Easter Sunday

Do you remember the comic books or paperbacks called – Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

Robert L. Ripley was born on Christmas Day, 1893 in Santa Rosa, California. He began his newspaper career as a sports cartoonist at the age of 16.

Now as a reporter of the odd and unusual, Ripley traveled to the farthest corners of the globe, visiting over 200 countries, meeting with kings and queens, tribesmen and natives.

You may think Ripley’s Believe it or Not is passe’ today?  In fact, his Believe It or Not series have been popular around the world for over 70 years, syndicated in as many as 300 newspapers; and there are active museums around the world — California; Orlando, Australia; Denmark, Thailand only to name a few.

I always thought they were kind of creepy. Didn’t really want to go in them. Wasn’t real big on the books- But my brothers loved them as many of the kids did.

Here was a chance for their world to be expanded and challenged. With each discovery it forced the reader to make a faith decision: do I believe this or not?

Would I believe in the Fiji mermaid? Or was it a tall tale.

Would I believe in “Wadlow the Giant” at 8’11” tall?  After all Zion Williamson is only 6’6/6’7.

So on this Easter morning, as in so long ago, we were left with the same question…..Would I believe?

You see the women had returned from the tomb and told what they saw to the 11 disciples. Luke takes the time to identify the women by name, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women.

This is eyewitness testimony, by women who are well-known and trustworthy.

But in spite of their testimonies, the women were unable to convince the disciples. The disciples took it to be “an idle tale.”

But let’s not ignore this actions and the testimony of these eyewitnesses.

Their words and actions teach us that new life is not limited just to Easter morning. But our words, actions and faith continues to teach new life. Even those that doubt.

It was later on that the doubting disciples, came to Thomas with the fantastic news of a risen Savior. Thomas – “Would you believe … that Jesus is risen?

Thomas – Would you believe … that Jesus who was crucified between two thieves, is now alive?

Would you believe … that he has appeared to Mary and to all of us?”
Thomas’ response was, “No, unless I see….I would not believe such an idle tale.

Scripture records, after eight days, the disciples were again inside- doors shut, Thomas was with them.  Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My hands, Put your hands here and place it in My side.  Do not be faithless, but believing.”

You have to love Thomas. He admits that he, doesn’t have a clue.   Back in vs 5, he says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus providing one of the most memorable passages in the New Testament: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”(v.6).

What remarkable honesty for Thomas to acknowledge that, for him, Jesus was not making any sense.

So I ask, could doubt have a constructive and positive role to play as we today exercise of our faith.  It did for Thomas. Jesus, fully aware of all doubts, appears and takes the initiative- showing them his hands and his side. The undeniable markings of the Crucifixion.
So what are we to do-what are we to believe?  I read not too long ago that the three least used words in our Christian vocabulary are, “I don’t know.”  If that’s the case- as we feast under the tree of knowledge, do we rob faith of its humanness.
Do we dismiss or discount doubts?

Do we repeat the same cliché that we found unsatisfying when we went through the same struggle?

Do we act as though we have all of the answers?

Let me be the first to say, I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I have no doubts that Jesus is who He says He is and He is my savior and your savior.  No doubt there. But,  I don’t always understand…. why things happen as they do.  ….. and I voice this to God regularly. I hope you do also……

And when I do, and if I patient, He will take these questionings and doubts and use them as teachable moments?

Just like this Professor of small College were every student was required to take his religion course their freshman year- regardless of their major.  The professor tried hard to communicate the essence of Gods grace but he found that most of his students were like Thomas, doubted and looked upon the course as nothing but a required pain!  There was student named Steve. Steve got it. He was a believer.  He was popular, well liked, the center for the school football team.  Strong, discipline.  One day, the professor had an idea. He asked Steve to stay after class.  “How many push-ups can you do?” Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.” 200? That’s pretty good, Steve,”  

 Do you think you could do 300?” Steve replied, “I don’t know… I’ve never done 300 at a time.”

“You don’t have to do them all at once. Could you do sets of 10.”    The professor went on to tell him about a class project- he had in mind. 

 Friday-When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts.  These weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosted swirls.

Everyone got pretty excited – Friday, last class of the day, and now an early start on the weekend with a donuts.

The professor went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, would you like a donut?”  “Yes.”

The professor turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?” “Sure.”

Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. 

The professor put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.

Then the professor went to Joe, the next person, “Joe, do you want a donut?”  “Yes.”

 “Steve would you do ten pushups so Joe can have a donut?” Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle second aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut.   They came to Scott- he was on the basketball team.  He was very popular, good condition always had many girlfriends.

 “Scott do you want a donut?”  “Well, yes but I can do my own pushups?” 

“No, Steve has to do them.” Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.”

The professor shrugged his shoulders and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?”

 With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten pushups. Scott said, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!” Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.

 The professor started down the third row and 4th rows- students began to get angry and sad as they watch Steve begin to struggle.

 “Jenny, do you want a donut?” Sternly, Jenny said, “No.”   “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?”

 Steve did ten….Jenny got a donut.  The room was silent.   The students were beginning to say “No” and there were all these uneaten donuts.

Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these pushups done. His clothes were wet, his arms shaking…..face blood red. 

The professor got to Robert, the most vocal unbeliever on campus.  He sent Robert over to count, to  watch Steve closely. 

 The bell rang but the professor did not release the students.   Some students in the hall saw Steve doing pushups and wandered in and sat down on the steps along the side of the room. The professor continued with each student. 

Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.  Steve asked, “Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?”   “Yes. You must pay the full price for each donut.” 

 A few moments later, Jason, a transfer student, was about to come in the room when all the students yelled in one voice “NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!”

 Jason didn’t know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.” 

“You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him?”, “Yes Steve said, let him come in. So he too can have a donut”.

     “Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?” Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut.  Then the visitors seated by the wall.

 Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up he struggled to lift himself against the force of gravity. His back was swayed now. His waist barely cleared the floor. Sweat was profusely dropping off of his face and, by this time, there was no sound except his heavy breathing and not a dry eye in the room.

There were two students left. “Linda, do you want a doughnut?” Linda knew that no matter what she said, Steve would have to do ten more pushups. She lowered her head and said, “No, thank you.”  “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda.

 Then the last girl, Susan. “Susan, do you want a donut?” Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Why can’t I help him?”   “No, Steve has to do it alone, I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity- for a donut -whether they want it or not.

You see, when I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve, here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else didn’t care, failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work.

 He and I made a deal for your sake.

Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?” As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.

 The professor turned to the room and said. “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, ’into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, he yielded up His life -a gift for us. And like some in that class room- many will leave the gift on the desk.”

 Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat. He was physically exhausted. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor. That day, in that class… that student paid the price.

The students were angry and sad.

God’s grace is a gift; the gift of his son, our savior whether we choose it or not. The gift does no depend  on us, the gift is what Jesus has already done for us on the cross.  And on this Easter Sunday 2019 we may need tangible reinforcement-and we have it. An empty tomb-no other religion can produce an empty tomb.

He is Risen (He is Risen in Deed)

 

Right Vision – Believing is Seeing.