“Doubt, Faith, and Faithfulness”
March 27th 2016
Introduction: When I was boy, my Dad used a curious phrase to let me know that he doubted the reality of the story I was telling. He would say, “Don’t give me any of that ‘Who struck John.’” It was an old fashioned expression even then, and like so many things we hear in childhood, I didn’t have a dictionary definition for its meaning. I derived its meaning from the context in which my Dad would often use it to overstate that he did not believe what was being said. “All the kids are doing it,” my sister would say. “All my friends are going,” I would insist. To which my Dad respond with his line about it not being so.
We use what is known as “hyperbole” for effect, if you listen you will even hear children doing it. Over stating the facts. When charming raconteurs or skilled politicians or clever salespeople employ it, we give in to the power of their words and buy what they are selling, or perhaps even vote for them, don’t we?
If you don’t believe me, remember the last time you saw an advertisement for something you did not need but suddenly wanted or needed it badly because of what you had been shown. It happens to me every time I go into Wal-mart or Lowe’s or some other store with lots of things so nicely displayed. Heaven forbid that I should go to an auction!
Don’t give me any of that “Who struck John.” It means, “I don’t believe you. That’s simply not true.” And that my friends is the response the women got from the other followers of Jesus when they shared the message that he had arisen from the grave. Don’t ask us to believe the impossible!
The testimony of at least five women, who by the way are trusted members of their community, meant nothing to the men that first Easter dawn. Their testimony carried all the weight of a child’s exaggeration. Yet their testimony was true!
And so I wonder, whose testimony do we ignore? Whose disregarded voices carry the truth of the Resurrection this Easter Sunday? Will we listen? Or will we dismiss them as so much “Who struck John”? It really is all about doubt, faith, and faithfulness.
Ex. Verse 55 of chapter 23 gives us the information that it is the women who have been with Jesus from the Galilee, who come to the tomb that first morning after his death on the cross and the passing of the Sabbath.
A.) The story.
1. They are bringing spices with which to preform one final act of love for their teacher and friend.
2. When they arrive at the tomb they find the stone rolled away and the body is missing, they are perplexed.
3. Dr. Luke, being the good doctor that he must have been, has a very keen eye for the details of the story.
4. He then shares with us the most astounding part of the story, two men stood near by and they were dressed in “dazzling apparel.”
5. The women respond, as I suspect any of us would respond, with fear, they bow their faces to the ground.
B.) The response.
1. The two men ask, “Why do you seek the living among the dead.”
2. Apparently all of the women experience everything in the same way.
3. There is no hint in the text that any of them had any other experience or that they didn’t experience it at all.
4. Jesus had told them that all of this would happen but it was one of those, “Who struck John,” moments when he was telling them this.
5. It was just so fantastic that they simply didn’t or couldn’t believe it could possibly happen that way and so at the time they dismissed it.
6. The two men, who we might take to be angels, remind them of what Jesus had said to them about how everything was to happen, how he was to die and on the third day rise from the dead.
C.) The message.
1. The women have seen the empty tomb, they have seen that the body is missing, now they have the testimony of two men in dazzling clothes, what next?
2. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women go and share all that they have witnessed with the other followers.
3. The response, the men do not believe them, again one of those “Who struck John” moments.
4. It is so far fetched that they just cannot accept the story.
A.) We all struggle with faith.
1. The things we know and see, touch and feel, they are easy to believe in, but believing something that is beyond the physical realm of possibility is a challenge for us.
Ex. “Believing is seeing, not seeing is believing” or something like that from the Christmas movie, the Santa Claus with Tim Allen. It is one of the best lines in a movie that I have ever heard.
2. The Bible speaks in many places about the importance and nature of faith.
3. It talks about how when we open ourselves up to the possible activity of God in our lives all sorts of things begin to happen.
4. Our eyes and ears are opened in new ways to the activity of God in our lives and in the world around us.
Ex. I was asked this week about, “where God was in the bombings in Belgium?” My response, just as it was on 9-11 in our own country, and for every tragic event, natural or man-made, is that God is right there with all the victims. It breaks God’s heart when his children can justify violence as a solution for the issues they face. It breaks God’s heart when there is suffering and tragedy in our world. God, I believe calls forth the best in humanity to respond with healing and love to the needs of the hurting and wounded.
5. Faith is knowing that ultimately all things are in God’s hands and are in God’s care.
III.) Once we have settled this issue of faith in our lives, we must be faithful to it.
A.) Faith in Jesus Christ as God’s son and our savior and Lord calls for us to be faithful, to act, to share our faith and to it in manner in which Jesus would do it since he is our example.
1. How would Jesus respond?
Ex. A number of years ago there was a movement here in America and around the world based on 4 little letters. WWJD, which stood for “What Would Jesus Do.” How many of you remember the bracelets and the bumper stickers? How many of you had them? How many of us still do? Charles Sheldon’s 1896 book, “In His Steps” was subtitled, “What would Jesus do?” It is a powerful question for all believers who seek to live their lives in a faithful manor. Sheldon’s book addressed the issue of Christians being faithful in our response to our faith in Jesus Christ in the way we respond to all issues facing our world, especially the social concerns.
2. We are to be faithful in fulfilling the challenge Jesus reveals in Matthew’s Gospel the 25th chapter, verses 31-46. ( Pew Bible page 861)
Conclusion to message: Easter, salvation from our sins, the challenge to live faithful lives, this is the message for today. What will we do with it? How will impact our lives today, tomorrow, and forever? This is no “Who struck John” message, this is the truth of God’s activity in our lives. Amen.