Has anybody ever told you something that you just couldn’t believe at first?
Maybe the best examples of this is come from when tragedy strikes…
When we hear really hard news, it can often be hard for us to comprehend.
This past September 11th, I went on to YouTube and watched the actual news footage from that day.
You can actually just watch the uninterrupted news broadcast, as it happened for 4 hours or so
And the news of the 2 towers being attacked is just so terrible that newscasters literally can’t even come to the conclusion that it was terrorism
They keep saying, “How could a pilot have accidentally flow into the towers? It doesn’t make sense.”
Even after the 2nd plane hits the 2nd towers, the reporter says, “Something must be wrong with air traffic control’s guiding system”
The real news was just too hard to believe.
Today, I want to tell you about the opposite of that.
News that is SO good…that it’s actually hard to believe.
In fact, open up a Bible with me, I want to show this news.
If we go back a few days before Easter, Jesus (the Son of God) was brutally executed on a cross on a Friday
He breathes his last breath at about 3:00pm, and is placed in a tomb before sundown that Friday.
We’re going to now join the Bible’s recounting of what happens on Sunday morning
(Luke 24:1-8) – NIV
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the 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? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
Okay, so some of the Jesus’ female followers go to the tomb.
They’re bringing spices because they’re essentially, in their culture, respectfully preparing his body for burial in the tomb.
They were unable to do that on Saturday, because that was their sabbath, and people weren’t allowed to do any work on that day.
But when they get there, Jesus isn’t in the tomb anymore!
And instead, two angels show up and ask, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead??”
Which is a great line.
Okay, let’s watch what they do next:
(Luke 24:9-12) – NIV
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
And later on in the Bible, Peter (and the other disciples) actually encounter the resurrected Jesus face to face.
And what’s fascinating is even when they see him face to face, it says that they still did not quite believe because of the joy and amazement of seeing him
It’s as if they were thinking, “This news is SO Good, it’s hard to believe…”
But eventually, they do decide to put their faith in Jesus
And if I can, I want to show you the progression of their faith journey….because I think it’s a progression that many of us go on.
Here’s what I see in this passage of Luke chapter 24…especially through the disciple Peter
Nonsense à Hope à Evidence à Faith
And I want to walk through each of those steps in the faith journey with you today.
Let’s start with “nonsense”
Because maybe that’s where you’re at right now.
Maybe your friend or family member dragged you here, but deep inside, you’re going, “This is all nonsense. I don’t believe Jesus came back from the dead or any of that.”
That’s fair…let’s talk about it.
In our passage, the women report to the disciples, “The tomb is empty! We saw two angels who said he rose from the dead,”
And the disciples say, “Nonsense!”
This is actually really helpful that the Bible records their level of doubt here
These were the main followers of Jesus.
His 12 disciples…now down to 11 men since Judas betrayed Jesus
They spent every day with Jesus for 3 years.
They saw all of his miracles…heard all of his teachings…and experienced his incredible love and friendship
If there is ANY group of people in the world that wants Jesus to be alive again…it’s these guys.
So WHY then, when some other followers come and say, “We saw angels, the tomb is empty, Jesus is alive!!!”…
…why do the disciples say, “Nonsense!”
I’ll tell you why…It’s because the disciples are regular, good-thinking, naturally skeptical people…just like you
I mean, put yourself in their shoes
If your best friend, or parent, or spouse, died 3 days ago…
And you missed them terribly so
And you wanted more than anything to have them back..
But then, at their funeral, someone runs up to you and said, “Hey, an angel just appeared to me, and they’re alive again! Come and see their empty grave!”
If someone said that to you in real life, what would you do?
I think I might punch them in the face
Saying, “How dare you joke about something like that!”
Most of you are maybe less intense than me, so you might just say, “Nonsense! Stop it. They’re dead. It’s not possible”
And the disciples are REAL people…just like you and me.
And so they say, “Stop it. That’s nonsense”
By the way, this only makes me believe in the Bible more
Because it doesn’t paint the disciples as people who just believe no matter what.
They’re real people
But something begins to happen in them.
It happens in Peter first…and eventually in the rest of them.
Hope starts to rise and peek its head through this “layer of nonsense”
Nonsense à Hope à Evidence à Faith
Look at verse 12 again if you still have it in front of you
It says, “Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.”
We’ll see later that Peter still doesn’t yet fully believe that Jesus has risen.
But hope has begun to arise.
And there comes a time in a lot of our lives when hope starts to rise up…and we begin to move out of the “nonsense” phase.
For some people it’s when they have their first child.
They might say, “This is such a miracle…maybe I should seek out God”
For others, it’s during tragedy that hope oddly arises.
They’re in a car accident, or lose a loved one, or get diagnosed with cancer, they’re getting buried under addiction.
