Summary: The very people we only think of as being great believers in Jesus in the first century were actually absolutely skeptical about Jesus' promise that He would be resurrected. The 3 resisted belief despite multiple supernatural evidences.
Three Great Skeptics . . . Who Believed
The TV Progam Sixty Minutes was recently did a feature on Sesame Street, the pre-school educational program that involves the Muppets. After explaining that it was originally an experiment to see if under-privileged pre-school children could be taught via television, the producers talked about how they didn't avoid teaching any subject that their pre-school viewers needed to learn about—including death. The subject came up when one of actors who played a human characters who interact with the Muppets on the show, a Mr. Hooper, actually died. The producers decided this was also an educational opportunity, so they faced the absence of Mr. Hooper from the show head on.
One day, Big Bird showed up with a picture of Mr. Hooper which he had drawn, which he wanted to show Mr. Hooper. After being reminded by one of the other characters that Mr. Hooper wasn't there because he had died, Big Bird continued the conversation with, "but when he comes back do you think he'll like it?"—while showing the picture he had drawn. So when one of the human characters heard this, she realized that Big Bird didn't understanding the meaning of death, so she explained that when people die, they don't ever come back.
Yep, death, its finality and its certainty is something most of us figure out when we're very young. I was a preschooler myself, no more than three years old, when I began to figure it out. I was in the living room one day when my parents were talking about someone who had died. And I have this very vivid memory of what happened the next day. I was out on my tricycle in the neighborhood, and became very thirsty. So I tricycled up to my doorstep, ran into the kitchen, and asked my mom for some "Shu-Shu." That was my word for orange juice. Mom got me some "Shu-Shu" and I gulped it down, and then I had another question for her. "Mom, does everybody die?" And My Mom, startled at the sudden turn in subjects, smiled, and then admitted, "Yes, Jimmie, everybody dies."
Even at the tender age of 3, I knew that everybody included me. And I was none too happy about that. As I ran out to get on my trike,I protested within myself, "But I want to live forever!" But I didn't know what to do about it. So I went out, got on my tricycle and rode off.
And I suspect that's how many of you are here this morning. You learned about death, and that you're going to die. But you just triked, trekked or trucked off in life not knowing what to do about it. All this time, the awful specter of death looms over you, and you're not too sure what happens then. And despite the fact your entire future might be terribly threatened, you haven't done anything about it. In what other situation in life, whether it's a dreadful disease like cancer or heart problems, or a speeding car, or an approaching cliff do you see certain disaster coming, but do nothing about it? Doesn't it concern you that no one ever comes back after they die?
Or do they? And that's what this morning is really all about. Does anyone ever come back after they die? Has anyone in history ever died, and then lived to tell about? Has anyone ever come back from the dead and claimed to have the key to resurrection? If so, what were His credentials? I mean, in addition to the astounding fact that He might have come back from the dead? And what did He say about how any of us might come back from the dead? Because if He did, then I think all of us would want to know about it—that is if we value life! Don't ya' think!
Well, there haven't been many credible resurrections in history. Very few in fact—and except for the three that happened in the Old Testament, every one of them has happened in association with prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But more than that, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most unique in all of history, because it is the only one in which a man predicted His own resurrection to the day in advance of his death, and then achieved it on the very day He predicted it. More than that, it is the only one in which the man who predicted it claimed to be the very key to Resurrection Himself, as in the statement, "I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live even if he dies, and will never die."
That's right, no other major religious leader in history, whose actual historical existence is not in doubt, was ever resurrected, or claimed to have the power to resurrect others. Mohammed's gravesite is well-known—it is the place where all Muslims make a pilgrimage too at some time in their lives. Buddha and Confucius never talked about resurrection, or eternal life, just moral and wise lives. Hinduism is all about reincarnation rather than resurrection. Only Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, or even claimed to have the power to raise others from the dead. Only Jesus among religious founders is even reputed to have raised others from the dead. And His resurrection is well-documented—there were even hundreds of eye-witnesses to it at one time according to I Corinthians 15, and we still have the eyewitness documents available to us today in the form of the New Testament.