June 10, 2010 David Balzer

John 20: When Death Is only the beginning

I’ve got something here I want to show you. It’s a FASCINATING can of INSECT SPRAY. It’s Baygon roach-Stopper surface spray.

Now I don’t know if you’ve looked at many insect sprays lately. You can get all different sorts. There’s the Low Irritant sort. That I guess only makes the insects SLIGHTLY IRRITATED. There’s the Citrus scented; smells like a lemon tree. All sorts of sprays, for all sorts of insects.

But look, I’m sorry this is one insect spray I CAN’T recommend. Because listen to what it says. It says on the can that Baygon roach Stopper surface spray KILLS ROACHES FOR UP TO TEN MONTHS.

Now I know roaches are pretty tough. And they reckon roaches can survive a nuclear blast. I know they’re hard to kill. But what a rip off. I mean, who’d want to buy insect spray that only kills roaches for ten months. I want something that kills them so they STAY FOREVER.

I want to do an experiment. Kill a roach with it, put him in a jar, and then in ten months time, I’m going to watch. And see if he revives. I reckon if he does it’ll make it onto the TV news.

Now of course, someone explained to me that’s not what the message on the can means at all. When it says KILLS ROACHES FOR UP TO TEN MONTHS, what they MEAN to say is that if you spray Baygon on your kitchen shelves, it’ll KEEP roaches for up to ten months. The goo’s going to stay there where you’ve sprayed it and keep roaches for month after month after month.

It’s not the D.EATH that lasts ten months. It’s the SPRAY. And in the usual way, the roaches stay for ever.

But just imagine if it DID MEAN IT THE OTHER WAY. Just imagine if D.EATH WASN’T PERMANENT after all. If d.eath wasn’t THE END, but ONLYTHE BEGINNING. Wouldn’t that be UNBELIEVABLE?

It wouldn’t be so great with ROACHES, I know – our houses would be OVER-RUN. But wouldn’t it be sensational news if D.EATH WASN’T THE END. For US. And there was something more to come.

When Kerry Packer’s heart stopped a number of years ago, he was revived. And his famous comment at the time was “I’ve been to the other side, and THERE’S NOTHING THERE!” As if he’d somehow been able to trick God, to sneak a peak at something he wasn’t supposed to. Behind the shroud of d.eath. And then make it back to spill the beans.

Wouldn’t it be great if HE WAS WRONG? Wouldn’t it be GREAT NEWS if d.eath wasn’t permanent after all.

But of course, from what we see every day, it is.

Our experience of life tells us D.EATH IS VERY FINAL. Our experience of life tells us that anything else is just wishful thinking. You see it in the faces of people at a funeral, knowing they’ll NEVER AGAIN see their loved one.

There were those members of a cult in America a of years ago, the Heavens Gate cult. Their leader told them to drink poison and lie down, and they’d be taken up to a spaceship and come back to life. Didn’t happen. They got taken off in a truck to the morgue instead. And that’s our experience, isn’t it – d.eath doesn’t just last a few days. Or ten months. It lasts forever.

Which means for most people, to be convinced it was any different, to believe the unbelievable, to be convinced that d.eath’s not just a big FULL STOP at the end of the sentence of life, you’d need to be have some pretty concrete PROOF.

Because all our experience tells us WHEN YOU’RE , YOU’RE .

And things haven’t really changed that much in the twenty odd centuries since the FIRST Easter Sunday. Because the FIRST eyewitnesses had just as much difficulty believing the unbelievable as people TODAY.

But BELIEVE is exactly what John wants us to do as we read his account. Time and again, the call comes to believe the unbelievable. It even begins BEFORE Jesus is buried. Ch 19 v35. The soldier has just rammed his spear into Jesus’ side – just to check he’s really . Then John says

35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies SO THAT YOU ALSO MAY BELIEVE.

Which is just what John himself had done when he discovered the empty tomb. Mary had come back in a tizz – babbling about someone having taken the body. So John and Peter do the bolt to the cave. Listen to John’s reaction when they see the grave clothes inside – with the head cloth folded up neatly – like pyjamas under your pillow. Ch 20 v8.

8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and BELIEVED. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the .)

