How can we tell what’s true? What’s real? Should we just deny our doubts and take a blind leap of faith?
In the gospel according to Luke, he wrote an orderly account of Jesus’ resurrection, so that his readers might be certain of the truth that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. We can be certain that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageThanks for listening to the podcast from Gary Combs and the preaching team at Wilson Community Church in Wilson, North Carolina. Check us out on the web at wccnc.org for more. And now here’s the sermon.
Good morning, church. He is risen. Good job. Good job. Happy Easter, everyone! My name is pastor Gary and it’s good to have you here. Let’s have the kids come forward; they’re ready to go. Come on, kids. I want to talk to you about some stuff. I have some questions for you. Scoot in tight; scooting in tight like you like each other. Come on, get close. You can sit right here. There you go. Good job. Good job. All right. And you can sit right here. There you go. We have a lot of kids. Who’s sitting here? All right. Good. Everyone looks awesome.
Ok, everybody look at me. I have got some questions for you. Are you ready? How can you tell if something’s real? If something’s true, how can you tell? What do you think? Your hand shot up before you thought about it? I can tell you buzzed in too soon. Okay, how about you? How can you tell if something’s true or real ? (children are talking back and forth to pastor Gary during this segment) That’s a good answer. Save that one for a little bit later, though . I’m not there yet. So can you touch me to see if I’m real? Okay, so you can touch me. Can you see me? Can you hear me?
I have a secret to tell you. Don’t tell your parents. Are you ready? Do you believe in Superman? No. Yes, Yes. No. Is Superman real? You’re not sure? So here’s the secret. Here’s the secret I want to tell you. You said you thought I was real,right? I’m Superman. You don’t believe me? But I have the t-shirt, see? If you have the t-shirt, if you buy the T shirt, you’ve been there, right? You don’t believe me.
What do I have to do to prove that I’m Superman? I have to have superpowers, right? I have to be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to jump tall buildings in a single bound. I cannot do any of those things. The truth is, some of you are probably faster than me. But can I tell you something about someone who really is super? He can raise the dead to life. He can give hearing to the deaf. He can give sight to the blind. He can say to a storm “peace, be still” and it will be still.
Do you know who I’m talking about? That’s right; it’s Jesus. He not only claims to be the Son of God, but he proved it. Can I read you a story? If I could get my Bible out from back here. Okay. Here we go. Now you have to put your hands down and listen; I’m not gonna ask questions for a little bit. I got some questions in a minute, though; just hang on. . So, listen and be really quiet. Parents, you be really quiet too. I’m going to read a story. Luke 241-12 “1But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8And they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”
Here’s a question. Are you ready? What did the women see when they went to the tomb? Nothing. Why? Hey had already risen from the dead. The tomb was empty. So then they went and they ran to tell the disciples. And did the disciples believe the women? They didn’t believe it. They thought they were just making up a tale. I don’t know what’s going on. The disciples have to see it. Jesus is going to have to prove it to them, isn’t he? So let’s read just a little bit more and see if Jesus does that.
? Luke 24: 36-43 “36As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish,b 43and he took it and ate before them.”
Jesus proved to the disciples that he was alive. He said, “Look at my hands and feet.” That’s right . He even said, “I’m hungry. Have you got something I can eat?” And what did they give him? A piece of fish and he ate it and so he proved that he was really alive.
Do you all believe that Jesus is real? Do you believe that he really rose from the grave? You guys are so, so smart. Thank you for coming down front. Parents give him a hand as they take a seat. Take a seat, if you would. Thanks for helping me. They still have questions. I got questions, too.
So we’re talking about how the disciples had questions even as they began. And so it’s okay to have questions. Faith always begins that way, doesn’t it? We begin with doubts and questions before we get to the bottom of things, and we’re satisfied so that we believe. And that’s how it began for the disciples. Two factors we read in this passage. We find out that the first disbelievers were actually the disciples.
Look what Dr J. Vernon McGee says as he reports on this passage. He says, “The first disbelievers of the resurrection were the apostles themselves.” Even the apostles doubted before they became devoted disciples.
In his book, “In Two Minds: The Dilemma of Doubt & How to Resolve it,” Os Guinness talks about this, he says, “If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt if doubt is eventually justified. We were believing what clearly was not worth believing. But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger. It knows God more certainly, and it can enjoy God more deeply.” This is what Christ wants for us. He wants to move us from doubting to believing; from having questions to having certainty.
According to The Gospel of Luke, he wrote his gospel in order to give his readers certainty that Jesus really rose from the grave and that he is who he claims to be; the Messiah. I believe today that we can have that same certainty. How’s it possible? The text, I believe, as we study it, has four reasons why Jesus really is who he claims to be.
