Summary: Faith in the risen Lord awakens dead hope.
Title: Dead Hope
Series: Waking the Dead
Text: John 20:1-18
Truth: Faith in the risen Lord awakens dead hope.
Aim: To help me live in the joy of the Lord rather than despair.
Life ?: How does faith in the risen Lord change me?
Residents of a town in Thailand flocked to the home of a bereaved mother to touch and see a 5-foot monitor lizard she says is a reincarnation of her 13-year-old son and a symbol of good fortune. Chamlong Taengniem, whose son Charoen died in a motorcycle crash, told Reuters that the lizard followed her home after her son’s cremation, slept on his mattress in the house, and loves her son’s favorite beverage—fresh milk and yogurt. The mother, 51, says that her son turned into the lizard and she and her neighbors say that the creature had not been previously seen in the area (HoustonChronicle.com, www.chron.com, 6/29/01).
I’m assuming that a huge majority of us do not believe that story. As Christians we categorically reject reincarnation. The story is simply too fantastic. It goes beyond the boundaries of truth and reality. The Thai culture is a superstitious culture, and besides there are plenty of other legitimate explanations for this strange occurrence. Just ask any child that has had a cat or dog follow them home.
For some people our story of the literal resurrection of Jesus is as unbelievable as the mother that believes her son became a lizard. One of those persons was Dr. Frank Morrison. Frank was not the kind of person you would find in church on Sunday morning. Chances are he wouldn’t even come on a Christmas or Easter service, but you couldn’t help but respect the man. He was a well-educated Englishman.
By profession he was a lawyer. By philosophy he was a skeptic. In his own words he was moved by “irresistible logic and facts.” He was not persuaded by Christian traditions. Morrison’s thinking was shaped by German theologians who were critical of the Bible and Charles Darwin’s champion debater and opponent of the Christian faith, Sir Thomas Huxley. Morrison did not believe in miracles. When it came to the historic teaching of the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, he totally denied its reality.
A friend challenged his bias against the resurrection and he decided to take on the task of using his considerable intellect and skill as a lawyer to investigate and disprove the resurrection. It drastically changed his life.
He chose to study the resurrection from an intellectual point of view. He would use the documents of scripture, history, and archaeology, and let the chips fall where they may. This honest inquiry into the facts of the resurrection resulted in the disbeliever becoming a believer. He put his discoveries into a book titled Who Moved the Stone. He originally set out to write one kind of book but the sheer weight of the evidence led him to write an entirely different book. Dr. Morrison said he could not write the first book, the one denying the reality of the resurrection, even if he wanted to because of the stubborn facts.
Dr. Morrison’s faith in the resurrection is a very different faith than the mother that believes a 5-foot monitor lizard is her son. Our text provides the answer to two questions that reveal this difference. First, can you believe the resurrection? Second, what does it mean to me? If the resurrection is true, then you can see from these disciples that faith awakens dead hope. Their hope was dead, and the resurrection awakened dead hope. That changed despair into joy.
I. CAN YOU BELIEVE THE RESURRECTION? (JOHN 2:1-18)
The Christian faith exploded all around the Mediterranean world in the first century. Financially, Christians were mainly an impoverished people and their critics said that Christians could only attract slaves, old women, and poor people. Politically, they were hunted and hounded by those in power. Culturally, the Christian faith was born into a world of debauchery. Unwanted babies were routinely killed and the homosexual affairs of the Caesars were considered an acceptable lifestyle. Yet with all that against it, the Christian church won over the culture. The only explanation for whole populations turning to Christ, despite bloody opposition, is the uniqueness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians, it is still our hope that our land that is quickly traveling back to the paganism of first century Rome can be won for Christ.
The idea of a bodily resurrection is not an easy one to accept. The Bible records that the disciple’s first reaction was skepticism before it became unshakeable confidence. Mary’s first thought was not that Jesus rose from the dead. John 20:1-2:
On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put Him!" (Holman Christian Standard Version)