In other words, John saw and believed THAT it had happened. But he hadn’t worked out WHY it had happened. He hadn’t been EXPECTING it.

But by the time he gets around to writing it all down, of course, he HAS worked it out. And, so, he’s able to say, at the end of Ch 20. (v30)

30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by BELIEVING you may have LIFE IN HIS NAME.

Believe the unbelievable. And the unbelievable can be YOURS. LIFE. Life beyond d.eath. Life that’s more than resuscitation. A temporary fix until your body runs down for GOOD. But resurrection. ETERNAL, never-ending, rich and complete. Life to the MAX.

But BELIEVING is what ONE player in this drama has incredible trouble doing. And he’s gone down in HISTORY as being NOTORIOUS for it. DOUBTING Thomas.

I feel a bit sorry for him, because he’s the one most of us can relate to BEST. Because when the other disciples want to tell him JESUS HAS COME BACK FROM THE , he reacts just like an ORDINARY PERSON. Like you would. Or I would.

“You’re kidding. You’re having me on. I mean, if you think that’s a joke, it’s in pretty poor taste. What sort of APRIL FOOLS JOKE is that?” He says, “I went to the FUNERAL last Friday. He’s in the cemetery”.

The OTHER disciples have had the advantage. From v19, they’re all behind locked doors. When Jesus, unbelievably, appears right among them. He tells them not to panic – it’s really him.

They can’t BELIEVE it – they want to PINCH themselves to makes sure they’re not dreaming. But Jesus tells them to pinch him instead. He shows them the holes in his hands, and the gaping wound in his side.

And so, the REST of the disciples know it’s really Jesus. But not poor old Thomas. And when they tell him. He won’t believe it. Look at ch 20, verse 24.

“Now Thomas, called Didymus, which means THE TWIN, one of the twelve, wasn’t with the other disciples when Jesus came.

When the other disciples told him they’d seen the Lord, he said exactly what you’d say. Or I’d say. He declared,

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I WILL NOT BELIEVE IT.”

Because this sort of thing just DOESN’T HAPPEN.

You know the trouble with that sort of thinking? The fact something doesn’t USUALLY happen, doesn’t mean it doesn’t EVER happen. The fact you’ve never SEEN something happen, doesn’t mean it NEVER HAPPENS. And if you think like that, you don’t allow for anything NEW.

Thomas has never seen anyone come back from d.eath before. It’s always been a one way street. And now here’s someone driving down it THE OTHER WAY. And he’s just not ready to take it in.

But a week later, the disciples are in the same house again where Jesus had appeared to them before. And this time, Thomas is there with them. The doors are locked, they’re crowded into the room. Just like LAST week.

And somehow, Jesus is suddenly there with them. And he’s not . He’s alive. And he’s not a ghost, either.

I mean, this really looks like X-files sort of stuff, doesn’t it. Except the X Files isn’t REAL. And this, for one time in history, IS. Because it’s the SON OF GOD we’re dealing with here. And it’s a ONE OFF EVENT. That’s never happened before. And hasn’t happened since.

Read it for yourself, from verse 26; middle of the verse.

“Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

And then he turns and talks to Thomas. Because somehow, he knows exactly what Thomas has been saying. And what he’s been thinking.

Thomas is the classic “I’ll believe it when I see it” sort of person. He’s the classic SCIENTIFIC TYPE. Prove it. Demonstrate it.

Thomas is the guy who said SHOW ME THE PROOF. Or I won’t believe it. And so Jesus says to him, come here. Verse 27.

“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side where they drove the spear in.”

It’s real. I’m not a ghost. I’m flesh and . And I really died; and I’m really back.

At which point Thomas has to do a total rethink. And reconsider everything he always thought about LIFE AND D.EATH. And everything he always thought about JESUS.

Can I say to you this morning, that the resurrection of Jesus should push YOU to reconsider both of those same things. To reconsider Jesus. And to reconsider LIFE AND D.EATH.

Jesus says to Thomas, STOP DOUBTING AND BELIEVE. And that’s exactly what Thomas does. The CYNIC. The DOUBTER. The SCIENTIFIC MIND. Verse 28, here’s his new perspective on Jesus. “My Lord and my GOD.”

