Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Easter 2 - Mid-week

Reject not until you have examined the evidence! Such is the message of the church as we find ourselves living in a post-modern world. Numerous people have crowed into theaters during Lent to experience Mel Gibson’s portrayal of The Passion of the Christ.
Most would agree the depiction of Christ’s suffering in the film was realistic and believable. But then, the question, “that part concerning the resurrection – what’s up with that?”
We are living in an ever-increasing world filled with skeptics. They sincerely want to believe in the resurrection but are reserving their final opinion until more evidence becomes available. They need or want convincing proof – before they will commit themselves completely to the message of Easter.
We believers today are in desperate need to follow in the footsteps of Thomas, proclaiming the message of the bloody cross and the empty tomb as it happened in time and space. This request for proof should not bother us in the least.
As the evidence for the resurrection is so compelling that only one conclusion is possible we must insist that the evidence be examined.
Thomas makes an amazing statement. Christian truth dare never be based on the faith of any believer, the church, or Peter, or even the teachings and traditions of the church. According to Thomas, he must have the same experience as the other disciples.
Peter and John did not run to the tomb as believers. They did not believe the early reports of the women. Neither did the Emmaus disciples believe the message! They knew of the report of the resurrection and told Jesus as they walked along the road that the women had seen a vision of angels. Within the first hours of Easter no one really believed the resurrection message! They were not expecting the resurrection, and besides, dead men don’t get up and live!
What changed their hearts and minds were the bodily appearance of Jesus to these first eyewitnesses. Yes, it is the message, which converts. But to that soul, which is searching, as was the case with the early disciples, the message, with proof is what makes the testimony convincing.
Thomas demands the same reality. He said to them, “unless I see the nail marks in His hands, and put my finger where the nails were and put my hands into His side, I will not believe it!” Thomas’ demand for proof is a matter of necessity. If he is to have the same faith as the rest, he must experience the same proof. He must have the same reality. He too must say, “I too have seen the Lord!”
Thomas’ demand for proof does faith a service. We trust not in pious opinions but rather faith anchored and grounded in fact. Thomas’ demand has not weakened faith; to the contrary, his demands have strengthened it; pointing us specifically to the very events and circumstances of our salvation; a cross, a tortured body and an empty tomb.
Thomas’ confrontation with our Lord and the awareness of Thomas that Jesus had indeed come back from the dead motivate John to conclude his gospel with these words, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book. But these have been written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life in His name.” (John 21)
The evidence from Scripture declares that Jesus did in fact live, die, and rise from the dead in our time. The resurrection is evidence that Jesus was born in our time – born to redeem the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Ours is not “religion as usual” and we have Thomas to thank! The Easter event from our vantage point and from our viewpoint is unbelievable. That is the way Thomas felt about it. What Thomas discovered, we must discover, that the resurrection is acceptable when we look at the event from God’s viewpoint and from His perspective. Reject not until you have examined the evidence. Thanks to Thomas, evidence plus faith produces conviction.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS for permission granted for personal and congregational use

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