will live and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this? It is one of the famous I am statements in John's gospel
whereby Jesus sort of channels the name of the covenant, God of the Old
Testament, and, and, and applies it to himself.

And it's this, this claim has echoed to us down the last 2000
years, but in its in original setting it was spoken to one grieving woman and,
and Jesus's sort of punchline for it is, do you believe this? Yeah. It's not
just kind of spoken into the ether of people in general. It's spoken to her in
particular and at times in my life when I am having to reckon with like, do I
believe that Jesus is the resurrected son of God?

Do I believe that he is the resurrection and the life? Because
if I do, that changes my decision now, in this moment. If I don't, there is no
hope in my life anyway. And so I think for me, the starkness of that choice,
which I feel especially at times, as I say, when I'm kind of pushed into
trusting Jesus in a particular way, and I hope I'm trusting Jesus one way and
another on a daily basis.

But you know, those times in our lives where, right, where we
kind of feel the edges. We feel the, um, the, the pain points of, of Christian
faith. And I imagine standing before Jesus and him saying those words to me, I
am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me, even though who
dies, will live and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

Do you believe this? That frames whatever I am experiencing in
that moment and reminds me that whatever happens to me here and now is
ultimately going to be irrelevant in the face of Jesus' resurrection life,
which he has promised to me.

Natalie Abbott: That
is such a good answer. I mean, I, I can't even, I can't even speak to, to that.
It's just such a, a great way of, of thinking about the power and the necessity
and the personal, uh, need that we have for that resurrection life to be true, and
I, I love, I love the book of John. It's my favorite if you're allowed to have
favorites, because all throughout John, that's what he's asking, you know, over
and over is, do you believe, you know, that word is, it comes up like 90
sometimes in the Book of John, that the reason I tell you this is so that you
will believe it. And so that's really the question that we're asking for our
listeners today. That's the question that every human has to grapple with - what
do you believe? and Jesus says, I'm the resurrection. I'm the life. I will give
life to you if you believe in me, even though you die. Do you believe this? And
I just would say as we, as we personally grapple with Jesus' resurrection
story, if we're struggling, if we're going through something difficult, , or
even if we're not, if we're, you know, if we're in a really great place and
we're like, oh, you know, I don't really need that right now. Things are going
pretty good, you know, there is a, there is a space that we should all be
creating regularly where we are thinking about. Whether or not this really
matters? Are we living like this really matters? Do we believe? Um, and it's a space
that I think we can invite our friends into in a way that is, is the answer.

Like, Jesus really is, like you said, he's the Sunday school
answer, but he's really the answer. And when we believe that, when we grapple
with that, that's when we can talk about how that affects us, because
otherwise, what are we even talking like, it's, it's not really a, a true core
thing that drives us, that affects us, that matters to us in our everyday and
in our, you know, deepest, hardest things too.

Which sometimes I think are even more of a testimony of, of
God. Care and his, his love for us. But I'm so glad you shared that story.
That's, that is such a foundational place for us to go. And, and I would say to
our listeners, go read John 11. You know, read, read the, the chapters
surrounding that too.

Read the whole book of John, but definitely go, as you're
thinking about Easter and as you're preparing your heart, um, to get to that
place where it can be truly worshipful on Easter. reach on 11. Consider,
consider those words that Jesus gives us in that, in that passage. Well,
Rebecca, I could keep talking, but we have to go

This has just been really lovely and I so appreciate your
wisdom and your knowledge, and we just really appreciate you sharing that with
us today. And for those of you who are interested, uh, Rebecca has books that
you can read, uh, and we'll. Give you all the links so that you can follow up
with her.

I would encourage any of you who are parents to read that book,
10 Questions Every Teen should Ask (And Answer) About Christianity because
I, I just really enjoyed that so much and, and appreciate so much you coming on
with us today.

Rebecca McLaughlin:
Thanks, Natalie.

Dwell Blog/Podcast Featured Content

Rebecca McLaughlin

Rebecca McLaughlin holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature from Cambridge University and a theology degree from Oak Hill College in London. She is the author of Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion (2019), which was named book of the year by Christianity Today, and of 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about Christianity (2021), The Secular Creed: Engaging 5 Contemporary Claims (2021), and Is Christmas Unbelievable? Four Questions Everyone Should Ask About the World's Most Famous Story (2021). She lives in Cambridge Massachusetts with her husband, Bryan, and their three children.

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