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DELBERT YOUNG both Kindle and Paperback (30 books at present)
Scriptures: Matthew 28:10, John 20:27, John 21:22, Mark 16:15
Today Jesus' tomb stands open and empty. This is not religious folklore. It is historical fact. It is documented. It is real. Because of the manifold implications of Jesus' resurrection, hundreds of millions of people all around the world stop what they are doing on this holy day, and they go to a church. Some go to just remember. Others go to rejoice, and some go to recalibrate. They ask, "What does this mean to me?" We want to talk a little about that today.
Matthew 28:10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
John 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
John 21:22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
I want to focus our attention on four brief conversations that Jesus had with people shortly after the miracle of his resurrection. Each of these conversations can be reduced to two-word sound bites.
The first sound bite comes as the women return from the empty tomb. They were running to tell the other disciples when they ran smack-dab into the resurrected Lord. This experience terrified them. Perhaps that sounds strange to us. Were they not expecting to see him? If we can, imagine hurrying along in our busy lives and looking up and there stands the real Jesus right in our path. I don't care how well we know Jesus. That would shake us. They were so shook that Jesus needed to say, "Be not afraid." Let's use the term "Fear not" for our sound bite.
Fear can immobilize any person. Fear will freeze the mind and throw the mind into shock. Fear can so traumatize a person that the person will live the remainder of life in the grips of that fear. A woman that experienced a rape or a person that experienced a car crash or an act of violence will raise a fear that can seize a person over and over.
My uncle and his brothers were raised in an orphanage. His mother gave them to the orphanage when they were young boys. I recall him telling me how he was passed over again and again by people wanting to adopt a child. He lived his entire life fearing rejection. I remember a car crash I had when I was in my early twenties. To this day I wake at night from dreams of car crashes.
Fear is powerful stuff. We don't know the fears within people especially on Sunday with our polished exteriors. If the truth were known today, many of us in this place are well acquainted with the suffocating effects of fear. This is true no matter if you are a believer or an unbeliever. Those women that walked into Jesus were believers, but the experienced fear.
Fear comes in all forms. Some among us today feel the tourniquet of financial pressure twisting tighter and tighter, and we are scared. Some among us are living with a health-related fear. Have you ever talked with someone that was terminally ill? They are scared. This is especially true when they know deep down they are not ready in their relationship with God. They can't think about anything else. Fear grips them and squeezes their mind. Others live with the aching fear that they might have to live alone for the rest of their lives. Loneliness can cause fear. Some have a fear concerning their marriage. Others fear for their children.
Fear is every bit as real to us today as it was in the day of the disciples. We can all relate to those pulse-quickening, stomach-turning stabs of terror that strike unannounced and leave us gasping for breath. On the very first Easter, the freshly resurrected Jesus said with greater authority than he ever had before, 'Fear not.'
That Easter and this Easter, the resurrected Jesus is saying, 'Listen, people. Listen. You don't have to cave into every fearful thought that enters your head. You don't have to cave into it anymore. You can believe the best about the kind of future a loving God would want for you. Don't settle for a life that's dictated by fear. That's not much of a life.
'Fear not,' Jesus said on the first Easter. I wonder how many of you needed to come today just to hear that first part of today's message. I want you to access the power to overcome fear before you leave today.
One of Jesus' twelve followers had been absent when Jesus first appeared after he was resurrected. His name was Thomas. When the other disciples told him all about it with supercharged language, this disciple rejected the entire idea. Finally Thomas said, 'Stop it! What do you take me for, a perfect fool? You can fantasize all you want about a resurrection. It looks like I have already blown three years of my life. I have told everyone that I know that he was the Messiah and he is dead. I am embarrassed and I am not going to waste one more day on anything associated with Jesus. It's over. He is dead. Don't you get it? Let it go.' And then in total frustration, he blurted out, 'I would have to push my finger into the wounds on his hands and feet, and stick my arm into his side up to my elbow before I would ever believe in a resurrection.' I want to say, "Tell us how you really feel Thomas."
A few days later the disciples were gathered when suddenly Jesus appeared out of nowhere. Jesus was on a mission. He was looking around the room at each of the people, one at a time, like he was trying to find somebody. Then he locked eyes with Thomas. Jesus squared off in front of Thomas. Jesus said two words to Thomas, 'Touch me.' Touch me. Not 'beat it,' not 'drop dead,' not 'get out,' not 'go to hell,' but 'touch me.' Jesus was not angry or afraid the honest doubt of Thomas. In fact, he warmly invites any and all who have questions about him to come and to seek and to ask and to touch. This is why so many people follow Jesus. They cannot prove that he is not real. Jesus desires that we clear up the haze concerning him.
Many here today have honest doubt. You ask things like: "Did this guy they call Jesus really live?" "Was he really crucified?" "Did he really raise from the dead?" To you, Jesus says today, 'Touch me.' Deal with your doubts. Don't discount them or deny them or run away from them or bury them. Ask your questions. Do your homework. Consider the evidence. Read the Bible. Read secular history. Look at the facts. Listen to smart people who have devoted their lives to determine if the Christian faith is real or a pack of lies. Start your own personal search. Ask all your questions. Get all your answers. Then make your decision.
That is what Thomas did. Thomas weighed the evidence, he fell to his knees, and he said, 'My Lord and my God, I believe in you.'
Need I remind you how sweeping the consequences are for deciding one way or the other about Jesus Christ? Eternity awaits your decision. The death rate in America is very high. The last I looked it was 100%. Our determining if Jesus is real or not is an important decision. In fact, it is the most important decision a person will ever make. Do your homework. Get a Bible and read it. Go to bookstores, read evidence on all sides of the issues.
Have you ever discussed the authenticity of Jesus Christ with an atheist? The conversation will eventually come to this statement when the atheist says, "Well, you believe one way, and I believe a different way, so let's just disagree and leave it at that." That is where you say, "One problem. There is coming a day when we are both going to find out who is right. We are both banking our lives and our eternal destinies on totally different alternatives. We both can't be right on this. One of us is going to hit the jackpot, and the other is going to be a very unhappy camper for eternity. We are both going to find out who is right in just a few years, really."
I am not flying blind in this. I have done a lot of homework. I have probably read a hundred books on the evidence for Jesus Christ. I have done a lot of thinking and talking with people about it. I have weighed the evidence and have come to my conclusions on it. Never be afraid to challenge people to study the Bible or history. They will eventually come to the place as Thomas. Jesus says, "Touch me." They will kneel and say, "My Lord and my God."
How many today are like Thomas was then? You are not at a place that every one of us hasn't been. Seek for yourself. Ask your toughest questions, but then deal with the answers you get. If nail prints are all you need,' I could hear Jesus say, 'I'll show you mine, like I did to Thomas. I'll reveal myself to you if you do your homework and search honestly and act honorably.' How many of you are way past due dealing with your doubts about the Christian faith?