The Preacher Says....  
  Evidence of Things Hoped For  
  I Cor 15. 1 - 23

Easter Sunday–a troublesome day for those who instill guilt in themselves with fingers crossed behind their backs indicating a lack of belief in the truth of the resurrection. And for their children it’s a nice ‘ tradition’ , a word that sadly conveys the notion of a ‘ belief without substance’. But forget about what other people do. This is only a convenient way to deflect your own thoughts from your weaknesses. Do you really believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Do you believe this fact can give us reason to hope that we, indeed, also have the hope of resurrection? Is it too blunt to say that if you believe it, wouldn’t your life be different from the way it is now? (Please forgive this rhetorical device.)

Truth to tell, it is pretty hard to believe. Would you believe today that somebody was raised from the dead without a lot of evidence? Why believe it now? Well, you can’t without some testimony. Blind faith produces followers of David Koresh and James Jones. But this is a spurious analogy, because the evidence for the resurrection does exist. Your lack of faith is only the result of failure to examine that evidence. Witnessed by 500 at once–as Paul told the Corinthians (15. 4 - 6)–Christ was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas (Simon Peter), then of the twelve: after that he was seen of above 500 brethren at once. These facts are not examined today except superficially. Many books have been written on the subject: a case in point is Testimony of the four evangelists by Harvard Professor Simon Greenleaf (1783 - 1853), a principal founder of the Harvard Law School, a former atheist and a premier expert on the subject of evidence. He came to believe the resurrection to be a legal fact-- he said it was so–a legal fact--and subsequently became a Christian himself.

We need to remember that the writers of the four gospels were not co-authors. They all had different recollections of events as they happened–much like witnesses of accidents, except for one crucial fact: the resurrection of Christ.

Roman historians of the first century Tacitus and Josephus concur in the belief that he was raised from the dead. Cowardly Peter became a courageous man in light of this truth. After his near betrayal before the crucifixion, he afterwards stood up at Pentecost preaching the truth of Jesus that God had raised up whereof we are all witnesses. (Acts 2. 32). He faced his impending martyrdom with equanimity. This event was not done in a corner. We have documentation of this explosion in the first century against the background of pagan prosecution. The resurrection was the main cause of the rapid growth of the church in those days, supported by the miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive church. The unprecedented zeal of the early Christians, invigorated by the reality of the resurrection, held the promise of a future life after death. Above all, we have the reliability of the Bible in the sure word of prophecy. Christ lived and died, and rose to life again with God’s final promise that he would return in power and great glory. And then they shall see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21. 27, 28).

With this evidence, why don’t you love Jesus? When you see bumper stickers "Honk if you love Jesus", do you honk? When stickers say, "In case of the rapture this car shall be vacated", do you drive up beside and say, "Amen, brother"? Are you eternally happy like Pat Robertson? Can you cry and weep and sing and shout because of the love you have for Jesus? Like they do at the Rock Church? Don’t let me judge these people, or judge by my standard, but I can’t act like that, and if I did I’d be a hypocrite. How can I love him, anyhow? I never met him. He is little more than a boy in sandals and robe. I never liked public displays of affection; relations don’t last and it’s wrong to feign love. Paul said, "Let love be without dissimulation"–no pretense. Just because we don’t act like that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in his resurrection and we don’t reciprocate his love for us. Put another way, my parents did a lot for me, but time has allowed me to think of that without tears.

Consider this: once a man named Charlie did something for me 20 years ago that caused me to make a tidy sum of money–at sacrifice to himself. And you know it was too much trouble for me to go to his funeral, and I was even a bit irritated by a request for a contribution. Maybe you believe, if you truly know that Christ’s sacrifice was made for you, but you are a lazy ingrate like me. Or maybe you’re not like me, you just seem that way to an inattentive observer, knowing yourself that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Must we do some great thing to prove our love? Is our lifestyle drowning out our belief in the truth? We are admonished to seek the truth. This is our high calling. It is best done in quiet ways if we are to find it so we can hear the still, small voice of God. Be still, said the Psalmist, and know that I am God (Ps 46. 10)

We may not be able to love him in the way we love one another–and we can’t be like him. But we can do as Paul did. We can have the mind of Christ. Don’t try to behave in a certain way because you think ‘this is what Christ would do’. Act because your mind is his mind. If you start each day by saying, "Today I shall have the mind of Christ". You will soon grow to love him when you see what you have to do–when you see where that mind leads you. It leads to your obedience–a pure heart of compassion. With Christ in you, there is the hope of glory.