Sermon for Sunday, April 9th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Job 19:23-29 ESV] 23 “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! 24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! 28 If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’ and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’ 29 be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment.”
New Testament reading:
[1Co 15:1-11 ESV] 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
[Jhn 20:24-29 ESV] 24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
There is a phenomenon in recent years that is quite strange. Instead of watching a music video, it is popular to watch a persons reaction to watching a music video. Rather than merely watching a sports highlight it is popular to watch another’s reaction to seeing that highlight. This might seem a little strange, but it has a personal side to it; in watching reaction videos we have our emotions or reactions confirmed, even heightened as we see others react in a similar fashion. If you’ve been long “wow-ed” by a singer’s voice or a basketball player’s jumpshot, it can be a great joy to watch others have that same experience for the first time.
We can learn a lot from watching reactions. So today we’ll be looking the reactions to the resurrection that are recording in Scripture.
The stages of our reaction to the resurrection are much the same as those in the New Testament who witnessed Christ’s return from the dead.
Prior to the work of the Holy Spirit on our minds, we doubted the resurrection. We may have thought with the modernists that resurrection is “impossible.” But once the Lord changed our hearts from stone to flesh, we tossed aside all fear and doubt.
Once we became believers, our reaction to the resurrection is to have joy in the Lord and to worship him.
So there are three stages of “resurrection reactions.”
The first is often doubt.
The second is joy.
And the third is to worship Christ, the risen King.
In that order – doubt, joy, worship – we find the reactions of each the women at the tomb, of Peter, and of Thomas, and of the eleven.
Stage 1: Doubt
Stage 1 is doubt.
When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, she went and told those who had been with him – the disciples. Mark’s Gospel records their reaction: Mark 16:11 – “But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.”
Doubt. They did not believe.
If it is not a surprise that one would doubt another’s testimony, it is certainly a surprise that people would doubt the testimony of their own senses.
Matthew tell us that even though the disciples SAW Christ themselves, yet SOME DOUBTED. Matthew 28:16-17 – “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.”
So shocking was it to see Christ alive that some doubted even though they had seen him.
We know, however, that for true faith we need the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Without the Holy Spirit, natural man will write off all miracles and just circumstance or some “glitch in the matrix” or delusion in their mind. They will cling to their opposition.
It is not from SIGHT that we come to BELIEF, but rather first BELIEVING we can UNDERSTAND what has been seen. Augustine originated the saying, in Latin, “credo ut intelligam” – I believe so that I may understand.
Until we believe, we cannot understand.
And until the Holy Spirit worked in our hearts we cannot believe.
And without faith there is only doubt.
Praise the Lord that His Holy Spirit brings us out of doubt and gives us faith.
Some however never leave the first stage – doubt. The Gospels don’t record the doubters. For that we have to look at the Book of Acts. There the first doubters mentioned are the rulers and elders and scribes and pharisees. The same authorities – secular and religious – who killed Christ then persecuted the apostles, imprisoning Peter, stoning Stephen.
By the power of the Holy Spirit however, some Pharisees came to believe. Saul, himself a pharisee, came to belief. But as he preached from town to town there were some who believed the Gospel (and the resurrection) and others who doubted.
But as faith comes to many, so also comes joy, the second stage of reaction.
The first stage is doubt, but then — when doubt turns to faith — then comes joy.
Stage 2: Joy
Stage 2 is joy.
We perhaps see this stated explicitly for Peter. Luke 24:12 – “But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” Peter was marveling, full of joy at what he had seen. He seems to put two and two together, knowing that the empty tomb meant that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Most of this stage of Joy, however, is not seen in explicit statements of the authors of the Gospel, but is exemplified in the first words —the responses — of those who seen Christ.
These responses are instructive.
When Mary sees the resurrected Christ she turned to him and said “Rabboni!” (Teacher). (John 20:16)
When John — the disciples whom Jesus loved — saw Christ, he said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7)
And when the eleven disciples heard from those who had just seen Christ on the road to Emmaus, they proclaimed with joy “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:33-35)
Each of these resurrection reactions of joy have in our text an exclamation point. Naturally that punctuation is not present in the original Greek text, but our translators have rightly added them, showing the joy of these responses.
It is the Lord!
The Lord has risen indeed!
Exclamation, exclamation, exclamation.
Joy, joy, joy.
There is much joy in believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Certainly they had joy in seeing their beloved teacher and Lord.
But there was also joy in knowing what the resurrection meant. DEATH HAS BEEN DEFEATED. That great enemy of us all no longer has hold over us. Though Christ died, he rose again. And unless the Lord returns first, we too shall die. But being united to Christ through faith, we shall rise as he rose. United to him, we go where he goes. Death is the not the end, but we are promised eternal life with Christ. And THAT brings great joy.
So doubt has turned to faith and that brings joy. But there is a third step in our reaction to the resurrection.
Doubt, then joy, then there is worship.
Stage 3: Worship
The reaction of the one who believes in the resurrection naturally includes worship. We thank and praise God for that joy that he has given us in the knowledge that Christ is Risen and we shall be as well.
We actually both joy and worship in the reaction of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.
Matthew 28:8-9 – “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings! And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.”
And in our sermon text, we have all three stages present.
Thomas at first doubts.
But when he comes to believe he says “My Lord and My God!”
That again has an exclamation point! Thomas has great joy in knowing that Christ is risen.
But, I submit, he is also worshipful as he says “My God.” You cannot rightly address God but to worship him.
So have a great transition in Thomas. A conversion as great as Saul’s. Both totally resistant, completely doubting, but turned in an instance to belief, joy, and worship.
Thomas is the man who, when the other disciples said “We have seen the Lord,” he said to them “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
But something happened. Jesus answered the request exactly.
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
And upon this occasion, Thomas believed. His doubt went away. And what was left was joy that led to worship as he said “My Lord and My God.”
So should our reaction be. From faith comes joy and worship.
But, one might say, we haven’t seen Christ in the flesh as did his disciples in the New Testament.
Jesus speaks then to us when he says to Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Sight is not necessary for belief. Rather, being born again of the Spirit is necessary.
Matthew Henry says that these words (about the truly blessed) may either be looking backward to the Old Testament saints who had not seen those things the Apostles saw but yet believed the promises of God, or forward to the Gentiles who had never seen Christ in the flesh as the Jews had.
I pray that we all are truly blessed with joy in Christ.
I pray that coming to church for you is not just checking off another box of something you need to do, but is rather something that brings you great joy, something that you want to do. You should be here, and worship the Lord, not out of obligation but out of joy. For in Christ’s death and resurrection we have the Gospel of God’s grace – that we are saved BY HIM, by Jesus Christ. That is what should bring us such great joy and lead to worship God.
We should have joy in all times.
Our sins are forgiven.
Death is conquered.
He is Risen.
We should have joy in all times. Even when doing the dishes. Even there, work for the Lord.
Now, watching reaction videos or reading reaction texts can be of value. But then there is the REAL THING.
It is good that we see that Peter, Thomas, Mary, the other Mary, and all the rest, had these reactions to the resurrection.
It is even better if we look not at them but to the resurrection itself.
Then, I ask, what is YOUR reaction? What is your reaction to the resurrection?
Let us look to Christ,
And when we do,
Let us have faith in in him
Joy in Christ at all times
and let us worship Him, the risen King.