Here’s the first proof (1) Because of his empty tomb. Your children knew this story. Thanks, parents, for teaching this to them. It’s found in all four gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All four report that when the women went to the tomb early on the first day of the week, the tomb was empty. You see, they assumed he would be there because those women had stood at the foot of the cross and they had seen his crucified body; it was beaten, bloodied and beyond recognition. And they knew he was dead. He was dead. And so they I couldn’t take care of his body as loved ones want to do. The women in that day would prepare the body. They would wash it, and they would wrap it in spices. But because the Sabbath began at six pm on a Friday evening, they could not do any work. And so from six pm on Friday to six pm on Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath. They weren’t able to go to the tomb until the sun came up on Easter morning on that first day of the week.
And so they went, having an expectation that they are going to take care of the dead body of their Lord; they were talking among themselves. That report is reported in the other Gospels. “Who’s going to move the stone when we get there?” When they get there, the stone is rolled away, and there are these angels dressed in this beautiful, bright clothing. The women were just blown away by the empty tomb. The empty tomb proves that there’s nobody there. The angels say, “why do you seek the living from among the dead? He’s not here. He has risen.” You see, it would have been so simple to disprove Christianity before it even got started. All they would have had to do is produce the body. That’s all they had to do. . Produce the dead body and there would be nothing called Christianity because Christianity uniquely stands on this fact. The tomb was empty.
Josh McDowell, in his book “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” write, “The resurrection was preached in Jerusalem just a few weeks after the crucifixion. If the tomb had not been empty, such preaching could not have occurred. The body of Jesus could have been produced. And since it is likely that the location of Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was well known, he was a respected member of the Sanhedrin. It would not have been difficult to find where Jesus was buried. All they would have had to do is produce the dead body of Jesus and we would have no Christianity today, but they could not do it.”
Now that’s the first proof. Here’s the second proof (2) Because of his fulfilled claims. You see, Jesus didn’t just do this unexpectedly, but he had told the disciples over and over and over again, “ I’m going to be crucified. I’m going to be judged by the leaders of this government and of the Jewish people. And on the third day, I will rise again after being killed.” He told them all of the time about this. Matthew 16:21 talks about this. It says, “From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised.” This is just one of the many times that Jesus told his disciples why he was there and what his purpose was. In fact, one day he was telling Peter about this. Peter had one of those roller coaster days like some of us have, right, for a minute thinking he was a star. Jesus says, “Who do you say I am?” Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus said, “I’m naming you the rock now because only God could have told you this.” Peter’s like , yes, now I am the rock. You know, long before there was a guy named “The Rock,” Peter was the rock, right? And so he’s like, fired up.
Now he feels like he’s an adviser to Jesus or something; Jesus starts talking about how he must be crucified and on the third day rise again. Peter said, “Lord, no, don’t let that happen.” Jesus turns to Peter the Rock and he says, “Get behind me, Satan.” Some days are like that, right? So Peter has an up and down day like that because Jesus is trying to help them understand. His purpose is he came to die.
He didn’t just tell the disciples; he also told his detractors. It says in Matthew, Chapter twelve. “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” What do they mean by this? They wanted proof that, the Messiah, the son of God, who is making these claims. Give us proof. , Give us a sign and Jesus says, “an evil, an adulterous generation seeks for a sign. But no sign will be given to it except the sign of the Prophet Jonah.” I love this. He says, “go back and read the story of Jonah, for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great Fish. So will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth.”
Why is “Son of man” capitalized? Because that’s a Messianic title that we first see appearing in a vision to Daniel, chapter seven, where, he says, “I saw the Son of man standing before the ancient of days.” He saw in a moment that the curtain was pulled back and he saw in heaven’s glory Jesus. He saw him, and he gives him this title, “The Son of man,” because he is both God and man. He’s the Son of God and the Son of man. And so he was often referred to himself with this self designation of the Messiah called “The Son of Man.”
So he told them the he would give them the sign of Jonah in another place. The Jews came to him saying, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” And Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” So he gave the sign of Jonah, and then he said, the temple. But he was talking about his body. He was talking about destroy this temple, destroy this body in three days and he would raise it up again. This is the claim that Jesus makes, both to his disciples and to his detractors that he can overcome sin, death and the grave and that he is the son of God, the Messiah.
