Volume. XXVIII, No. 42
Sunday, 20 April 2014


Blessed are Those who Believed


Jesus, on a few occasions, predicted that He would rise from the dead (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19). The disciples should have been waiting for this, but it seems that only the enemies of Jesus had this "Resurrection" talk on their minds. The chief priests and the Pharisees met with and were petitioning Pilate to give orders “the sepulchre be made sure . . . lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He (Jesus) is risen from the dead" (Matthew 27:64).Pilate then commissioned guards to secure the grave with a large stone and a seal, and to keep watch over it (Matthew 27:65, 66). Interestingly enough, the male disciples never visited the tomb. Perhaps they were too ashamed after deserting Jesus (Matthew 26:56). Or maybe they were just too afraid to venture into public view (John 20:19). So it was not any of the 11 male disciples that came to the tomb Sunday morning, but it was Mary Magdalene and some other women disciples who came to visit Jesus' grave (Mathew 28:1; Luke 24:10).


When the women arrived at the grave however, the massive stone had already been rolled away. Verses 2 to 4 of Matthew 28 tell us how this occurred. There was a "great earthquake" and
"for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone…"(Matthew 28:2).The response of the Roman guards is not surprising--they literally "shook" from fear--they saw the angel and "became as dead men" (Matthew 28:4). And since the guards are not mentioned when the women arrive, it is safe to assume that they, shortly after seeing the angel, fled the scene--they had run to the authorities to report the disturbance (Matthew 28:11).


What we have left then, is the "angel of the Lord" sitting on the stone ready to tell the women about
the greatest miracle in the history of the world . "Fear not ye", the angel tells them, "I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said." (Matthew 28:5, 6).Jesus had told them so... and now the angel instructed the women to go and tell the disciples exactly that--that "(Jesus) he had risen from the dead" (Matthew 28:7). What was the response of the women? They departed quickly (or ran)! They ran from the tomb "with fear and great joy" (Matthew 28:8).

Yet while the women are running, the guards are rehearsing their alibi-- their cover-up scheme which will land them a large sum of silver Matthew 28:12).Like most things in Jesus' life, His Resurrection drew forth two contrasting responses. Those who believed, had their actions transformed. But those who refused to believe, found ways to ignore the evidence which was right before their eyes.


Today there are many who discount the Resurrection of Jesus. The skeptics generally fall into two categories:The first category of skeptics are those who tend to think of the disciples as
a bunch of gullible followers --a group that was easily swayed by rumours. The second category of skeptics portray the disciples as shrewd conspirators --conspirators that contrived this Resurrection plot to attract support for their movement.


Now there are
grave difficulties with both these portrayals of the disciples. The primary difficulty is that the Bible presents a radically different picture of the disciples. The Bible portrays the disciples, not as gullible followers, but as the most skeptical of the rumours about a risen Jesus.


The Gospel of Luke records that when Mary Magdalene and the other women reported to the disciples what the angel had said to them – that Jesus was not in the tomb--the disciples regarded her words
"as idle tales, and they believed them not" (Luke 24:11).

 

Peter and John however, had their curiosity triggered enough that they immediately ran to the tomb (John 20:3, 4). Luke tells us in his gospel about Peter "wondering in himself" when he saw the empty tomb (Luke 24:12). But John is careful to note in his gospel that the two disciples did not yet fully understand that Jesus had risen--only that Jesus was not in the tomb (John 20:8, 9).

 

With Mary Magdalene remaining at the tomb, after Peter and John had left, Jesus appears first to her(John 20:14). When Mary realizes that Jesus is alive, she runs again to report all this to the disciples(John 20:18).The first time Mary told the disciples about the words of the angel, they disregarded her as nonsensical, but this time she had actually seen Jesus. Surely, they would believe her now... but they didn't, "they…believed not", Mark writes in his gospel (Mark 16:11).


Far from contriving a plot to promote their movement, the male disciples of Jesus were the most stubborn in believing that Jesus had risen. Mary Magdalene had tried twice to convince them, but they still wouldn't buy it. Later that Sunday night, John's gospel tells us that some of the disciples huddled together in a room and locked the door (John 20:19). Finally, Jesus appears to them and recognize that He has indeed risen from the dead (John 20:19, 20).


But notice that it took a personal, in the flesh, appearance before any of the disciples believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. They wouldn't take Mary's word for it. Not even the empty tomb was enough. They had to see Jesus for themselves. And we all know the story of "doubting Thomas"--he wouldn't even take his fellow disciples' word for it! In the same way Mary's testimony wouldn't convince the disciples, Thomas insisted that he had to see
"the print of the nails" and that he needed to "put my fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side" before he would believe (John 20:25).What is amazing in all of this is that Jesus painstakingly condescends to meet their level of skepticism. For even the doubtful Thomas gets an invitation to touch Jesus' scars with his fingers (John .20:27). And what is Thomas' response? "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).Mary Magdalene had encountered the risen Jesus. The eleven disciples all got to see the risen Jesus. And many others, we are told, saw the Resurrected Jesus. To them, Jesus said, "because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29).The disciples did not invent the idea of Jesus' Resurrection--for a time, they rejected it. But they saw Jesus and they believed!

