Easter 2
April 22, 2001
John 20:29
"Blessed are they who have not seen but yet believe!"
"To believe is to see!"

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INTRODUCTION:  Believe it or not the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a faith-based experience. We can not explain it. We can not illustrate it in some mathematical equation. We can't reproduce it in a science lab, neither are we able to show a demonstration. In reality, the resurrection is something that we have to take on the basis of faith for it is something that is beyond human comprehensionů

On Easter we rejoice and celebrate the fact of the Resurrection. But then, in a sense, reality sets in and we are forced to take seriously the question of Thomas in our gospel lesson for this morning.  Thomas is such an easy target. He is forever remembered as "doubting Thomas" and yet, had we been in his shoes how many of us would demand the same evidence as he requested? "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and place my hand in his side, and see him with my own two eyes (as you have claimed to have seen him) until I have had the same experience, I too, will not believe!"

The question which is asked of our Gospel lesson for this morning is a rather simple question, but it is none the less a probing question. Can we believe in the Resurrection without any personal experience with the risen Christ?  Thomas is right! It's one thing to say that we believe without really seeing a resurrected Christ. But it would be a whole lot easier to believe had we seen Him alive with our own eyes!

Like Thomas, there are many people alive today who want evidence of Jesus' existence. The world says "show me the evidence!"' "Show me the proof" because believing is seeing. 

In our gospel lesson for this morning Jesus reminds us "blessed are those who believe even though they have not seen" (v.29) Although we have not seen, can we believe? The answer is a resounding yes. We can believe in the resurrection because of three important truths which history can not refute.

1.  The eyewitness accounts of those who were there. The resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen in a vacuum. It happened in time and space.

Jesus was born at a certain time.  It happened when Caesar Augustus commanded that a census be taken of the entire world.  His birth happened when Cyrenius was Governor of Seria.  Likewise, His birth took place in a particular city, in Bethlehem, of Judea.

In the same way Jesus' death occurred also in time and space. He was ordered to be crucified by a Roman Governor by the name of Pilate. He was executed by means of crucifixion, in the city of Jerusalem. A man buried his body in a borrowed tomb by the name of Joseph of Arimathea.

The writers of the gospels go to great lengths to explain to us the details concerning Jesus' birth, His life, as well as His death and resurrection so that they could stand the test of human history. We can go back and to the very place where Jesus walked and talked, to the town where He was born, and the hill on which He died.

Furthermore, for a period of forty days Jesus appeared to His followers again, and again so that they could know that He truly was alive. He appeared to Peter, to James, to the disciples, to two individuals as the walked to the city of Emmaus, to Thomas, to the disciples again as they were fishing.  In fact, Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians that the Savior appeared to over 500 disciples at one time. Then he makes the statement "most of these are still alive, although some have since died" as if to say to us today, "if you want to talk to them go at it! They will give you their testimony!"  The resurrection of Jesus Christ happened in time and space history with eyewitnesses present.

2.  Then, there is the city from which the first converts were won. The critics of the Christian faith will have to explain away this important truth.  When the Christian church began its work of evangelism where did she go first?  The followers of Christ did not go out into the hinterlands to win converts. They began their mission work no less then 50 days after the resurrection, and in the very city in which Jesus had died.  Had Jesus not been raised all His enemies had to do was produce His body and parade it through main streets in the city of Jerusalem and that would have killed Christianity once and for all! Certainly His enemies knew where He was buried. They requested that a Roman guard be posted outside his tomb for three days. History tells us that Pilate was quickly reassigned possibly back to Rome. Jesus' followers remained in Jerusalem, in the very city in which their Savior died, and proclaimed Him alive from the dead.

Why would Jesus' disciples proclaim Him alive in the very city in which He had died, not less then two months hence unless He truly were risen from the dead?  Any other argument simple does not make sense! 

3.  The changed lives, of those who saw the living Christ. Thomas in our text for this morning says: "I can't believe it!" But upon seeing the resurrected Christ he exclaims "my Lord and my God!"  Why the change?  It's all because of the appearance of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the changed lives of those who saw Him.

Consider Paul.  One day he was on his way to arrest Christians and have them killed but quickly he becomes the chief spokesman for the Christian faith!  Why the change? It's all because of the appearance of Jesus Christ risen from the dead and the change that happened in Paul's life after he had seen Christ alive.  Every single person who met Christ after the resurrection was a changed man. Why the change? Because He truly is alive!  This explains the change, which has happened in your life as well!  You have been changed!  As you have been baptized into Christ you are now clothed in Him. 

How much of a change took place? You might ask. Consider this bit of news!  Every single one of Jesus' disciples deserted Him as soon as He was arrested. Yet, for t he exception of John who was banished to a deserted island, every single disciples of Jesus died a martyr's death for only one thing, proclaiming that Jesus was alive and that He had changed their life.

Now, an unbelieving and cynical world might say, "well, many have died for many a good cause!" and yes, that is all true. But, tell me when was the last time you knew of someone who died for what they knew was a lie?  Had Jesus not risen from the dead, every single follower of Jesus would have died for what he or she knew was a lie!  Would you die for something in which you knew was a complete fabrication? I doubt it! But every disciple of Jesus died for only one thing; for saying "I have seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion, and He has changed my life!"

CONCLUSION:  If we only have sight, then there is no need for faith. As Christians, we walk by faith as well as walking by sight. Faith, is the evidence of things unseen.

In Clearwater Bay, Florida there is a sandbar, which cannot be seen when the tide is in.  When you are told that there is a sandbar out there and you should not take your boat in that direction, you need faith to believe the report.  When the tide is out, you can easily see the sandbar. Then there is no need for faith in anyone's word.

Today we cannot see the risen Christ with the naked eye. We therefore need faith in the word of those who were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection to remind us that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is true. At some future day when the tide of life runs out, we will then see face to face the risen Christ.  Yes, all this is most certainly true!