And deep within their soul…they begin to cry out, saying, “God, are you there? I’m not sure you even make sense to me, but I hope you’re there…cuz I need you”
I remember when hope first started to arise my life.
For the first 18 years of my life, I did not follow Jesus Christ.
In those days, in rural MN where I grew up, most people went to church.
It was weird if you didn’t…and so my family often did attend
But I assure you I was not interested in Jesus
In high school, I often even mocked the people who followed Jesus.
But then in December of my senior year, I started to read the Bible for myself.
And in the Spring of my Senior Year, someone told me that a whole bunch of churches in town were putting on a play about the crucifixion of Jesus, and they asked me if I wanted to be in it.
To this day, I have no idea why I said yes
Probably just couldn’t bring myself to say, “no”
For one, I didn’t really like Jesus that much then
And secondly, I was totally not a drama person…more of a sports guy in high school
But, it was all God’s plan, and I went to this play
…and the play itself was powerful…
I was an extra, my line was “Crucify him,” which I delivered wonderfully J
But what I vividly remember, was when we prayed before practice
I was all ready to pray.
The only prayer I really knew was, “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”
And this woman, started to pray, and she prayed, “JJJEEEESSSSUSS…be here tonight!”
And everyone was going, “Hmm mmm”
And I’m standing there with my eyes wide open, going, “WWWHHHHAAATTT?!?!”
But in that moment, and I can still feel it today, hope started to puncture through the protective layer of “nonsense” I had been wearing
And I thought, “What if this IS real?”
“It looks really real for these people!”
“What if I’ve been wrong, and Jesus really did die on the cross for me and rise from the dead?”
And if there’s any part of your heart that is going, “What if Jesus really is alive today…and died for me…and wants me to know Him….”
I encourage you seek the truth…see it out.
It’s never a bad choice to seek the truth.
Which leads us to the next part of the faith journey
Nonsense à Hope à Evidence à Faith
Peter doesn’t just run around aimlessly through a field of lilies…“hoping” that it’s true
His hope leads him to examine the evidence.
This is the end of verse 12
(Luke 24:12a) – NIV
12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves,
And now Peter is getting closer to faith.
He examines the evidence, and Jesus isn’t in the tomb! It’s empty!
The stone, which would have been almost impossible to roll out of its groove in those days, was rolled away…and there was no body…
…just the strips of linen that USED to be around the body
And now we’ve moved beyond hope.
The evidence is leading him closer to faith.
And indeed that’s where the evidence should point you.
I don’t think anyone should believe that Jesus resurrected from the dead if the evidence says otherwise.
If this is true, the evidence should support it
And evidence looks different for different people.
For some of you, “evidence” is more of what you see in people.
You’re examining the people you know who claim to follow Christ.
Is God moving in them? Do you see a change in them?
For others of you, you love reading, and podcasts, and studying, and you really want to know…what evidence is there actually for the resurrection?
You’re thinking…it doesn’t make sense…and yet it somehow changed the entire world?!
So examine the evidence yourself.
Be willing to look at both sides.
While you can find a million YouTube videos telling you that God doesn’t exist, be willing to study the case for the resurrection too
In fact, let me give you 4 action steps you can take to study the evidence
Study the Evidence:
#1: Take a Bible with you
#2: Go to renovationchurch.org/reason-to-believe
#3: Visit a website like GotQuestions.org
#4: Read! Try “Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel
But what do you do when the evidence is leaning you towards following Jesus?
At some point, you have to make a decision to believe.
And the Bible interestingly enough, always uses the term “faith”
It doesn’t say, “Once you know without a doubt, follow Jesus”
It says, “Have faith”
This is fascinating: Even after Peter sees the evidence of the empty tomb it STILL says “Peter went away, wondering to himself, what had happened”
Don’t be so hard on yourself just because you have some doubts.
Peter was walking around IN the empty tomb, and still had some doubts!
Faith and Doubt always coexist together.
Faith without doubt is not faith, it’s certainty.
When you have faith, you’re always going to have some measure of doubt
We often explain it this way:
Imagine this stage is a continuum.
And this side represents being 100% sure that Jesus resurrected.
And this other side represents being 100% sure that He did not.
When you actually study the evidence, it leans me this way (walk towards the side of believing)
Sure, it doesn’t bring me all the way…
I’m not at 100%. I don’t have video evidence.
I’ve read and heard the arguments against it.
I still have a little bit of a faith leap here.
But let me tell you something that I don’t think a lot of people understand
I think a lot of people say, “Well, I’m not 100% sure Jesus resurrected.”
