Back in the 1880Easter
Back in the 1880's Nietzsche declared that "God is dead," and before the turn of the Twentieth Century, Shaw and Wells chimed in saying the 20th Century would mark the end of the world's "religious phase."
Yet, today a church now meets in Russia's Museum of Religion and Atheism-the former center of atheism. Nearly half of the United States' population attend Worship on a regular basis while revival is sweeping through Latin America and Christianity grows behind China's iron curtain. (From Fresh Illustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html )
Nietzsche, Shaw and Wells have long since decayed in their graves, and God continues to live! That's the message of Easter. He is risen. He is risen, indeed!
Why do we believe? Recently an African Muslim was converted to Christ. When someone asked him why he had become a Christian, he answered. "Well, it's like this. Suppose you were going down a road when suddenly it forked in two directions, you didn't know which way to take. There at the fork in the road you could see two persons, one dead and one alive. Of which one would you inquire the way?" This is a supreme difference between Islam and the gospel. The Muslim regards both Muhammad and Christ as prophets of God. But whereas Muhammad lived and died and passed from the scene of history, Jesus lived, died, and arose!. (John T. Seamonds)
Muhammad died, and was buried. His faithful followers take pilgrimages to visit his remains, the same is true of Buddha and other religious leaders. But it is not true of Jesus. You cannot visit His remains, you can only visit his empty grave, because He isn't there. He Arose!
This side of history, we understand that Jesus' death was necessary. Without His death, there could be no resurrection. At the cross, He laid down His life for us. He willingly gave His all. But how did his friends that He laid His life down for view the cross?
One answer to that question would be, "from a distance." Except for John, they weren't there. The cross was the ultimate symbol of shame. It was reserved for vile criminals. The disciple's teacher, the one they left home to follow, was hung on a cross, and when He was, they turned their back on Him. No doubt they viewed the cross as shameful. Perhaps they even began to question the wisdom of their decision to follow Him.
Disillusioned? Disappointed? Certainly. Afraid? Perhaps. The crowd was out of control. Did they know if they were safe? Could the soldiers come and take them away as they took Jesus away?
Then it happened! Jesus broke through the chains of death and arose from the grave. He appeared to the woman at the empty tomb and gave them the word to tell the disciples. Later, he appeared before the disciples, but Thomas wasn't there.
The disciples found Thomas and told him the good news. Jesus had risen!
But Thomas doubts the apostles testimony. Let's read John 20:24-25 "Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'"
He'd heard about the vicious way they'd driven the nails in his hands instead of tying them to the cross, and he'd heard the way the soldiers stabbed him in the side with a spear, like a piece of meat. His anger and his doubt blended to become a toxic cocktail of bitterness, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." Do you blame him? His hopes and dreams dashed, Thomas was drowning in depression and doubt-no way he could believe the unbelievable, not without proof. In the next verse, Jesus challenges Thomas to believe. "A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' 27 Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'" (John 20:26-27 )
Without touching the nail scars or putting his hand in Jesus' side, Thomas believes. Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" John 20:28
Thomas, by his actions said, seeing is believing, but we know that "Believing is seeing." Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." John 20:29