Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. John 14:11-12
Have you ever been amazed at the faith of the first followers of Jesus. They faced an incredible challenge – a world hostile to their message dominated by the powerful Roman Empire. But they believed that God would change the world around them – and that God would use them to do it. They must have had incredible faith. And God did it. God changed the world through them. Historian’s estimate that in the 250 years after Jesus, half of the Roman Empire had learned to say, “Jesus is Lord.”
But I want invite you to think with me just a little bit about what they did and did not have faith in. I know that there are battles in some circles to prove or disprove that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s an important battle. For many, it’s a personal battle. Goodness knows, I remember wrestling with that one. But the disciples of Jesus – his first followers – they didn’t need to have faith in the resurrection. They had proof. According to the scriptures, the resurrected and risen Lord Jesus showed himself to the apostles.
Let me list a bit: On Easter Sunday, Jesus showed himself to the women who came to the tomb. He showed himself to Mary Magdalene and told her to go tell the disciples. She did – but they didn’t believe her. So Jesus showed himself to the a gathering of his disciples and they were convinced. He even ate fish in front of them to prove he wasn’t a ghost. Now, according to John, one of them wasn’t there. Thomas. Thomas, aka doubting Thomas, for a reason – didn’t believe the rest of the disciples. He said, “unless I can touch the scars on his hands and feet and put my hand in his side, I want believe.” A little later, Jesus showed up and told Thomas – touch my hands. Here, put your hand in my side…” Then Thomas believed. He appeared to the women, to Peter, to the rest of the disciples, often called “the twelve” – although there were only eleven at the time. He appeared to two people walking down the road. He appeared to 500 others at a gathering. He appeared to the Apostle Paul. Later, to others.
What I’m emphasizing is that they didn’t need faith to believe in the resurrection. They didn’t need “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen” when it came to the resurrection. They had seen and touched the risen Lord. They had proof.
We may not have proof that Jesus rose. Most of us trust the New Testament for it. That’s faith – but it’s reasoned and reasonable faith. We may live our entire lives and never get the kind of proof the disciples got (but because God is so gracious, some of us will). Still, any of us can take a hard look at the evidence and the arguments for the resurrection and have pretty clear assurance that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s a well attested event in history. You can come to a reasoned, studied, intellectual conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. For me, the most convincing bit of evidence was how the disciples handled hardship. They were all persecuted and all but one of them was killed. A significant reason they faced persecution came from insisting that Jesus, their Lord, had risen from the dead. They could have denied it, but they wouldn’t do it. They wouldn’t deny their story. Only fools would die for a lie. But they stuck to it like men who knew it was true; and who knew they would have to answer to Jesus for what they said about him. They were so convinced of the resurrection that they talked about hoping Jesus would say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” They didn’t need faith for what they knew to be true.
But they did need faith. Faith came into play as they realized that the same God who raised Jesus from the dead had was also inviting them to live into the sort of life that Jesus lived. They had faith that what Jesus said about their lives was true.
That as he was the light of the world, now they were to be the light of the world.
As he had served them and blessed the world, they were now to serve one another and bless the world like he had.
As Jesus had discipled them to live like he lived, now they were to disciple others.
As Jesus had been sent by God, so now He was sending them.
To believe in the resurrection – that just takes a good thorough analysis and fair judgment. To believe in the resurrection does not require much faith.
But to begin living like Jesus – to live knowing God has a mission and that God had invited you into it – that takes faith!
So here’s the Easter question: Are you willing to ask God for faith – not to believe in Jesus – but to start living like Jesus?
If so, I want to challenge you to act on it by taking a step.
If you have never been baptized, get baptized. If you live aroun here, my church and I would be honored to help.
If you aren’t connected to a church, get connected to a church.
If you are connected to a church, maybe now is the time to a step deeper – into service, discipleship, or leadership.
Take a step of faith that puts your faith in action.