1 April - Easter Sunday – The One Grand Miracle
Luke 24:36-49 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
I love this passage, because it exposes our own hearts and thinking so profoundly. You see most of us would say seeing is believing. In other words; if I just saw something to confirm the claims of Christianity then I would believe. The problem is that we wouldn’t! why because our bias determines our world view.
On a side note; this passage is profound evidence that the story of the resurrection was not made up. Because if it was surely you would tell of the founders of your faith having impeccable faith and believing the reality that you were trying to push. No, the writers over and over again show the disciples struggling to believe. Why because what happened was by all means unbelievable!
C.S. Lewis puts it this way;
“One is very often asked as present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who ask it say, “freed” from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed… But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, which is uncreated, eternal, came into Nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing Nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian.” – C.S. Lewis – God in the Dock
This is why I have decided to call my message this morning; the one grand miracle. This, church is the start and end of our faith; the incarnation (the birth of Christ) which subsequently lead to the death and then the resurrection of Christ is not just a part of our faith, but the central reality; in fact it is the central reality of space and time. Because, and lets be real, if it is not true, then all this doesn’t matter. And by all this I mean everything, your lives, your families, your hope and dreams. They are nothing; you are then simply a mistake in a galaxy that is the product of on an accident; and your life, and all the combined human achievement will ultimately end in heat death and be forgotten. If the resurrection did not happen; then you do not matter. You are a mistake of the universe, that gifted you with the ability to understand your own meaninglessness, and in fact you might be the only animal who has that ability. But if it did (if the resurrection happened); then that means that there is a God, not only that, there is a God who is good, who seeks after people who are not, and makes a way for them to be welcomed back into His goodness (Through the death and resurrection of Christ). In other words, if this is true; it is the most important story in the world; for the very meaning of life is locked up within in it.
For the premise of the resurrection is; that Life itself (He who spoke the world into existence), subjected himself to that creation and died as to redeem all of creation back to himself. In other words; if this is true, as a creature this should be the sole meaning of your existence to discover its truth. Because it will change everything! But, from this passage we will see; seeing is not believing, but believing is to become the hope the world needs.So,
Seeing is not believing
I love the honestly of this passage; Jesus appears, and the absolute humanity of the disciples was displayed. Luke says they were frightened, thinking they have seen a ghost; in other words in seeing they couldn’t believe. You see, church, we are poor judges of what we understand. We all like to think of ourselves as objective, unbiased observers of the reality of life. However, that simply is not true. We all come to our observations filled with preconceived ideas, and understandings of what life is and how it should work. We have this great problem called confirmation bias. Which is we go looking for that which we have already decided as true. In fact, when some new point of evidence comes up that contradicts our world-view (our preconceived views) we actually have a physiological reaction to it. and start looking for evidences of our biases again. This is why, although the internet is a great tool, it has also become a great danger with fake news, and communities that cling to and believe in some of the most unbelievable realities. In fact your search engine that you use on your browser, uses algorithms that understand your bias and so that what your find confirm that bias first; not because they are evil, but because that is what you are actually searching for. In other words we don’t like that which disagrees with our understanding.
The point is this; many of us think that if God would simply show us something we would believe; do not fool yourself; you would explain it away: Know yourself! Jesus could literally show up right now as in his resurrected form, and we would explain it away; must have been something in the air, or mass hallucination.Seeing is not believing. But church, as the passage confirms;
Believing is to become the hope the world needs
In Verse 45 it says that Jesus opened their minds, in other words, he gave them the capacity to overcome their world view. In John 20:22 it says, that “And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”” The disciples themselves had to have supernatural intervention in order to grasp the resurrection of Christ and what that meant. So, I could go through the many proof of the historical reality of the resurrection, and there are many, N.T Wright writes about these proofs extensively, and there are many other books that can be sought out to discover these truths, but I warn you again, these will not matter. You don’t come to the evidence as an objective observer, you have much at stake. Because it is to simply a matter of belief. It is a matter of how you then live your life. I remember a story of a young girl who went off to college and came back in the holidays to share with her family that she just could not believe in this primitive religious stuff anymore. Her pastor, asked her, not what changed her mind, but what happened at college that made her change her mind. And after pushing through many of her supposed arguments against Christianity, he kept on pressing, no what changed, what event happened that caused this. It finally came out that she has moved in with her boyfriend. And the pastor gently suggested that her objections to Christianity were not so much rational objections, they were moral.
The point is this; there is so much at stake in this one grand miracle, and if it is true it truly changes the whole world, the meaning of life and the reason of existence and our response in how we conduct ourselves: Everything! Jesus had to open the understandings of the disciples through the gift of the Holy Spirit and today, I pray that the Holy Spirit is here opening our understanding. Because the implications of our understanding being opened is hope for the whole world. Jesus opens the understandings of the disciples and the commissions them to be the messengers of hope for the whole world.
46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.4
Church, if we get this, if we understand this one grand miracle we understand that this message is the very hope of all the world. That nothing else matters more than this. Nothing else can! We are the witness of these things! We are heralds of the secret longings of the human soul, we are not mistakes, we matter! This is not it, but the taste of things to come. There is hope to the problem of our sins and guilt and we can find peace, a peace that will prove itself for all eternity.
You see church, when the disciples believed there came a power upon them to face the world with such confidence and hope that in under a generation they had changed the face of the world. It gave them strength to face some of the most brutal opposition, and hope to overcome some of the most horrific circumstances. And 2000 years later this church exists because the first disciples became witnesses of the grand miracle. Many of the disciples we killed for what they believed, many who followed the same teaching we thrown to lions and set on fire.As Hebrews 11 tells us of the faithful;
36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[a] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them.
It is not that they disregarded life, no! they fully saw it, and now fully lived it. This is the hope of Easter, the gospel and the resurrection! Not that we long for death, but that we see it for what it truly is a cruel result of our sins; a mistake that will be corrected in the resurrection!As Revelation so beautifully puts it in Revelation 21:3-4;
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Church, your hearts beats with eternity, because you were made for it, and that is why we remember the one grand miracle that made our eternity possible. So, I pray that you have a wonderful Easter Sunday, that you enjoy the wonder of family and friends, but I hope you remember the grand miracle that new life is possible because of what Christ did, that that new life is spreading out and bringing hope to all the world and that one day our hope will be made sight; that believing we will see the grand miracle become our grand reality in the resurrection life to come.