Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

An Invitation to Believe
Pastor Steve Schell
The Resurrection (Lk 24:1-12)
At the first trace of morning light at least four of the women from Galilee set out for the tomb with perfume and sweet smelling spices. They had been prevented from mourning openly for Jesus on Friday afternoon because of the hostility of the Sanhedrin leaders, nor had they been allowed to help prepare Him for burial. So their plan was to visit the tomb before people were awake, prepare Him for burial properly, and then weep freely over Him before the city awakened. It appears they were unaware that the Sanhedrin had arranged for a round-the-clock guard to be on duty or that they had sealed the stone to prevent it from being moved. When they arrived, they found the stone had already been rolled away, and when they entered the tomb they found the body was gone. As they stood there confused, two angels suddenly appeared beside them. Their robes shone with a bright, white light. Understandably, the women were terrified and bowed their faces toward the ground. The angels asked them a question, “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead?” They seemed surprised that the women thought Jesus would still be there on Sunday morning. They seemed to think they should have known Jesus would have been resurrected by now and they could have saved themselves the effort of traveling all the way to the tomb. Then they explained clearly, but kindly, “Don’t be afraid, I know you’re looking for Jesus who was crucified, He is not here, but was raised; see, here’s where they laid His body” (Mt 28:5; Mk 16:6). Realizing they were dealing with human weakness, the angels reminded them of basic truths that Jesus had taught them many times before: that He would be brutalized, crucified, and rise again on the third day (Lk 9:44; 24:44; Mt 17:22, 23; Mk 9:30-32). Finally, they instructed them to go and tell the rest of the disciples, mentioning Peter specifically by name. Joyful, and frightened at the same time, they ran to notify the others (Mt 28:8; Mk 16:8), but the response they received when they arrived was pathetic. It appears there was a complete lack of expectation in the apostles that Jesus would literally, physically, rise from death in three days. It’s as if they had never heard Him make such a statement. But we know for certain He did, and that He had said it clearly enough that even the Sanhedrin knew He believed He would return in three days (Mt 27:62-66; Mt 12:40; 16:21; Mk 8:31; 19:31, 32; Jn 2:19-22). Yet the only disciples who went out to the tomb early Sunday morning were these women, who simply wanted to finish the hasty embalming process begun by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus on Friday evening (Mt 27:57-61; Mk 15:42-47; Lk 23:50-56; Jn 19:38-42). And even after these women encountered angels and the resurrected Lord, the apostles didn’t believe it, and decided they were so emotionally upset they were delirious. They disbelieved so completely they didn’t even go out to the tomb to examine it for themselves (Mt 28:9, 10). That is all but Peter and John, and they raced back to the tomb assuming the body had been stolen (Jn 20:1-4), with John outrunning Peter. What they saw were linen strips still lying where the body had been placed, but the body itself was no longer inside the wrappings. If someone had stolen it, most likely they would have picked it up just as it was and the wrappings would be gone. Or, if for some reason they had decided to unwrap it, the strips would be tossed in a heap, but instead, they were perfectly intact, yet empty. The evidence proclaimed the body hadn’t been stolen, yet it was clearly gone. Somehow it had mysteriously disappeared through 75 pounds of spices and linen strips. And the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head lay apart from the other wrappings, still wrapped as it had been when it was on Him. At this point, Peter still didn’t understand. He went home marveling at what he had seen, and apparently, the Lord appeared to him there privately (Lk 24:34; 1Co 15:5), and we don’t know what was said.

Believing the resurrection
Paul says, “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Ro 10:9). Why is the resurrection so important? Why does God insist that I believe He raised Jesus back to life? Apparently, it’s not even enough to believe He died for my sins. I have to believe He rose again, that He physically came back to life, and is alive today. I think it’s because, more than anything else, what I believe about the resurrection reveals what I really believe about God. Is He powerful enough to raise dead people to life? If I believe He did it for Jesus, then I believe in a God who is powerful enough to do that for me. If I don’t…if I don’t have the faith to believe God raised Jesus, then why would I have the faith to believe He could raise me from the dead? It’s completely connected. If He can raise Jesus, then He can raise me. If He can’t raise Jesus, then He can’t raise me. And the Bible says people are saved by faith, not by being good. And Jesus Himself said it only takes a “mustard seed” of real faith to see God do incredible miracles (Mt 17:20), but there has to be, at least, a little bit of the real thing. So Paul is telling us, for faith to be real enough to save us, I have to believe God has absolute power over death. It’s not enough to say the words. I actually have to expect Him to do it for me, because He has already done it for Jesus.

