Sunday, April 15, 2018
Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My Hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.
It was the power of God Almighty that brought Jesus from the tomb that first Easter two thousand years ago. It was the power of the living God, but, as we talked about last week, it was almost more than Jesus’ disciples and others who loved Him could process. The disciples thought their journey was over. They had seen Him crucified and laid in a borrowed tomb.
On the Sunday after His burial, however, the disciples began hearing reports that He was alive. It was earlier in this same chapter of Luke where we read; That morning some of the women had taken spices to His tomb to anoint His body. Strangely, they found the stone rolled away from His tomb. And when they entered the tomb, they didn’t find Christ’s body. While they were standing there wondering about this, suddenly two men in shining white garments stood beside them. The frightened women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. They remembered His words, but it was still quite incredible.
When they came back from the tomb, the women told the disciples and those who were with them what they had seen and heard. And Luke reports, “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
Was it a hoax? They were certainly not immune to superstition. Perhaps it was some kind of ghost. Then suddenly it happened. Jesus Himself stood among them. The disciples were startled and frightened. Jesus said to them, why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself.
The response of the disciples is a sermon in itself. Luke tells us that; they still didn’t believe it because of joy and amazement. In other words, it was simply too wonderful to be true. He was alive, and He was with them, right there in their midst.
It was an event that had never happened before in human history. No wonder they had difficulty believing. Some people still have that problem with that still today. Many desperately want to believe but something holds them back. “Look at My hands and My feet,” says Christ. “It is I Myself . . .” Why do you suppose some people have a problem believing that Christ has risen from the grave?
Do you suppose that they have difficulty believing that God really loves us that much, that God sent His Son to suffer and die and then be resurrected in our behalf? Are they more comfortable with an impersonal God who is the First Cause, the Ground of Being, a Source of life and power but not a personal God? The idea of a God with nail prints in His hands and feet because of His great love for them, is an idea they’re not quite ready for.
Max Lucado writes about Christ’s crucifixion in a beautifully poetic manner: “He looked around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with the wind. Men clad in religion stood off to one side. Arrogant, cocky. Women clad in sorrow huddled at the foot of the hill. Faces tear streaked. All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity poised to protect. But the Creator gave no command. ‘It must be done.’” He said, and withdrew. “The angel spoke again . . . ‘It would be less painful . . .’” The Creator interrupted softly. “But it wouldn’t be love.”
No, it wouldn’t be love. What a magnificent portrayal of the mind of God. How outrageous are the claims of the Gospel? The divine Creator of all that lives and moves and has its being, came down to earth and suffered and died to say to us that no one on this earth is beyond His love and concern. No religion in the ancient world made this claim, that human beings are loved by God. No one ever wrote a song that said, Zeus loves me, this I know, for the Iliad tells me so.
That would’ve been an absurd concept for the minds of that time. God was to be feared, God was to be obeyed, God was to be approached with trembling and awe. To think that God could be more loving than one’s own most loving parent was beyond their understanding. But that’s what our faith tells us.
In trying to deal with the meaning of the cross on which Christ died, the early church came to understand that those nail prints in the hands and feet of Jesus should’ve been in our hands and feet. But God so loved the world that He sent His Own Son to bear the burden brought about by the iniquity of us all. Can you deal with that? Can you believe that God really cares about us that much? Can you believe God loves you that much? That’s one reason some people have difficulty believing in the resurrection: they have a problem believing that God really loves them that much.
There are others who have difficulty believing that life really goes on beyond the tomb. Most people have a hard time believing in a resurrection because it just seems too incredible! But, only a couple hundred years ago if you had told your great, great, great, great grandfather that you could fly from New York City to Los Angeles in a little over 5 hours on a vehicle that weighed hundreds of thousands of pounds with over 300 people on board 5 miles high in sky, he would’ve laughed in your face; he couldn’t believe that, because it had never been done! If you told that same relative from a couple hundred years ago that men would walk on the moon, or that messages could be flashed to England or China in less than a second, or that a machine called a computer could do a billion math calculations in a matter of seconds or milliseconds, he wouldn’t believe it! We easily believe it because we take it for granted, having witnessed and even experienced these things over and over again.
When the day comes when we’re resurrected with Christ, they’ll see how foolish they were not to have believed. So many reliable witnesses have reported what they saw on that Easter Sunday and for weeks after that. Yes, I know, it’s simply too wonderful to believe that there’s a world beyond this one, another existence in which that which dies here is resurrected to new life there. Yet such a conviction is at the heart of our faith. I hope that in this Easter season you’ll at least entertain the possibility that this, the greatest news that the world has ever received, is worth investigating.
But even more significantly, some people don’t want to deal with the idea of those two truths. What does it mean if there really is a God who loves us without conditions? What does it mean for our lives if life goes on beyond the grave?
The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live. Did you hear that? If you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.
That happened in the lives of those first disciples. Their lives were changed in a matter of days or a few weeks after they encountered the Risen Christ. From frightened and uncertain men marked by doubt and envy, they became apostles of great courage and self-giving.
How about you? What difference has been made in your life seeing the hands and feet of the risen Christ?
Have you encountered the Risen Christ in your life experience? Has it caused you to take more seriously your walk with the Man from Galilee? Has it had some effect on the goals you have set for your life? After all, if life is indeed eternal, some of our goals are going to seem awfully short-sighted and self-serving.
Those who have seen the hands and feet of the Risen Christ and live their lives in the light of eternity, never run out of a purpose for life. God really does love us that much. Life really does go on beyond the tomb. What is your response to those two great truths? “See my hands and my feet . . .”
No one doubts that Hannibal crossed the Alps, for the Christian, the enheartening truth is that Christ defeated man’s last enemy and still lives, the conqueror over pain and sin and death. This leads the Christian to believe that evil doesn’t have the last word for him either, and that he’ll find unspeakable joy at the end of his journey with all that seems harsh to love woven into a plan greater than his present power to perceive.
God really does love us that much. Life really does go on beyond the grave. Has it changed your life to know that Jesus is alive? Maybe you haven’t yet opened your heart to God’s love and the good news of the Easter season. Christ is alive. He is risen - e HeHallelujah. Amen.