Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter 2

Believing in Seeing

Enough! Thomas had had enough of this secrecy! James and John had met with Jesus - in secret - asking to be seated at His left and his right. Such arrogance! The Council had met - in secret - to obtain an arrest and a conviction. They had met - in secret - with Pilate to secure the tomb. And now, after all this, His so-called “friends” had come up with this fabricated story - of Jesus magically appearing before them. So, enough with this secrecy! “I don’t buy it!  Unless I see with my eyes the marks of His wounds and place my finger in his hands and my hands at His side I will not believe it!”  

1. Like Thomas, we do not have the luxury an eyewitness experience of the risen Christ.
 A. Thomas was not present. Possibly, he was distracted involving his time in some other activity so he wouldn’t have to concentrate on the present reality – an empty tome and no physical body. Possibly, he had given up and checked out. Why remain with the other disciples? Jesus was dead. What more could be said? As far as Thomas was concerned, Jesus wasn’t coming back
B.  The disciples were in similar circumstances – they too had hesitated to believe the report of the women of Jesus’ resurrection. They had abandoned Jesus in the garden when He needed them the most. They had seen Him die. On that first Easter night, where do we find them? Hold up in a locked room in fear of the authorities!  Not a ringing endorsement for a confident faith. So why the change? And why now?

C. So where do you stand on this issue? The resurrection happened some 2,000 years ago. We do not have the experience of seeing Jesus with our own eyes. Can you have faith without witnessing Jesus Christ alive from the dead?

Transition: Like Thomas, we have not personally witnessed Jesus Christ alive from the dead. The Easter proclamation is powerful beyond comprehension.  

2. The message of the Resurrection is incomprehensible.

A.  Dead men do NOT come back to life again. And while we at it - virgins don’t catch the “pregers” either! Thomas had been there. He personally witnessed the crown of thorns, the nails, the spear. He knew Jesus was dead.  He had witnessed Jesus’ burial. He knew of the safeguards the Elders had arranged with Pilate; a tomb sealed and the guard posted.

B.  If Jesus were alive, He would have to appear before him just as He had to the rest of the disciples. Thomas didn’t need a counterfeit Christ. He would have to witness the marks of Jesus’ Passion.  These scars and visible marks on Jesus’ body would let him know that the same Jesus who had died by crucifixion was in fact alive. A counterfeit Jesus would not do. It wouldn’t work for Thomas and a counterfeit Christ will do you no good. For you are a sinner! And you need a real Savior to confront your sins and deal with them. A dead Christ cannot save you! If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still imprisoned by your sins.[1]

C.  What convincing proof does this world need to believe in the resurrection. The claim is true today, 2,000 years later – dead men do not rise. And virgins don’t get pregnant. Americans by law recognize Christmas and Easter as a legal holiday. Yet many these days treat Christianity with mockery and disdain.   Many consider as only fable and myth the two chief Christian holidays - based on a virgin birth and a visible resurrection – no more real in the minds of modern man than a compassionate elf and a benevolent rabbit who lays eggs purporting himself as a chicken. We trust in the same testimony of those eyewitnesses. John in his first epistle would    later write, What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have  seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life-- 1 John 1:1

Transition: Thomas’ life was literally changed once he became an eyewitness of Jesus bodily raised from the dead.

3. Seeing is believing.

A.  Upon witnessing Jesus’ appearance Thomas changed from a skeptic to a believer. These visible scars now become the marks of faith. All speculation of what might have happened is now gone. Thomas too became an eyewitness of Jesus’ resurrection. He is now a true apostle. Thomas does us a favor. To believe in Christ simply means that the same Christ, which died must also be raised. Thomas cannot believe in a fantasy. He witnessed the nails and the spear. If Jesus is really raised, he must witness and behold the marks or he will not believe.

B. We have the testimony of these eyewitnesses.  The testimony of Scripture is undeniable. Jesus openly taught of His own resurrection. The prophecies of the Old Testament speak frequently of the Messiah being raise to life on the third day. The testimony of these eyewitnesses remained consistent. Starting in Jerusalem - the very city where Jesus was executed - spreading throughout the world the message would not change. The 1st Century believers had only one message - “we are witnesses of these events”.

For twenty-five years, I’ve had the privilege of serving you. We’ve grown, enjoyed each other’s company. You’ve given us the privilege of raising our children at one place. That’s rare, and a privilege. We’ve laughed and cried together. Moreover, you’ve always been kind to us. But it’s never been about me and it’s never been about you! It’s always about Christ, and Him crucified and raised from the tomb. These words of the Savior, His words to Thomas are meant for you this day. “Blessed are those who believe even though they have not seen! Lord, grant us such a faith as this!  

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