“I have doubts…there are parts about Christianity or the Bible that don’t add up, don’t make sense to me, so I don’t want to believe in Jesus and turn my life over to him. I’m going to live as if he isn’t real”
But just because you have doubts about Jesus, doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts about atheism, or unbelief, or however you want to label the other side.
The leap of faith goes both ways!
Are you absolutely certain it’s not true?
Do you have video evidence that it’s not true?
I think a lot of people get close to following Jesus, but experience some doubts and thus decide not to.
Not realizing that their leap of faith to believe in Jesus is significantly smaller than the leap of faith to not believe in Him
Listen, if you actually think deeply about this, you should doubt the narrative of the non-Christian world as well.
Because the world out there says that you are an accident.
If you actually want to be logically consistent, and not just mix and match beliefs that you like (because all that stuff about you having value, that comes from Christianity not atheism)
If you want to be consistent, the unbelieving world says you are just a random, pointless product.. of an accidental universe.
You’re just a pile of atoms that is of no more value than the chair you’re sitting on
And therefore there is no real purpose or meaning to your life.
And I bet there’s a deep part of you that wants to say to that….Nonsense.
I just….just…KNOW…that’s not true.
Remember, the leap of faith goes both ways…
…which way will you jump?
If your heart is starting to pull towards Jesus…and hope is breaking through…and even some of the evidence for Him is starting to make sense…
Let me tell you the basic message of Jesus and Easter…so you can know if the leap to turning your life over to Him is worthwhile.
Jesus is the Son of God
2,000 years ago, he came to earth as a baby, born of the Virgin Mary.
And at the age of 30, he began to travel around and teach and perform miracles.
But 3 years later, God allowed Him (and Jesus willingly went) to be killed on a cross
And then, 3 days later, he rose from the dead
But why die?
Why not just come to earth, teach, do miracles, and then, at the end of his life, rise up to heaven or something?
Because in dying, Jesus was paying the penalty for our sins.
God is a holy God, and all of our sins, all of our evil deeds, wickedness, they deserve God’s justice.
And yet, God is also a God of love.
And He loves you so much that He sent His only son to die in your place, for your sins.
The Bible says it this way:
(2 Corinthians 5:21) – NLT
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
By believing in Jesus, God is taking the punishment for your sin off of you, and onto His Son Jesus
…making you right with God.
And therefore, if believe that Jesus died in your place, for your sins, you will be saved.
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
That’s a PROMISE from the Bible, friends.
And you can have eternal life in heaven.
But if you don’t believe…
You say, “Nah, I’m not going to follow Jesus…He’ll just have to forgive me when I die…He kind of has to…I believe in a God of love”
Nonsense à Hope à Evidence à Faith
My friend, that is not at all what the Bible itself teaches.
Please, do not just go with what you want to be true.
Don’t risk the next few million years of your existence on what you WANT to be true.
Examine the evidence.
Jesus clearly teaches in the Bible that if you don’t believe He died for you, and you don’t let Him be the Lord of your life….
Then the punishment for your sin will still be upon you when you die
I must warn you through tears, you will spend eternity, forever in hell then.
Please, this is WHY Jesus came to earth…it’s why he resurrected and is alive today
He wants to save you.
He died to save you
Let him save you.
Please don’t take the enormous leap of faith that this didn’t happen and isn’t real.
That’s a HUGE leap of faith, with tremendous risks.
Many of you here have some next steps to take.
Maybe it’s to let hope break through that “layer of nonsense”
Maybe it’s to start examining the evidence.
To keep coming back here every week.
We’ve been studying this Book of Luke as a church, and next week, we’re just going to keep reading it and studying it
I promise you that you will learn a lot about the Bible here
Keep coming back.
But for some of you though, you need to let TODAY be the day of your salvation.
God is already moving in your heart…and you’re ready to let Him save you today.
Besides, you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.
And there is no better day than today to start a relationship with Jesus and be forgiven.
And as we read, it’s simple as believing Jesus died for you and accepting Him as Lord of your life.
You don’t have to be good enough…you just have to make a decision to invite Him in…and become His follower.
And then his forgiveness will wash over you.
Here’s what we’re going to do…
For those of you who have never invited Jesus in to be your Savior…
I want you, during our final song (which we’ll start in a second) to walk to the front of the stage (not on it)…jus as a symbolic way to say, “I believe. Save me from my sins. I’m turning my life over to you, Jesus”
We’re going to sing, “If I am in you (if you died for me & saved me), what more can I do…but follow after you”
This is how you start…
Let Him forgive you.
Start your life of following Him by walking up here.
If you need to come, you’ll just know.
You’ll feel it..you won’t be able to escape it…and you’ll come.
So if you need to be saved, come to the front at anytime during this song…
And then, at the end of the service, I’ll pray with you, and help you get started in this decision to follow Jesus.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.