Unless I missed something, articles questioning or dismissing the authenticity of Christianity seemed somewhat muted this Easter. Was it out of respect for the churchgoers in Egypt who were massacred on Palm Sunday?
Yet while churches around the world prayed for fellow-Christians in Egypt, little media attention was given to the large numbers attending Easter Day services in Egypt.
None of this should surprise us. Western society reckons that its cool dismissal of Christianity is savvy and sophisticated. Films and persuasive media voices continually assume there is no God. The biblical miracles are fables. Only fools believe them.
Where then do God’s people find strength to persevere – even in the face of persecution?
At the end of John 13, a dark cloud hung over Jesus’ disciples. For three years they had followed him, increasingly confident he was God’s promised king. But at the Passover meal he had told them he was going away. “Don’t be troubled,” he said. “Believe in God, believe also in me… I go to prepare a place for you.”
Thomas’s response expressed a frustration we can all feel: “Lord, we do not know where you’re going…”
We can sympathize with Thomas. Today, people like Richard Dawkins have problems with the idea of a heavenly world. Maybe Thomas thought like this too. Maybe that is why later on he couldn’t at first accept that Jesus had risen from the dead. For him, knowledge had to be based on concrete realities, not abstract metaphors.
Jesus’ reply to him is breath-taking, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He didn’t say, ‘I’ll show you the way’ but rather, ‘I am the way’; he didn’t say, ‘I’ll tell you the truth’ but, ‘I am the truth’; he didn’t say, ‘I’ll give you eternal life’ but, ‘I am the life’ (John 14:6).
Jesus is saying that behind the universe is not a mathematical equation or a scientific formula but a person. Despite the voices of Richard Dawkins and others today, there are eminent scientists who agree with Jesus. For example, John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, has said: ‘The rational intelligibility of the universe,… points to the existence of the Mind that was responsible both for the universe and our minds. It is for this reason that we are able to do science and to discover the beautiful mathematical structures that underlie the phenomena we can observe.” (cited in Paul W. Barnett, Gospel Truth, p.21)
Jesus tells us that the only way we can make sense of our human existence is by recognising that he is the complex person who is the Mind behind the universe. This means that people who can barely remember their math tables can be closer to the truth than many high-powered mathematicians or scientists, because they have a relationship with him.
This is not fantasy. John candidly reports that Thomas thought for a while it was. He didn’t believe the other disciples when they said they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.
Then when he saw him he responded, My Lord and my God. Were those first followers dreaming?
Six weeks later Peter preached the first Christian sermon less than two miles from Jesus’ tomb, yet no one contradicted his claim that the tomb was empty.
In troubled times we have the assurance, the comfort, and indeed the joy of Jesus’ words, “Believe in God, believe also in me.”
Let me add, because so many have not heard or do not know what to believe, the Anglican Connection conference is focusing on the twin themes of ‘Effective Church’ and ‘Effective Gospel Outreach’. We have a great line-up of speakers and ministry workshops grounded in the Bible and framed by talks on the Reformation. Worship will be lead by the gifted Gettymusic team.
So urgent is the gospel need today, so ill-equipped are many of God’s people, will you join with me in praying that many churches across the US will send representatives to the conference?
The conference is: June 13 – 15 at The Crowne Plaza, Dallas, Galleria-Addison.
Find out more and register at: https://anglicanconnection.com/2017-national-conference-effective-gospel-centered-churches/
Prayer. Almighty God, you have conquered death through your dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ and have opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant us by your grace to set our mind on things above, so that by your continual help our whole life may be transformed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit in everlasting glory. Amen. (BCP, Easter Day)
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© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com