Summary: See what it means to be a first-hand follower and how that can persuade second-hand skeptics.
“The Second-Hand Syndrome”
The more I analyze and scrutinize the Gospel, the more I am amazed that people don’t believe it. It is historical, evidential, logical, and personal. Yet, the enemy’s blinding tactics keep working and people continue to resist God’s Word, saying “No” to the truth. Not everyone, mind you; people are coming to Christ! But there are still those whose eyes are wide shut (show slide). They are very “open” to all kinds of truth, yet are so far from the real truth. You’ve met folks like that, haven’t you? Openly closed to the truth? Now that’s an oxymoron!
They are people who remind me of the cover of our worship folder. Do you see it? [hold one up.] They simply can’t see the truth even though it is starring them right in the face. In fact, just last week Lewis Nelms shared with us that, worldwide, 6 out of 10 people are affiliated with religions that don’t believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. WOW! Based on those statistics, that’s 60% of our world in a state of spiritual blindness and unbelief.
The state of many people today is no different than many of the people mentioned in Luke 24! Several of the people in this chapter were struggling with doubt and were slow to believe! And this month we’re going to look at some of the reasons they were this way, and see what we can do to help prevent unbelief from happening today. I realize that, theologically and technically, we really can’t do anything. It’s a spiritual work of the Spirit of God. But practically, from a human angle, what can we do to cooperate with God in his work of bringing dead people to life again? That’s one thing with which we should be concerned!
So let’s take our Bibles and turn to Luke 24. Who were the first people slow to believe? You guessed it – the disciples! Look at 24:9-11 – “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
The key word in these verses is “nonsense,” or “idle tales.” This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament, and it simply means “foolish talking” or “words that make no sense.” Thus, the translation “nonsense.” The words the women spoke, from a human angle, made no sense, and so they simply thought what they said didn’t happen. Since they didn’t see it or hear it, they didn’t believe it. There was just no way it could be true!
And what is it that they didn’t believe? Let’s look at Luke 24:1-8…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. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 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? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ’The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’" Then they remembered his words.
They didn’t believe the Gospel! Do you see what it says in 24:6-7? “…crucified and…raised again.” That’s the gospel! But they couldn’t believe it! Since their reasoning was based on the fact that they didn’t actually see it, it seemed like foolishness and nonsense. In their minds, until they saw it first hand, they wouldn’t accept it second-hand. They didn’t believe because of what I call the “Second Hand Syndrome.”
Out of the Eleven, perhaps the one most affected by the “Second-Hand Syndrome” was Thomas. In fact, by combining Luke’s account and John’s (John 20:24ff), we know that Thomas didn’t believe the women or the men. Not only did he not believe the report from the women on the morning of the resurrection, but Scripture tells us he didn’t believe the report from the men on the evening of the resurrection. So it was a whole week later till Thomas saw Christ. Imagine that – Thomas spent a whole week in unbelief, even with his best friends assuring him with multiple eye-witness stories and first-hand accounts. Look at John 20:25 – “Unless I see…” were some of the first words out of his mouth. Yes, the Second-Hand Syndrome got the best of him for a while, just as it did all the apostles initially.