Now, if we think about this logically, we come face to face with what CS Lewis called the great trilemma, not dilemma, which would be a choice between two things but tri which would be three choices. Here’s how this works; pop the chart up. If you would just help people visualize this , here’s a claim. Jesus claims to be the son of God, the son of man, the Messiah, the savior. That’s his claim. It’s either true or false, right? Here’s a firsst possibility: It’s false and he knew it was false, He’s not the Lord. He’s a liar. He made a false claim knowingly. He’s a liar. Here’s the second possibility. It’s a false claim, but he doesn’t know it. He sincerely believes it. He’s a lunatic. He’s deluded. He’s like the guy who claims to be Superman when he’s not, right? He’s like the guy who goes around saying, “I’m Abraham Lincoln when he’s not.” Those are the kind of people you put away. But if it’s true, he’s the Lord. Just think about it for a second, CS Lewis says, “ You can’t just make of him a moral teacher and a good example. You just can’t say that. I think Jesus was one of the greatest humans who ever lived. He won’t allow it. He claims to be the son of God. We must deal with his claim. He makes these claims, and then he proves it by rising from the grave.”
Here’s the third proof (3) Because of his many appearances. We see the empty tomb; we hear about his fulfilled claims. Let us consider the many appearances, notice the women in verses nine and ten. They came and told the disciples all these things, but the disciples did not immediately believe. They needed more proof.
You can’t just say that Christianity is a blind leap of faith because the very first Christians were not willing to make a blind leap. They needed proof, just like the kids a few minutes ago. They need proof. It’s not enough just to buy the t-shirt. They needed proof. And so Jesus appeared to them many times. I love verse thirty six. Here they are, it says as they were talking about these things. What things? Hey , did you hear? The tomb is empty. You hear two guys on the road to Emmaus who bump into Jesus. He starts talking to them and then disappears. Did you hear some of the women actually say He is risen? Hey, remember, he used to tell us he was going to do this. That’s what they’re talking about. And then look what happens. As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them. He didn’t say anything about knocking on the door. He just suddenly appeared in the room where they were hiding out and talking about these things. And here’s what he says to him, “Peace to you.” That’s the English translation. What did He really say, because he spoke Hebrew? What do He really say? He appears in a room and he goes, “Shalom.” I mean, can you imagine that? You think he’s dead, you’re talking about him, and there he is, standing right in your midst and he says, “Shalom.”.
Just amazing. How would you respond if he suddenly appeared like that and you were talking about it? Here’s how they responded. It says they were startled, in verse thirty seven, and frightened, and they thought they saw a spirit. In other words, they thought they were looking at a ghost. It freaked them out. That’s what it did. And so this is the report. This is one of the first appearances of Jesus as we look in the four Gospels, including also the Book of Acts and in other places.
In First Corinthians, we see ten distinct appearances of Jesus reported. Mary Magdalene saw him in John 20, with the women leaving the tomb. In Matthew 28, he was with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In Luke 24, Simon Peter saw him with the Disciples but without Thomas seeing Him. That’s reported later, with the disciples and Thomas in John 20:24-29. The disciples on the Sea of Galilee saw Him and we see that reported in John Chapter 20 one . This is the cool scene where Peter says, “ I’m going fishing” and they all went fishing with Peter. And then he sees Jesus on the seashore. There, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he’s already cooking up some fish. Hey, let’s have breakfast. Let’s have fish for breakfast. That’s reported in John 21. In Matthew 28, He is with the disciples on the mountain. In Luke 24, there was another sighting. In First Corinthians, five hundred believers saw Him at once. James’s half brother, Paul, saw him. I could go on.
Here’s a good summary of the people who saw Jesus after his resurrection. In First Corinthians, Chapter 15, Paul is writing and says, “For I delivered to you as the first of importance. What I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas. Now Cephas is the Aramaic name for Peter. That was his given name . Jesus, renamed him Peter. So he appeared to Peter, formerly named Cephas, then to the twelve.
Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time. In other words, he says, “I can get you a list of names if you don’t believe me. There were Five hundred people and I could give you a list of names, and most of you are still alive. And they could tell you they saw Jesus. Then he appeared to James; this is not James the Apostle. This is James, the half brother of Jesus. Now, look, if you grow up with someone, many of you here have a brother. But if you grow up to believe that your brother is the Messiah, I guarantee he did something to prove it to you, right? That might be the one of the more convincing ones that James, as he writes the Book of James , calls himself a bondservant of Jesus, last of all, in verse eight, as to one untimely born. He also appeared to me; this is the Apostle Paul who said, “I saw him on the road to Damascus.” And so he appeared many times.