Friend, perhaps you were once a skeptic. Maybe there was a time when you doubted that Jesus actually rose from the dead in bodily form. Perhaps you
still have doubts. The trouble is, we will not get the same evidence that the disciples got. That is why Jesus said, " blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). There remains for us, however, an expectation to believe in the risen Jesus--even without the physical evidence. The disciples would not take Mary's word for it. Thomas would not take the disciples' word for it. But you must take their word for it. To be fair, we have much more than the words of a small clan of disciples--we have their legacy. We can examine how their faith and their lives changed radically after the Easter event. After seeing and believing in the risen Jesus, the disciples were never the same.


We all know the great commissioning from the risen Jesus,
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:19, 20).That statement is so familiar to us that it often sounds ordinary. But remember their skepticism. Remember how, for a week, the disciples huddled together in locked rooms. They were frightened for their lives. But Easter changed that. Seeing and believing in the risen Jesus gave them courage. They left the comfort of their locked rooms and they literally went to all the nations proclaiming the death and Resurrection of Christ. They proclaimed Christ with such vigour and conviction that nearly all of them were executed for it.


After the Easter event, they could not keep still. They could not keep quiet. They believed sharing the gospel was more important than life itself. Now what about us? Which disciples do we resemble? Do we resemble the disciples that doubted Jesus' Resurrection? Or do we resemble the disciples who believed, as fact, that Jesus had risen from the dead? Do we resemble the ones that doubted and locked themselves in their rooms? Or do we resemble the ones that believed and shared the blessed gospel with everyone they encountered? This church can be our "locked room" or it can be our training ground for discipleship. The choice is ours.


Conclusion

Surely Easter is more than simply an archaic religious tradition. Surely there is more to Easter than a nice dinner with family... surely Easter is meant to transform us… Blessed are those who believe in the risen Christ. May this Easter transfer you!

Preacher David Weng


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

*Kitchen Roster Leader: Today (Campsite): Group 3. Next Lord’s Day: Bro Edwin D’Mello.

*Session wishes all worshippers & visitors a Blessed Resurrection.

*There is no Fellowship or Lunch after Worship Service at The Stone Mansion. 

*No Basic Bible Knowledge, Adult Sunday School & Chinese Bible Study Classes today. These Classes will resume next Lord’s Day.

*Please note: Next Lord’s Day Fellowship lunch is catered.

 

Praise & Thanksgiving

1. Journey mercies: Campers (Wellington); Bros Raymond Ang (Adl/Pinnaroo), Houston Li (Goolwa/Adl) & Raphael Ng (Waikerie/Adl); others who have arrived safely at their destinations. 

2. Church activities in the past week.

3. God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.

4. Visitors & new worshippers.

 

Prayer Items

1. Health & God’s healing - Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; Rev George van Buuren; Grandpa Ki (S’pore); Bro Colin & Sis Kathleen Creaser; Bro Len & Sis Margaret Pearson; Preacher Zhang (Sihanoukville); Bros Surish Dharmalingam (Laos), Elton Law & Kang Fun Tan (Sis Felicia’s father - S’pore); Sisters Nita Chong’s cousin (Mr Seck Aik Foo), Lai Kheng Chiong (KL), Margaret Hooper, Grace Gan’s father (healing), Choon Fong Lee (KL), Ruth Ngoma, Iris Surman’s brother, Corinne Teng, Susan Varadi, Susan Weng & Mavis Wong’s mother (salvation & healing); Mr Swee Liang Ng; Mr Mang Soo Ong; Bro Peng Cheong Wong; Mr Lucas Lee; Mr Tony Zhang; Mrs Maggie D’Mello (Mumbai) & others in affliction.

2. Special Prayer: The Kim family (Sth Korea).

3. iSketch & Tell Studio, YouTube Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim.

4. IBPFM & PMU - guidance & wisdom for board members & their missionaries.

5. Cambodia Missions - Rev David Koo & Ministry; Life University (Sihanoukville).

6. Batam Missions - Sis Ang Liang Phoa & Ministry; Filadelfia B-P Church, orphanage & kindergarten.

7. New Life BPC (London) - resident pastor; strength & encouragement for congregation.

8. Ministry in Hope BPC - God’s guidance for future - Preacher David & Sis Susan Weng. 

9. Korea Missions: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (Mar-Apr) - health, strength & wisdom.

10. Journey mercies: Bros Raymond Ang (Pinnaroo/Adl) & Houston Li (Goolwa/Adl); Bro Raphael & Sis Bernadette Ng & family Waikerie/Adl); Campers (Adl); & others travelling during school & uni vacation.

11. Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.

12. Health in pregnancy: Sisters Kerrie Lam, May Lau & Tabitha Tan.

13. God’s guidance & wisdom for those in authority in Australia.

14. PR application: Bro William Song; Sisters Xiao Hui Chye & Yashu Qin.

15. Family (Easter) Bible Camp. Speakers: Rev Edward & Mrs Lehia Paauwe; Committee & campers. Good weather & God’s blessings on campers

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063