Paul had good news to preach. He announced to this synagogue full of Jews and Gentiles that God had fulfilled His promise to the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) that He would end the power of death. Their greatest longing, and ours, was that they would not remain in the grave, but would come back to life, not just spiritually, but physically. And Pauls message on that Sabbath morning in Pisidian Antioch was that this wonderful promise was no longer just a hope. For the first time a man had escaped from the grip of death, and as He did He carried with Him the entire human race. A man who had died was literally alive, and would never die again. And He had been seen by many witnesses.
What if you could have been one of those men and women who actually saw Him standing in front of you? What if you, like Thomas, had been able to touch His scars? Or like the disciples who sat on the beach in Galilee, you ate the fish and bread he handed you? How would that change the way you think about Him? To be absolutely sure He is alive would change everything. We would not become religious, we would become His witnesses, joyfully announcing an historical fact. Wed tell people, This is the Savior. He isnt just one more of those teachers who say wise things and then die. After a brutal execution and three days in a tomb God raised Him up in complete health, with a glorious new body! You wouldnt spend a lot of time arguing or debating, youd be telling everyone you could, Jesus is the Savior. I know He is, Ive seen Him!
An historical fact
Whether we listen to Peter or Paul, whether they are preaching to Jews or Gentiles, they always end up proclaiming the resurrection. Its clear that in their own minds they were not proclaiming a new form of religion. They were announcing an actual historical event. The greatest thing that could possibly happen, had happened. Someone had escaped from death. By far, the greatest enemy of every human is our impending death. We watch as time and again people we love leave us, and we desperately hope they have gone somewhere to wait for us. And then comes our turn to approach that veil and pass through. So if someone could give us absolute proof that there is life after death, that someday we will live again, but without the haunting sadness that a grave awaits us, that we can be reunited with those we love, and most wonderful of all, that we can enjoy fellowship with God forever, there would be no fact, no truth, comparable to it! It would simply be the most precious treasure in the world.
Those who saw Him
These apostles had seen Jesus alive. Even Paul saw Him, so its no surprise their essential message could be stated like this, Listen to me! Jesus really rose from the dead, just like the prophets said He would. Weve seen Him with our own eyes. By raising Him from the dead God proved that Jesus is the Savior, and if you believe in Him your sins will be forgiven and you will also rise from the grave to live forever.
Those who havent seen Him
You might say, Well, thats fine for them. They got to see Him alive, I havent. Thomas got to put his hand in the scars, I dont. Im left in a vulnerable place of having to trust that others are telling me the truth. And, yes, that is partly true. We do have to trust their word. But this Jesus really is alive, so even though we may not see Him with our physical eyes, He does come and reveal Himself to those who honestly seek Him. Jesus said those who have to come to Him this way actually receive a blessing. Listen:
Thomas was able to see Jesus before He ascended. But what if He had not been in that room when Jesus appeared? What if he had steadfastly refused to believe the testimony of the others? It appears he had decided he would not listen with spiritual ears or see with spiritual eyes. He would not let the Holy Spirit confirm the truth to his heart. In fact, hed decided not to trust anybody else, only himself, which, of course, means he had decided not to believe what the prophets had written.
Believing the Bible (Lk 24:25-27)
As usual, Jesus thoughts on this matter are very different from ours. He says we should believe the Bible even more than what our eyes see. In fact, He was frustrated with people who had to see before they believed. Listen to what He said to two doubting disciples on the road to Emmaus: O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory? Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Lk 24:25-27)
Notice, He doesnt say, O, Im sorry youre doubting. Here, you need to see Me alive. See, look, here are My scars. Now believe! He stayed hidden from their eyes, trying to get them to believe that what God had declared in His Word was true, whether they had personally seen it or not. Clearly, God considers the witness of the Scriptures along with the confirmation of the Holy Spirit to be enough. In fact, Jesus says if that isnt enough, neither would seeing Him with our own eyes be enough. Listen to Jesus parable about Lazarus and the rich man: And he said, Then I beg you, father (Abraham), that you send him (Lazarus) to my fathers house for I have five brothers in order that he may warn them so that they will not also come to this place of torment! But Abraham said, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them! But he said, No, father Abraham, but if somebody goes to them from the dead, they will repent! But he said to him, If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. (Lk 16:27-31)
Apparently, whether or not I believe Jesus rose from the dead has more to do with my attitude toward God, which is exposed when I hear Him speak to me through His Word, than seeing some sort of proof of Jesus resurrection. Apparently, I intuitively know much more than I might admit. If I sincerely want to know the truth, God will begin to show me that He is real and powerful, and Hell put a love for His Word in my heart. When I read it Ill find myself believing things I havent seen yet. Theyll become as real to me as if I had already seen them with my eyes,
we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2Co 4:18).
Jesus is not asking us to do something He has not done Himself. He, too, believed in the resurrection before He saw it. Remember, He truly became a man. Though He has always been the begotten Son of God, when He was conceived in Marys womb He laid aside His divine knowledge and powers, and took upon Himself the limitations of humanity (Php 2:5-8). In other words, He too had to walk by faith just like we do. Imagine the faith He had to have to go willingly to the cross. He understood what Moses and the Prophets had said about His suffering. He understood it in such terrible detail His body went into a severe anxiety attack as He waited in the garden of Gethsemane to be arrested (Lk 22:44). But He also understood the promise that He would rise from the dead. He went to the cross trusting Gods Word that said the Messiah would not remain in the grave. He had to trust the promises in Gods Word, and so do we. It was only a select group of people for a period of forty days who actually got to see Him alive, in His resurrection body. The rest of us, for the last 2000 years, have to believe without seeing, just like He did.
Standing in that synagogue Paul announced God had raised Jesus from the dead, and he said many witnesses saw Him alive. But then he immediately turned to the Scriptures to show them what this meant. He said:
1) Jesus is the King: the resurrection proved that Jesus is the promised Messiah. He is the firstborn Son of a new race of people (Ps 2:7; Ro 8:18-25).
2) Jesus is the Savior: the resurrection proved that God will give the mercies of David to everyone who believes in Him.
3) Jesus is the Holy One: the resurrection proved that He was without sin, and therefore death could not hold Him (1Co 15:56).
4) Jesus is the Name: the resurrection proved that God gives forgiveness of sins to those who believe in Jesus.
Hearing the truth
Lets listen to Pauls words once more:
in another psalm He also says, You will not give Your Holy One to see decay. For indeed, David, having by the will of God served his own generation, fell asleep and was placed among his fathers, and he saw decay, but the One whom God raised did not see decay. Therefore, men, brothers, let it be known to you through this One forgiveness of sin is proclaimed, and by this One everyone who believes is justified from all the things from which you could not be justified in the Law of Moses. (Ac 13:35-39) (literal)
If you and I had been there listening to Paul, what would our response be? Would we have believed his testimony because we see it in the Scriptures, or would we wait until we can see Him with our own eyes? The resurrection still makes us choose.
1) Can you remember the first time you heard about the resurrection? How old were you? Who told you?
2) Why do you think Thomas had such a hard time believing? How do you think he felt after He saw Him?
3) Is there someone youll look for when you get to heaven (other than Jesus, of course)?