Finding faith
And that raises a difficult question. What if it’s not there? What if I want to believe, but I can’t seem to do it? Am I hopeless? Am I just wired wrong? Did God decide to withhold such faith from me? For some people faith seems to come easily. They effortlessly believe, and wonder why others can’t. But thankfully, the Bible answers this question for us. And the answer it provides gives hope to those of us who struggle to find faith. In fact, it assures us that if we want to believe we can. God will give faith to anyone who sincerely asks. But He doesn’t just hand it to us in a little package. If we ask, He takes us by the hand and teaches us how to believe. He develops real faith in us…the kind that lasts forever. The Bible describes at least three ways He does this:
1) He teaches us faith by testing us.
2) He teaches us faith by revealing prophetic promises to us.
3) He imparts faith as a gift to those who ask Him, and receive it like a child.

Those who are hungry to know God, who want to believe, yet always seem to hit a barrier when they try, today, of all days, as we listen again to the events of the resurrection, God invites us to believe, and at the same time, reaches out His hand and says to those whose faith is weak:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened…If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?”(Mt 7:7, 8, 11)

And, not only does God want to put faith in hearts where none exists, He also wants to grow faith in hearts where it is already present. So, finding faith applies to all of us.

Three ways to faith
To those who want faith, God takes us by the hand, and like a good father, He teaches us to believe. He does this in three ways:
1) God teaches us faith by testing us. He puts us in situations where we are forced to make a painful choice in order to obey Him. Then, in time, a miracle takes place, and the experience leaves us changed. A new faith is present in us where it had not existed before.
Abraham and Sarah are a great example of this. They finally had a child together when he was 100 years old and she was 90. This was the child God had been promising them for 25 years. And then, one day, when Isaac was a young boy…
• Gn 22:1-14
• Heb 11:17-19
Please notice the faith God taught them through this test was that God could even raise the dead to life.
2) God teaches us faith by revealing prophetic promises to us. God takes us to the Scripture and shows us how He fulfilled His promises. Hundreds, even thousands, of years before these events took place God specifically described what would happen to Jesus…including the fact that He would rise from the dead. This, He says, is enough in itself to teach us faith.
• Lk 24:13-27
• Lk 16:31 “…If they will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”
3) God imparts faith as a gift to those who ask Him, and receive it like a child (Lk 18:17). The only qualification I need is to be sincere. How many people over the centuries have come to faith by simply praying, “God, if you’re there, please show me.” Somehow He knows when we really mean it, and if we do, He will indeed open our spiritual eyes and show us that He has been there all along. God knows we’re weak, all He needs is an open door. When we’re ready, He knows what to do. He knows how to speak so we can hear Him. He can remove confusion in a moment. But He waits until we’re ready. The invitation to believe is always there, but we have to decide to accept it.

So, here we are on this Resurrection weekend, hearing the Scriptures declare that Jesus is alive, that God raised Him from the dead and that He will raise us too, if we believe. And what we’ve learned today is that we can believe if we choose to. No one is left out. No matter how skeptical or wounded or full of doubt we are, God will give us the very faith He requires of us. We need only ask, choosing to put aside all the confusing voices, and then to honestly listen for His. And the reason the Bible is so sure this will work is because Jesus really did rise from the grave. He’s alive. We aren’t being invited to believe in a dead religion. We’re invited to meet Him, and then real faith is present because now we know Him!

1) Has God ever taught you faith by putting you in a difficult situation and then challenging you to obey Him? Did you do it? Did He do a miracle to help you? Were you changed by that experience? 2) What is your favorite prophecy concerning the death or the resurrection of Jesus? In what way does it build your faith? 3) Did you ever pray the prayer, “God, if you’re there, please show me?” If so, please tell us how He answered you.


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