Monday, April 29, 2019

Believing Without Seeing

Part 3 of No Greater Love

Text: John 20:1-29




Jesus said to [Thomas], “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29). 


You Don't Need to See Jesus to Believe

Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).

People are often like Thomas: “Unless I see it with my own eyes, I won’t believe it.”

In John 20, there is one person who believes in the resurrection without seeing the risen Jesus. Who is this person?

It isn’t Thomas. Before Jesus appeared to Thomas, he says, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (v. 25).

It isn’t Mary Magdalene. Before Jesus appeared to Mary, she assumes that someone had taken the body of Jesus out of the tomb (vv. 2, 13).

It is John himself. Verse 8 says, “Then the other disciple [i.e., John], who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.”

You can believe in the resurrection without seeing the risen Jesus, but most people don’t believe without seeing something.

John saw something in the tomb that caused him to believe in the resurrection. What did he see?

John saw “the linen cloths lying [in the tomb], and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself” (vv. 6-7).

John realized that if someone had stolen the body of Jesus, the linen cloths would not have been left behind as they were. In that moment, he believed that the tomb was empty because Jesus had risen! 


Look at the Evidence

Most people need to see some evidence of the resurrection, before they believe. So let’s look at some of the evidence.

The majority of scholars—both Christian and non-Christian—accept the following statements as facts.

First, Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. There are people who claim that Jesus is a fictional person, but there are also people who believe that the moon landing was fake.

Second, Jesus was crucified. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote that Christ “suffered the extreme penalty [i.e., crucifixion] during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.” [1]

Third, the tomb was empty. If the tomb of Jesus had not been empty, the story of his resurrection would have been easily disproved. The enemies didn’t dispute the fact that the tomb was empty. Instead they invented a lie to explain why the tomb was empty: “[Jesus’] disciples came by night and stole him away while [the guards] were asleep” (Matt. 28:3). [2]

Fourth, the followers of Jesus believed they had seen the risen Jesus. The followers of Jesus didn’t act like people who had stolen his body. They were willing to endure persecution and even martyrdom to spread the story of the resurrection. Liars make poor martyrs.

Fifth, a notorious enemy of Christianity was converted. The apostle Paul was once a persecutor of the church, but something changed the course of his life. Paul claimed that the risen Jesus had appeared to him (1 Cor. 15:8). Skeptics will argue that the disciples could have thought they saw the risen Jesus because they wanted to believe that he was alive. But the same can’t be said of Paul.

Yes, the story of the resurrection of a crucified man is an incredible story, but how do you explain these facts?

Also, the Gospel accounts have the ring of truth. Two details in the Gospel provide evidence that the resurrection isn’t a made-up story.

First, the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. “Not only is [the story of the resurrection] hard to accept, but culturally such a story from women would be viewed with suspicion.  [3] One of the main proofs that the resurrection story is credible is realization that the first-century church would never have created a story whose main first witnesses were women.” [4]

Second, the first skeptics of the resurrection were the disciples. Thomas wasn’t the only disciple who doubted. “If someone created the story of resurrection, would the apostles have been made to look so incredulous? The account’s honesty has an air of reality, which points to its truth.” [5]

If we’re like Thomas and say, “Unless I see the risen Jesus, I won’t believe,” then how can we believe in any historical event prior to the invention of the camera?


Why Are You Weeping?

Twice Mary Magdalene is asked, “Why are you weeping?” (vv. 13, 15).

She was weeping because the tomb was empty. The body of Jesus was gone.

But the body of Jesus wasn’t gone because someone had taken it. The body of Jesus was gone because he was risen!

In this life, we do weep. There is pain, sorrow, and death. But there’s also hope. There’s hope because of the empty tomb.

Do you have this hope?

If you don’t, receive it through faith in Jesus.

If you do, live like it!

____________________

[1] Tacitus, Annals 15.44 (c. A.D. 115).
[2] In the second century, Justin Martyr wrote that this lie was still being circulated in his day (Dialogue with Trypho).
[3] The apostles didn’t accept the women’s testimony: “these words seemed to them an idle tale [i.e., nonsense], and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).
[4] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, 607.
[5] Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, 1899.

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