Here’s the fourth proof (4) Because of his convinced followers. Perhaps this one might be the one that resonates even into the present, because I am one of those. And perhaps I would say that many of you are as well. Would you be able to say that you are one of his convinced followers? I’m convinced that Jesus is alive today, that he defeated sin, death and the grave. I’m a proof, a living proof of a changed life. But I didn’t start out that way, and neither did the disciples. In verse eleven it reads, “When they first heard the report from the women, they thought it was an idle tale.” It was a tale before it became the truth. That’s how it started for them . And I think it’s how it starts for everyone if we want to pursue the truth of the thing. We start out with questions and doubts, but we don’t have to stay there. We live in a day today when it’s often popular to be skeptical about things. We’ve been let down by the authorities in our life, and we’ve been disappointed by parents, the government and school systems; just fill in the blank. Anything man made. So we become skeptics, but God doesn’t want you to stay there. He’s not afraid of your questions, but he wants to help you answer them.
Notice the progression of the disciples. It went from a tale to Peter, rising up and running to the tomb. In verse twelve, he didn’t just sit there, saying, “I’m in doubt.” He goes and sees for himself; he runs to the tomb. Here’s what I would invite you to do. Encounter Jesus yourself. You are wondering, “How can I do that?”
Here’s an intellectual challenge for you . Take the gospel of John. It’s the fourth gospel in your Bible, and before you read it, say, “God, I don’t know if you’re real or not, but if you’re real, speak to me through this gospel. Trust me, if you will pray that and mean it, if you will accept the intellectual challenge. I’m not just going to sit here and remain in my doubts. I’m going to pursue the truth for myself. I believe you will encounter the living Lord Jesus. I believe in his spirit will speak to you and then you’ll have to deal with the facts as you encounter them.
That’s what happens to Peter. They moved from it being an idle tale to him, marveling to them, being startled and frightened until finally, in verse forty one, they disbelieved for joy. What’s that mean? It was just too good to be true. They were still like struggling but then finally they believe, Why did Jesus go to such lengths? Because he wanted them to be his witnesses . And even to Thomas, who we often call “doubting Thomas,” he lovingly and patiently came to Thomas. Jesus said, “stop doubting and believe.” Stop doubting and believe; you don’t have to keep on doubting .
Perhaps Peter is the greatest example of a changed life. In the Scripture, as we’ve already noted before, Peter had some up and down days. The day that Jesus was judged and crucified was one of his down days. The night before, he had just said, “I will die for you. I will stand for you.” And Jesus said, “before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” The next day, he sure enough did that. The third time, he cursed and said, “I never knew him. I don’t know him.” And then he ran off crying. He went from denying Jesus to a dedicated disciple.
What explains this? The Risen Lord Jesus; the empty tomb. It has fulfilled claims of Jesus’ appearances. It convinced Peter to the point that only weeks later, after the resurrection, he stands in Jerusalem at Pentecost and preaches and three thousand come to Christ. And when he comes to the end of his days, he’s brought before the Caesar of Rome, Nero, who condemns him to death on a cross. As they take him to be crucified, he says, “I am not worthy to be crucified as my Lord,” and the church fathers report that he requested to be crucified upside down. And so he was. What’s the explanation for a life that would so change so that he, in fact, did become Peter the Rock? He saw Jesus. He was convinced.
Are you convinced? Where are you at today with the good news about Jesus having risen from the grave? Is it true or is it just an idle tale to you? I would challenge you today to consider these four proofs that Jesus is alive and he has overcome sin, death and the grave. Would you pray with me?
Lord Jesus. Thank you. Thank you, Lord, for what you’ve done. And thank you for the proof and the patience that you’ve had towards us, so that even while we were doubting you were pursuing us. Lord, is there someone here this morning that came in doubting or came in troubled? Would you stir their hearts right now so that they could leave will faith. You can pray right now; you can pray this prayer with me, even in your seat. And you can leave changed. Pray with me, “Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. I have fallen short of your glory. But I believe you died on the cross for my sins. And I believe that you were raised from the grave on the third day. I believe it. I believe you’re alive and coming again. Forgive me of my sin and make me the person you want me to be. I want to be a child of God And I want you as my lord and savior. If you’re praying that prayer right now believing, you’ve moved from death to life. You’ve been born again in this very moment by faith in Jesus who has done all the work. Others are here today and you believe it. You believe in Jesus. But would you be encouraged today so that you would not ever have to walk and fear? Some of us are here this morning, Lord. And maybe we’re facing some difficult scenario. Some bad news from the doctor’s office or something from work or school. Whatever it is, you have taken away the sting of death. And so therefore we have no fear. Lord, we are reminded of that today And we thank you because of Jesus We live. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.