Friday Five: Steve Mathewson
I’m thrilled to welcome my good friend, Steve Mathewson to the blog today. Steve is a fellow pastor in the Chicago area and also is a adjunct professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where I’m studying for my Mdiv. Steve pastors Crosslife Evangelical Free Church in Libertyville, IL Steve received a Master of Arts Degree in Old Testament in 1986 from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Ore. and a Doctor of Ministry in 2000 from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. He and his wife, Priscilla, have four children.
Steve is also an author. I wanted to talk to him about his latest book, one that I’m very, very excited about, Risen, 50 Reasons Why the Resurrection Changed Everything. It’s good reading for Christians as they prepare their hearts for Easter.
What motivated you to write this book on the Resurrection?
Three years ago, I had challenged the church I pastor to read through John Piper’s Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die in the fifty days prior to Easter Sunday. On Good Friday morning, as I was nearing the end of Piper’s book, the thought struck me that we needed a similar book for the resurrection. I had been doing some reading on the resurrection and had been studying Romans 8. So I set aside my preparation for the meditation I was to deliver at our Good Friday service and spent a few hours compiling an initial list of “50 reasons why Jesus was raised from death.” I was so moved and in awe of what God had done for his people through Christ’s resurrection that I started writing! I figured I could use this with our church family. But God in his grace has allowed it to be published and available to churches and believers around North America.
You seem more motivated in this book to talk of the theological significance of the Resurrection rather than defending it’s truth claims. Why this approach?
You’re absolutely right, Daniel! This approach has grown out of my conviction that we spend so much time defending the validity of the resurrection that we have little time or energy left to focus on how it has changed everything. We spend a lot more time, it seems, talking about the significance of the cross. This stands to reason because few people dispute that a Jewish man named Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. We rarely have to defend the validity of Jesus’ death. The dispute, of course, is over the meaning and significance of the cross. But the idea of Jesus being raised bodily from death is so controversial! So, when we discuss or preach the resurrection, we usually focus on an apologetic defense of it. This is entirely appropriate, but we cannot afford to lose touch with the theological significance of this element of the gospel.
It seems the Resurrection often gets short shrift in our gospel proclamation? Seems like we emphasize the cross and atonement and “Oh yeah he rose again.” Why is this so harmful?
It’s harmful, I believe, because the gospel consists of two main elements: the death of Christ and his resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 makes this clear. Both elements happened according to the Scriptures and were verified by history–the cross by Jesus’ burial and the resurrection by the witnesses to his post-resurrection appearances. If we underemphasize the resurrection, we lost sight of many blessings of the gospel, including the resurrection-like power we have available to us (see Ephesians 1:18-20). In Philippians 3:10-11, the Apostle Paul says that he wants to know both the power of Christ’s resurrection and participation in his sufferings. If we focus on the latter but ignore the former, we run the risk of becoming gloomy, negative, and joyless.
I wonder if Christians understand all the wonderful ramifications of the Resurrection, especially with renewal and the Kingdom?
I’m not sure that we do! In my experience, we tend to forget that the resurrection of Jesus guarantees our future bodily resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14) and that these bodies will be heavenly, imperishable bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-48). That’s simply amazing! Furthermore, we do not make the connection that Christ’s resurrection has set in motion a series of events that will culminate in creation being set free from its bondage to decay (see Romans 8:21-22). I wonder if we realize how the resurrection makes it possible for Jesus to be our good shepherd forever (see Hebrews 13:20)? I confess that while I’ve studied and preached Acts 17:16-34 several times over the years, I had not really realized how the resurrection is proof of God’s commitment to justice. I could go on, but I think you get the idea!
What is one thing you’d like readers to take away from this book?
Wow, it’s hard to narrow it down to one thing! I suppose, though, that I want readers to take away the New Testament’s emphasis on the present blessings of the resurrection as well as the futureones. In addition to guaranteeing our future resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything about our current lives. For example, Colossians 3:1-4 makes it clear that the reality of our future resurrection has been pulled back into the present and has reoriented our desires. It makes us fruitful (Romans 7:4) and delivers us from a life of self-indulgence (1 Corinthians 15:32. In short, what I want reads to take away is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed everything–now and forever!