Seeing Is Believing

How many of you took a shower this morning?

Raise your hand if you took a shower either this morning or last night.  How many of you brushed your teeth?  How many of you put on clothes this morning?  No matter what steps you take or what order you do them, each of us has a certain routine.  We get up, we brush our teeth, take a shower, comb our hair if we have any, and put on our clothes.  You probably have your own routine, but whatever order you do it in or whatever your routine is, skipping one of these steps would probably make you uncomfortable all day long.  It’s like you feel incomplete.  We get this anxiety when we skip something that is part of “what we do.”  It’s like something is WRONG WITH THE UNIVERSE!  It’s probably happened to you at one time or another.  I know it’s happened to me.  I remember it distinctly.  When I was serving at Roswell UMC, I was in rush to get out the door and get to church.  I had a lot of my mind that day.  I remember having my head just filled with a list of things I had to get done that day.  The list was long and it made me preoccupied with how I would get it all done in one day.  I took a quick shower, got my clothes on, brushed my hair and took off.  And about 30 minutes into my drive to the church, I realized I never brushed my teeth.  All of a sudden it was like I could feel the bacteria in my mouth.  I was sure people could smell it on my breath.  I avoided talking directly to people all day, afraid I’d be found out. 

Now imagine if you NEVER brushed your teeth.

Or rarely took a shower.  What if you didn’t own a comb?  Other than being smelly with no teeth and matted hair, would you even notice?  YOU might notice because these things are part of our everyday lives, but to someone who never does these things, would they?  Probably not.  If something isn’t part of your everyday routine, you might never pay attention to how important it is or how it could benefit you. And it does benefit us.  We take a shower and brush our teeth and change our clothes not just to avoid scaring away the people we love, but because it’s good for us.  We understand the impact of good hygiene for ourselves and our community, so we do these things to take care of ourselves and those around us.  Now ask yourself this…do you feel the same way about your spiritual life as you do about your physical body?  Do you feel the same way about your spiritual life as you do about your physical body?  Because if we believe in Jesus and we believe in what he said, then our soul should be at least as important as our bodies.  And yet, so many of us fail to make Jesus part of our everyday life. Like the guy who doesn’t take a shower, we are disconnected from Jesus enough that we just don’t notice how distant we are.

Thanks to and Dave Coverly for this illustration

The coolest thing about living in Biblical times is they often encountered God.

It must have made believing in him even easier.  Moses got to talk to God a few times.  Elijah heard the voice of God even before he understood what was happening.  Job got God to answer his questions directly.  I think most of us wish that would happen.  We wish God would answer us directly.  I have a mental list of questions I’m just waiting to ask God when it’s time for my one-on-one.  Even Larry King, the famous reporter from CNN, once said if he got to interview anyone he wanted it would be Jesus Christ and he would ask him one question, “Were you virgin born?”  He said, “The answer to that question would define history for me.”[1]  But would it?  Thousands of people who lived during the time of Jesus often didn’t believe he was really the Chosen One.  Even those people who encountered Jesus directly often didn’t believe.  The Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, the teachers of the law actively rejected him despite the miracles he performed.  People who even witnessed some of Jesus’ miracles didn’t believe. And we’re going to explore one of those stories of disbelief this morning.  If you have your Bibles or a Bible app on your phones, please turn to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, verses 1-12.  Luke 24:1-12.  This story takes place after Jesus’ death on the cross.  His body has been taken down and placed in a tomb where Joseph of Arimathea helped to prepare his body for burial with linen cloth.  Apparently, there were extensive burial rituals, but with the Sabbath approaching and the sun nearly set, they didn’t have time to finish the burial properly so they wrapped his body with 75 pounds of spices “to help mask the smell of decay.”[2]  A group of women including his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Joanna decide to come after the Sabbath to finish what Joseph had started, but they find quite a surprise.  If you would please rise as we share from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24:1-12.  Hear now the Word of God.

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 over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

The Word of God for the people of God and the people said, “Thanks be to God.”  Please be seated.

These were Jesus’ closest friends and disciples, and even THEY didn’t believe.

Jesus told them, “…everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be handed over to the Gentiles.  They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him.  On the third day he will rise again (Luke 18).”  He spelled out exactly what was going to happen and when it did, they still didn’t believe.  When Mary, Joanna, and Mary Magdelene came and told the disciples about Jesus’ missing body and then having seen him, they didn’t believe them either.  Then Jesus revealed himself to two others who came and reported seeing him to the disciples and they still didn’t believe.  It wasn’t until they experienced Christ for themselves that they knew he had been resurrected.  It wasn’t until they experienced Christ for themselves that they knew he had been resurrected.  Thomas gets a bum rap for not believing, because the truth is that the rest of the disciples didn’t believe either.  But Thomas’ words ring true for many of us, “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.”  We, like the disciples, want some sort of tangible evidence to help us believe.  And we have it, if we just know where to look.

The answer is in each of us.

The way for us to truly encounter Christ in this world is through one another. Which is why it’s so important as Christians that we work together to make Christ real in the world today – through our love, through our prayers, through our deeds.  Jesus knew people would need real world encounters to come to faith in him.  And we see how Jesus made this a reality through the disciples.  It’s why he often told them to “go and do.”  When he fed the 5,000, Jesus could easily have done the work himself, but instead he tells them “…you give them something to eat.”  And he blesses the bread and the fish and sends the disciples into the crowds.  When he tells the expert in the law the story of the Good Samaritan, he asks him at the end, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  And when the expert answers, “The one who had mercy on him,” Jesus replies, “Go and do likewise.”  There are many examples of Jesus incorporating the community of believers into his ministry.  The sending of the seventy comes to mind, the gathering of the disciples.  Christ comes alive to those around us THROUGH us. Like the disciples in our reading, we need to experience Christ’s presence in our lives for ourselves. It is then the Gospel becomes real for us.  We do that through prayer, through worship, through communion.  We do it when we sing or volunteer or give of ourselves to God.  It’s through these “means of grace” as John Wesley called them we grow deeper in our faith and closer to God. 

We feel like we are missing something in our lives when we skip steps in our morning routine.

We feel like that because our morning routine is so ingrained in us it becomes a part of who we are.  And when Jesus comes alive for us – when we becomes real to us and a part of who we are – we feel the same about missing something spiritually as we do physically.  We miss church when we can’t make it on a Sunday. We miss our small groups when we can’t make it as if something important was sacrificed. We feel disconnected if we didn’t pray that day.  We would feel these things because like brushing our teeth and combing our hair they would simply BE a part of our lives.  And if that is not where you are, I would encourage you to become plugged in to your church community.  Join a small group, pray regularly, come to worship, and see for yourself if it makes a difference in your life.  If you DO feel like that already, then it is our responsibility to help others feel the love of Christ come alive in them.  Like the guy who doesn’t realize why he should take a shower, we can’t expect people to simply KNOW they need Christ in their lives.  We have to help them experience it and realize WHY it’s so important. 

The means of grace – prayer, worship, communion, and the like are part of what draws us closer to God

Easter is a celebration that Christ lives!  And he lives in us. 

As we join together in communion, let us remember Christ is more vital to our lives than simply this bread that we eat.  For it was Jesus who said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Let us also approach this time in humility and thankfulness for all Christ did for us, remembering that is only in Christ’s sacrifice we are made whole and only in his resurrection that he has conquered death. 


[2] The Jesus of the Bible, Stephen M. Miller, p. 356.

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