Today Pastor Choi talks about resurrection: Christ was the first fruit of resurrection to give us a hope of resurrection. He begins with his encounter with deaths and moves onto the importance of believing in resurrection. He concludes that we believe in Christ’s historical and bodily resurrection not because of scientific proof but because of the integrity of those witnesses of Christ’s resurrection.
Following is a summary of today’s sermon:
He Has Risen! Luke 24:1-12
Luke 24:1-12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”8 And they remembered His words, 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.
Have you ever heard of an expression “Atheist Pastor?” Yup, you heard me right. A pastor who doesn’t believe in God. His name is Klaas Hendrikse. This Dutch pastor wrote a book titled Believing in a God That Does Not Exist. He is a pastor in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. In his book he claims that he believes in the idea of God but not in the existence of an actual God (Christianity Today, April 2010, p. 13).
I said, “Whoa! Can you actually do that?” Preaching every Sunday on everything about God yet you don’t believe in the very existence of an actual God? What shocks me more is that the congregation decided to keep him on his preaching post!
Some folks take the same stance as far as resurrection is concerned. They believe in the idea of resurrection, but don’t believe in the actual bodily resurrection.
This morning, I am going to talk about resurrection. Let me begin with my encounter with deaths in the lives of my loved ones, because, in my humble opinion, without talking about death no one can take resurrection seriously.
My first encounter with death was through my own father’s. It was June 1968 in Korea. I was 11 years old. My father was 59 years old when he was struck and killed by an American military truck. When I first heard the news of his death, I don’t remember that I cried: perhaps a few drops of tears caused by a numb feeling in me that my father was gone and no longer going to be around.
We had a wake in our house. In a room, the casket was kept behind a divider so that it wouldn’t show to the public. In front of the divider, on a table at the center, my father’s picture was placed along with an incense bowl that filled the room with fragrance. There, next to the table, my three older brothers stood in a row garbed in sack-cloth with a black band around their arms, properly dressed for mourning. They wailed each time visitors came into the room to pay their respect by burning the incense to my deceased father. The next day, they buried my dad at a sunny place on a mountain. I wasn’t allowed to go–too young to participate in the funeral.
The first time my family took me to my father’s grave was about six months later in January. We walked a couple of miles in snow to arrive at my father’s grave. In my young mind at the time, I didn’t fully understand what death meant to me and my family. Death appeared to be a series of events such as physical separation, funeral, and gravesite visit. All these memories still linger in me like a summer haze: foggy, distant, dull, yet sad.
Since then, in the next few years, I have seen more deaths: a friend in middle school died two years later followed by my aunt’s. All these deaths created a yearning in me: I wanted to see them again. Even though I wasn’t a Christian in those years, I hoped that there has to be something beyond our physical death. Death shouldn’t be the final.
The Bible calls such a yearning the hope of resurrection. In fact, the Bible says, on the Day of Judgment everyone, good and evil, will all come to life again (that is, resurrected) in the presence of God and Jesus the Judge will decide each one’s eternal destination: the righteous will enter into eternal life and the wicked into eternal punishment. Christ Jesus, the Bible says, was the first fruit of resurrection. Two thousand years ago, in that early morning on Easter, He showed His resurrected body to the women who went to the tomb: (Matthew 28:9, Mark 16:9, John 20:18, Luke 24:10). We call that historical event the First Easter.
This morning, I would like to share with you my thoughts on resurrection.
Messengers and Witnesses:
When it comes down to proclaiming and believing in Jesus’ body resurrection, God provides no other means but His angels (messengers) and witnesses. In other words, neither God nor His Church offers any other proof including scientific evidence than the accounts of 500+ people who personally saw the risen Christ with their eyes and touched His body with their hands (I Corinthians 15:6).
For the next two thousand years, their accounts stood sufficient for the countless believers, including myself, to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. To many others, including the skeptics, that’s not the case.
