Summary: The invitation of Christ to anyone is twofold...examine me and experience me.
August 4, 2002
They still call it the Easter miracle in Tanzania. It was Easter Sunday for the Ibuga Christians of Western Tanzania. In one village, a large crowd had gathered to worship. Many came out of curiosity to hear about a God who conquered death. While they were singing and praising God, they didn’t know the danger that awaited them. At that moment, a crazed mother lion was stalking their village, not killing to eat, but just killing every living thing in sight. She killed several goats, cows, and a woman with a small child.
Then she turned toward the singing worshipers. When they saw her standing ready to charge, the crowd froze in fear. The village preacher shouted, "Pray, people, because we’re worshipping a living Lord. The God who locked the lions’ jaws for Daniel is here today!" Then he turned to the lion and said, "You lion, I curse you in the name of the living Lord Jesus Christ."
That day had been partially cloudy, but with no storm. Suddenly, a lightening bolt struck the lion, and she immediately fell dead! The tribal pastor ran over, jumped up and down on the carcass, and used it as a platform for his preaching. Before he could give an invitation, 11 people came forward immediately to be saved as did many others in the hours that followed. (1)
For many of us life is filled with troubling experiences and thoughts. The disciples didn’t know what to make of the crucifixion, the tomb, and the emptiness. Everything had been turned upside down. For three years they (thought) had poured their lives into Jesus and His coming kingdom. It was like a crazed, stalking, lioness had devoured their plans and dreams.
What went wrong? Is this all there was? Why did it end like this? The Living Word -- Jesus -- had an answer for them. He rose from the dead to live forever, and to give us eternal life too. He still has answers for our troubles.
After the resurrection Jesus appeared to his band of followers. The scene is almost comical. The disciples were standing in a room, talking about Jesus. Suddenly, Jesus is standing right there. These disciples of AD 33 had never watched Star Trek. "Beam me in, Scotty -- Poof!"
In the understatement of all time the Bible says the twelve were unsettled. But Jesus says, Why are you troubled? Why do you doubt? (Believe me, had we been there our troubled spirits would’ve been scattering like three year olds in a Halloween "spook house.")
Jesus calms them and gives a magnificent two-pronged invitation. He tells them to examine Him (He’s no ghost); and then He says, "experience" Me.
Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me..."
Luke 24:39 (NIV)
When Jesus said to look at his hands and feet, he was inviting the look of study. His disciples needed to know it was the same Jesus they had known. They needed to verify that what Jesus had said had really come true. All the prophets predicted the triumph of Messiah. Jesus had been dead -- now he was alive!
This was too good to be true! The disciples must have felt like Abraham when the angel told this hundred year-old man he was going to be a daddy; or like the father of that little girl Jesus had raised from the dead. It’s just too wonderful to believe it was happening! I felt that way years ago when the prettiest blonde-headed girl in the world said "yes, I’ll marry you." She was classy, and beautiful; I was the clumsy guy with two left feet and no common sense. It couldn’t be that she said "YES"! I wanted to get a notary so she couldn’t change her mind.
The world wants proof about Jesus these days. In April 2002, the well-respected Oxford University philosophy professor Richard Swineburne used a broadly accepted probability theory to defend the truth of Christ’s resurrection. He did this at a high-profile gathering of philosophy professors at Yale University.
In a New York Times interview, Swineburne said, "For someone dead for 36 hours to come to life again is, according to the laws of nature, extremely improbable. But if there is a God of the traditional kind, natural laws only operate because he makes them operate. Swineburne used Bayes Theorem to assign values to things like the probability that God is real, Jesus’ behavior during his lifetime, and the quality of witness testimony after his death. Then he plugged the numbers into a probability formula and added everything up. The result: a 97 percent probability that the resurrection really happened. (2)
We also must study Jesus. Too many of us have coasted through our spiritual lives because we do not examine Jesus; we do not study our Bibles to let God speak to our hearts and learn more of Jesus. A newly retired couple bought a motor home. As they were traveling down the road in their new toy the husband became tired and asked the wife to take over. She was nervous, having never operated anything larger than a VW. However, after the husband’s brief explanation of where everything was, she took over while he napped. She put the vehicle on cruise control, and it worked perfectly.