“That you may believe…”
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“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
In the name God the Father, the + Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Christianity is the only religion that can be disproven by a single piece of evidence. If it is historically proven that Jesus of Nazareth who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, is not risen from the dead then the Christian religion is null and void. If Christ is not risen it means Christianity has no power to forgive you, no power to strengthen you, no message of hope for you, and it can’t lay claim to having the truth. For if Christ is not risen then the entire Christian religion is based on a lie.
The gospel spread with this simple and utterly profound message for the nations to hear that Christ died for sin once and for all, and God has vindicated Christ by raising him from death. The Apostles unbendingly taught that Christ died for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. On the cross he paid the wages of sin—death. There on the cross Christ won the forgiveness of your sins. In his resurrection he gives you not only a vindication of who he is as God in the flesh, but assurance that you are truly declared righteous by God. Christ’s resurrection means that all he said of himself and all that was said about him by the prophets is true. Uncover his bones, disprove his resurrection and then Christ is a liar and the Scriptures are unreliable.
You dear Christians probably don’t like hearing the title Christ and the noun liar in the same sentence. You confess weekly that the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting are truth. It might be hard for you to think that just a single piece of evidence to the contrary could undo your entire faith. Is the Christian faith then a tenuous house of cards?
Sadly, a lot of what is proposed as proof of Christianity is exactly that—tenuous. You will hear Christian leaders invite people to try Christianity on for size and see if it “works.” What they mean is for you to see if it makes you happier, more hopeful, more moral, or more content. In their mind if it does any of those things then it must be true. American Christianity has been tempted to trump up some therapeutic value to the Christian message in order to make it more appealing to others. Christian leaders preach the comfort of the gospel, but they forget that it’s comforting because first it’s true. A lot of things whether they are true or not can make someone happier, hopeful, better behaved, and content. Whether I receive some emotional or psychological benefit really does not prove something is true. I can get that from a good ballgame or a good meal or even a false belief. What matters in Christianity is whether or not its truth claims hold water. If they do then consequently there is great comfort!
Thomas got this. As much as it might have been nice to hear that Jesus was risen until he knew for certain Thomas would not be comforted. He needed to know it was true. Firstly, don’t get me wrong about Thomas’ experience. He is not a positive example. Before seeing Jesus he was not a doubter like we usually call him. Jesus says he was flat-out disbelieving. Jesus’ words to Thomas are reproachful, “Have you believed because you have seen?” Thomas had rejected the gospel preached to him by the other disciples. In his obstinate refusal to believe their word he was making them out to as liars and the gospel message as fraudulent. Did he think the nine of them were just pulling his leg with a mean joke? Did he think them mad or hallucinating?
Modern skeptics think some of those things. There are alternative explanations they’ve come up with to explain away the empty tomb. Did you notice that? They agree there’s an empty tomb, but how it became empty is what they argue over. None of these skeptical arguments stand up to biblical and historical scrutiny. For example one theory is that Jesus didn’t die on the cross—he swooned instead. The skeptics act as though Roman soldiers could have failed at their job of executing a prisoner. History is against them. There are no accounts of a completed scourging and crucifixion where the victim survived. Even the scourging was so traumatic it often killed the recipient. Such theories have been proven time and again to be conjectures that ignore the evidence of history. Some have even gone as far as to claim that Jesus must have had a twin brother.
If there is one positive thing we can learn from Thomas is that he understood well if the resurrection is historically true then there is great comfort and one ought to repent of their faithlessness and believe. Yet, if it is not true and the other apostles’ were just pulling his leg one should drop the gospel message like a bad habit. Thomas did the former. The message of the disciples’ is true. He had all the evidence standing there in front of him in the flesh of Jesus. Christ is risen! Thomas’ only response is one of confession and worship, “My Lord and my God.” Up until that moment Thomas had not doubted that Jesus was a man. Risen from the dead now Thomas knew Jesus is God in the flesh.
“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Those exhortations of St. John and of our Lord Jesus are for you my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Relatively speaking from the perspective of time only a few people could be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. He appeared to the women, the eleven remaining disciples, and to upwards of five hundred people before his ascension. Only a few could be witnesses in the strictest sense of the word, but the message would belong to everyone. Their eyewitness message was from God himself concerning the essential thing he did for the world. The apostle’s realized they had a great calling and it resounded always in their preaching, even Thomas when he went to India as a missionary as tradition holds. They preached: “But God raised Him on the third day and made Him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:40–43).
Dear saints in Christ do not let apathy or disinterest to the historical evidence of Christ’s resurrection weaken your faith. Equip yourself with this message. I again invite you to Bible Study where you can learn more. Listen with discernment, study the word, and hear the good news preached by the apostles that Jesus is risen from the dead. It is true and therefore you have the greatest comfort. Your sins are forgiven. You have life in his name. You need to look no where else to be validated—you are approved by God in Christ Jesus. He has given his preachers authority to give that comfort to you—your sins are forgiven! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
SDG—Rev. Eric M. Estes