C. S. Lewis, one of the prominent theologians in the 20th century, asserts that the biblical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are sufficient to believe. He says that we the Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus solely based on the words of witnesses. Lewis takes an example of believing in the existence of NYC. He says that he’s never been to the city to see it with his own eyes. However, he argues, the accounts of those folks who have been there are good enough for him to believe in its existence. Because, he says, he believes in the integrity of those folks who tell him the truth. Likewise, we the Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, not because we have a scientific proof, but because we believe in the integrity of those witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. Furthermore, their accounts have been attested through their own lives and the lives of the believers for 2000 years (that is, they gave up their lives for the truth of resurrection). Their accounts still stand strong as the only reliable source of Jesus’ resurrection.
Think about it. If the Almighty God chose to make everyone believe in Him, He could take a simple approach to convince everyone of His existence. Let’s say, if He sends out lightning and thunder for 30 days on the dot of 12 noon every day, then everyone would believe in God, right? Yet, He never does such a thing, because He is the God of love and love by nature never forces anyone to do anything they don’t want to. God would never force anyone to believe in Him against their own will. In other words, God would honor our free will to choose whatever we wish: either we believe or reject even the very existence of God. God never overrules our free will.
The same principle of free will applies to the beliefs in the miracles. Whether or not we believe in all Jesus’ miracles in the Bible such as virgin birth, healing, walking on waters, turning water into wine, and feeding 5000+ people with five loaves and two fish, His suffering and death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension to Heaven, God leaves it entirely up to us. He simply presents His case, not through scientific proof, but through the accounts of witnesses and leaves the decision to us.
In fact, He has been that way from the very beginning of the creation. He used this very method of oral accounts to proclaim the truth. Even in the 21st century, He still does so for Jesus’ resurrection. He simply urges you this morning to decide yourself whether or not to believe in the accounts of the women who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, later those of the Eleven disciples and 500+ witnesses. Many of them became martyrs claiming that they have seen the resurrected Lord. I believe in their accounts, because I do believe in their integrity that vouched for Jesus’ resurrection with their own lives. I believe in what the Bible says, because its truth has withstood the fiery trials for centuries. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and mine, because I do believe in Jesus’ integrity who claims that He is the resurrection and the life, the way and the truth.
As far as the seekers are concerned, one thing always comforts me: God is very kind and understanding with our lack of faith. Here, in today’s text, God showed His patience with the women’s slowness of faith in resurrection.
Please reason with me here. If the three women had believed without a doubt in Jesus’ body resurrection, why did they bring the spices? The spices were used for the dead body; therefore, they would not have needed them for the risen body, would they? Yet, to such forgetful souls, Jesus graciously showed His resurrected body (Matthew 28:9)—the clear evidence of God’s grace and patience in dealing with our human hearts that are often slow and stubborn to believe the unbelievable.
Later, to His unbelieving disciples including the famous Doubting Thomas, Jesus demonstrated the same grace and patience. Each time they were in doubt, instead of rebuking them for their lack of faith, Jesus showed them one by one His resurrected body.
I am speaking to some of you who are still skeptical of Jesus’ body resurrection, let alone of your own. I am sure all of you demand the tangible scientific proof of resurrection. Some of you even would call the resurrection either a myth or wishful thinking. Whatever your reasons of unbelief in Jesus’ resurrection and mine, I pray that the same Jesus would extend the same patience and grace to you. May the Lord either grant you the evidence you’re looking for or increase your faith to believe.
One warning, though. If Jesus ever grants the proof of resurrection, He does so only to those who are genuinely seeking Him in their lives. He would never grant the proof to those who are not sincere in their search of truth. Because He never plays by their rules.
If you are one of those sincere seekers, the Lord will speak to your heart this morning that you too come to know Jesus, believe in the resurrection, and eventually claim your own resurrection through faith in Jesus.
Christ has risen first. We will too someday. He was the first fruit of resurrection and the rest of us will follow. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Amen.