Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do We Know Jesus?

Jesus’ disciples were the first to witness the risen Lord. When he first appeared to them they were frightened and didn’t believe what they were seeing. And who could blame them? How many people has anyone ever seen come back from the grave? No one has ever done that that I know of, except Jesus.

The first time Jesus was present with the disciples Thomas wasn’t there. We don’t know where he was, but when the others told him they had seen Jesus he said that he wouldn’t believe it unless he saw with his own eyes the wounds caused by the nails in his hands and his feet, or the wound made by the soldier’s spear.

Later, when the disciples were gathered together in the same room where they had celebrated the Passover with Jesus, Thomas was there. Jesus again appeared among them even though the doors were locked.

This time he headed straight for Thomas and showing him his hands, feet, and side invited him to put his fingers there. Jesus told him to stick his hand in his side. John doesn’t tell us whether he actually touched Jesus or not but he did record Thomas’ response, “My Master, My God!”

He believed this was Jesus when he saw the wounds with his own eyes. This begs the question, “How do we know Jesus, the Christ?” Do we need to see his wounds? Wounds he received because he took upon himself all our sins. Do we need to put our fingers on his scars? What do we need so we believe?

How does God make Christ known to you? The Nicene Creed says…
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

The confessions, written by men and women, try to put into words the how and the why of it. In the Scot’s Confession we read… rebirth is wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost creating in the hearts of God’s chosen ones an assured faith in the promise of God revealed to us in his Word; by this faith we grasp Christ Jesus with the graces and blessings promised in him.

The Scots believed that it was by faith brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit that we know, grasp, Christ Jesus. We know that his resurrection was confirmed by the testimony of his enemies, and by the resurrection of the dead, whose sepulchres did open, and they did rise and appear to many within the city of Jerusalem. It was also confirmed by the testimony of his angels, and by the senses and judgment of his apostles and of others, who had conversation, and did eat and drink with him after his resurrection. (Scots 3.10)

They believed and so we believe because there were credible witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Everything they witnessed was recorded and passed down through the generations to all of us who are sitting here today.

But there still are many who have doubts. And, friends, it’s not a bad thing to have doubts. In fact it’s in our human nature to doubt things unless they can be proved. We need to confirm them with all our senses and in some instances things must be proved with logical calculations.

So how do we know Jesus? How do we prove him? Can we say beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is real? Can we confirm Jesus’ presence with our senses? Can we prove that he existed and still exists with any logical calculations? I don’t think so. But, what do you think? Can you prove Christ?

The disciples, and Thomas, had it easier; they were there. They saw his wounds. They saw him eat, and cook, and they heard him teach. But, then he disappeared. How did they prove to those who never witnessed his reappearance that he actually was raised from the grave? How do we prove it?

I believe that it’s all up to God. I believe that God, through his Holy Spirit, grants his grace to people in their faith, in the Word, and in the distribution of the Sacraments at the Table and the Fount.

So, we believe by faith not our senses? What did our ancestors say? The Heidelberg Confession says…It is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word, but also a wholehearted trust which the Holy Spirit creates in me through the gospel, that, not only to others, but to me also God has given the forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation, out of sheer grace solely for the sake of Christ’s saving work. (Heidelberg Confession 4.021)

It’s not an easy thing to be a Christian. Especially when a friend puts us on the spot and says, “How do you know Jesus rose from the grave?” How do we prove it? How do we know Jesus and how can we prove him to others?

Friends, as I’ve said I believe God does all the work. Without his grace we aren’t able to do anything. So, I contend that we explain how God in Jesus and the Holy Spirit has worked, is working, and will continue to work in our lives. In other words, we tell our story and let them see and believe for themselves trusting in God to open their heart to him.

That’s what I believe, that’s how I know the Christ. How do you know Him? What do you believe and what do you base your belief on? What supports your belief? It’s not easy being a follower of the risen Christ but there are rewards, eternal life is one.

So, good friends, how do you “know” Jesus? That is the question I would like you to meditate, reflect on, and contemplate this week. Yes, you have homework and maybe there’ll be a test. Go to God’s Word, ask God in prayer to show you how he makes himself known to you in Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and then wait in silence for God’s response. Trust in God to reveal his answer to you.

Friends, we serve a risen Savior. He defeated death for us. He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave so we would no longer have to fear the grave. It doesn’t end there for us.

The tough thing for us is explaining to ourselves, and others, why we believe that. It’s all faith and faith comes from God by his grace. Pray that all will receive God’s grace.

Thanks be to God for his revealing, saving grace. Amen.

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