It seems like every Easter the “evidences for the risen Christ” sermons come off the podcasts faster than one can even listen to them. Yet, I often find these perplexing. Evidences alone cannot lead to genuine conversion. Take Luke 24 as an example.
In verses 1-11 we have the “empty tomb” evidence. These folks heard a first-hand account that the tomb was empty; strong evidence from reliable sources. However, according to verse 11 the testimony of an empty tomb was unconvincing; “these words seemed an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
In verse 12 we have the “folded grave clothes” evidence. Yet, all this evidence generated in Peter was “marvel” not faith.
In verses 13-37 we have the “personal encounter with Jesus” evidence. Yet, by itself this evidence brought confusion (even disbelief, vs. 41) and the thought that they were seeing a spirit.
What was it that finally brought about faith in the lives of the first witnesses of the resurrected Christ?
According to verses 44-48 it was the opening of their minds to understand the expounded Scriptures.
(I am indebted to Peter Adam for the above observations from Luke 14. Adam, Peter. Hearing God’s Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2004.)
Here is what I am not saying.
I am not saying there isn’t a place for referencing evidences, even solid, historical evidences for the resurrection. There is a place and to make mention of such in a sermon is appropriate.
Here is what I am saying.
One’s sermon or Easter message ought not to be simply an apologetic based on such evidences for the resurrection of Jesus. If this is the primary thrust of my sermon the best I can hope for is someone who is convinced that some really odd (possibly amazing) event happened in a tomb outside of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. But this is setting the bar far too low. This not the aim of a sermon. I want to see people’s minds open to the transforming power of the Gospel of the Risen Lord. I want to see the Holy Spirit of God transform their hearts, drawing them to call out to Christ in faith for the forgiveness of sins.
Those of us who preach or teach, let us not settle for an attempt to give a convincing argument to people so they will, at best, acknowledge they have to accept Jesus was resurrected.
No, let us expound the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-48), preaching Christ crucified & resurrected for the forgiveness of sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Don’t try to be novel and cool. Just tell the old, old story and watch God’s people being changed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).