Summary: The testimony of realiable witnesses points us to the truth of the resurrection.
John 20 – The Resurrection
Plan: Intro – anti-supernaturalism
The Testimony – women
- Fear and joy - distractions
- Seeing is believing (Thomas)
God and the Supernatural
I’ve just started looking at the life of Jesus with my year seven classes at school. We’re watching bits of the Jesus video and answering some questions. The first question on the page is this: “How did Mary become pregnant with Jesus”. Probably a fairly dangerous question when asking 12 year old boys, but nevertheless, that’s the question. One of the more capable girls said to me the other day, “how can a virgin become pregnant – it’s impossible!” I agreed with her and said, yes, normally it is. But in this case God did something miraculous. When I uttered the word “miracle” she scoffed. Not in a deliberately offensive way, but in the way many modernist westerners do, those who think they’ve advanced well beyond such superstition. “But that just can’t happen, sir,” she replied. It’s an assumption that seems to grip much of western thinking, including many people in churches who call themselves Christians, and it’s often referred to as anti-supernaturalism. It’s an assumption that goes beyond healthy scepticism to a complete refusal to believe in the miraculous whatever the testimony and whatever the evidence.
It’s not a particularly logical approach. In that very same year seven class, another girl asked me a question about Adam and Eve. It wasn’t really a question, it was more of a statement with the underlying tone being “I think I’ve got you on that one, haven’t I sir.” She said, “how could Adam and Eve have understood the one rule that God gave them? They wouldn’t have had any language just after God created them, that takes time to develop. It’s impossible for language to appear overnight. They wouldn’t have been able to communicate, so they can’t be blamed for eating the apple!” I replied to her, “If God was able to create this whole universe from nothing, then surely he would be able to give Adam and Eve the ability to communicate.”
And there’s the strange, illogical thing. Most of the people who hold to the anti-supernaturalist assumption also claim to believe in God. And yet somehow, God can never work outside of the natural laws which he created.
But what does this have to do with John 20? Many of you saw the production of Jesus on Trial about a month ago where put the question of whether Jesus really did rise from the dead through the rigours of a courtroom analysis. I played the lawyer who was arguing against the resurrection, and let me just read to you what was said as a closing statement:
Modern medicine tells us that if someone has been dead for three days, they’re not coming back. Their brain has been deprived of oxygen for so long that even if we stuck a new heart in them and got them going again, there is absolutely no hope. Mr Brooks can stand up here all day and tell us fairy tales but it doesn’t change the facts. No one in this room. No in this country. No one in this world, has ever seen someone who is genuinely and completely dead rise again. It’s an impossibility. It doesn’t happen. With all due respect for the millions of people worldwide who still hold on to this belief, it defies rational thought, it defies reasoning, it defies science. It defies everything we have in the modern world that sets us apart from those people who originally fell for this trick two thousand years ago.
That is the anti-supernaturalist position when it comes to Jesus rising from the dead. And the troubling thing is, that many so-called Christians, in their effort to give modern listeners exactly what their itching ears want to hear, have compromised and perverted the gospel so that Jesus no longer genuinely, physically rose from the dead. In doing so, they are actually saying that the Bible is wrong, they know better and, ultimately, that it is ridiculous to believe that the creator of the whole universe could raise someone from the dead. That the God whom they say they worship has no more power over death than the rest of us. That’s their message.
Well, let’s look at the testimony about the resurrection that John gives us. There is a purpose behind John’s testimony and we can see it in the last verse of the chapter: 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John isn’t merely writing a nice story or an interesting biography. He is writing so that people might believe that Jesus is the saviour and king of the world. He’s not a writer who tries to hide behind a façade neutrality when really he has an axe to grind. He’s up-front – he’s writing this so that people will believe and be saved. And it’s no accident that he puts this little author’s note directly after his testimony about the resurrection. He’s written all of this to show that Jesus is the Christ and the fact that he rose from the dead is the ultimate evidence.