Convinced by the resurrection that’s who Jesus is. And in the light of what’s happened, a fair enough conclusion. That JESUS is entitled to his WORSHIP. That Jesus is entitled to RULE HIS LIFE. From that point on. Because of who he is.

And second, there’s a new perspective on life and d.eath. And here’s where it gets relevant for you and me. Read about it in the next few verses. Because Jesus has shown in this ONE-OFF HISTORICAL DEMONSTRATION that d.eath’s not the end at all. And his life after d.eath shows that the reality is, we’re not as limited by d.eath as we think we are. Whether it was back then or NOW.

Verse 30, read what it says.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. But these are written that YOU MAY BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, (just like Thomas did…) and that BY BELIEVING, YOU may have life… in his name.

That’s the offer. To WHOEVER is reading it. AT WHATEVER time in history. In WHATEVER part of the world, in whatever LANGUAGE.

And it comes by bowing to Jesus, just like Thomas did. Believing that he’s the CHRIST. Just like he says.

Vince Williamson was telling us at the Men’s Breakfast the other week that he was just like Thomas. Cynical, hard-to-convince. Before he was a Christian, he didn’t think he needed ANYONE, or ANYTHING. God was for WEAK people. That’s what he thought. Until his business fell apart. And he lost everything. And there wasn’t anything he could do. And his wife’s health fell apart. And there wasn’t anything he could do. Until his kids began to go through some crises of their own. And there wasn’t anything he could do.

And he decided to investigate Jesus. And he found, in Josh McDowell’s book, “More Than a Carpenter”, a guy called Thomas, a guy who wouldn’t be convinced Who wouldn’t believe the unbelievable. Until he’d got PROOF.

And when Vince discovered THOMAS, and found the evidence was good enough for THOMAS, he decided it was good enough for him, too. And so, at 45 years of age, Vince believed the unbelievable. That Jesus rose from the . And that he was Lord and God. And so, Vince received eternal life.

And now, he spends all the time he can telling other men about Jesus.

There are plenty of well-meaning pretend-Christians, aren’t there. Christmas and Easter Christians, even every Sunday Christians, who’ve never got around to thinking it through. Who have never seriously looked at the claims of the resurrection.

I saw a cartoon a while ago. A church notice board. “EASTER IS CANCELLED THIS YEAR. THEY FOUND THE BODY”. Ha ha. But it’s TRUE. Let me tell you, if they do, IT IS. No joke. If they do, CHRISTIANITY is CANCELLED AS WELL. If they do, you can CAN HOPE. And MEANING. As well. It’s just life. D.eath. Full stop.

But according to John, according to an eye witness who was there, IT HAPPENED. Whether you like it or not. With enough evidence to change even the hardest cynic. Like Thomas. And convinced him to change his perspective on life and d.eath; on heaven and hell. And on Jesus himself. So can I urge you this morning, take a fresh look. And if the evidence stacks up, let it make a difference – if it stacks up, don’t just HALF BELIEVE IT. Let it make a difference in the way you look at JESUS. And the way you look at LIFE.

The sorts of things you’re willing to GIVE A GO. Because if Jesus is LORD and GOD, then it’s the LEAST I can do. Because if God can raise Jesus from the , then he can certainly see me through this situation.

Things like speaking up for Jesus in your workplace. If Jesus is Lord and God. And if he’s beaten D.EATH. And if that means I’VE beaten d.eath TOO. Then I can should be able to stand up for him at work.

Things like going the extra mile in your marriage, or with the in-laws. Because if Jesus has beaten D.EATH, then beating my pride or unforgiveness or impatience or anger – that’s NOTHING.

Things like taking on that ministry you half-think God WANTS you to do, but that scares you silly.

Things like making the effort to take out the Bible at dinner time, even though everyone GROANS.

Things like meeting up with that young Christian – even though you really don’t have the time in your week.

All conscious, obedient decisions that flow out of a realization that because Jesus rose from the , he IS Lord and God. And there IS life beyond d.eath.

And that’s the sort of UNBELIEVABLE news that’s worth doing almost anything for.

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