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You Want Proof?
April 18 and 19, 1998

JOHN 20:19-31

Christ is risen! (Christ is risen indeed!) "I want proof!" said Thomas. It was Easter evening. When Thomas returned from wherever he had gone, his friends excitedly told him an unbelievable tale. "We have seen the Lord. He showed us his hands where the nails had been driven. He showed us his side where the soldier's sword had pierced." Thomas, called "Doubting Thomas" through all these centuries, but was actually "Honest Thomas", honestly skeptical, said, "I want proof!"

How about you? You want proof? What evidence would convince you, satisfy you, that indeed Christ is risen, risen from the dead? Early skeptics accused the disciples of hiding the body, and then making up the story that Jesus had risen from the dead. Modern skeptics continue to accuse the disciples of fabrication. A popular book, The Passover Plot, argues that the disciples were hallucinogenic drug addicts who gave Jesus a cocktail of drugs just before the crucifixion so that, when he appeared to die, he was not dead, only drugged out of his mind. They allowed the Roman soldiers to entomb him, then a couple of days later came back, retrieved the narcotic Jesus, resuscitated him, and put out the absurd rumor that he had been resurrected!

What would convince such skeptics that Jesus indeed has been raised from the dead? You want proof, where do you look? Does the imprint of a body in an ancient linen shroud convince you? Does an empty tomb with discarded linen wrappings convince you? Personally, I do not find it helpful to try to go back in time to prove the resurrection. Too much time has lapsed. Rather than go back and try to explain things to skeptics, stay in the present. You want proof? Look around. What do you see? A congregation.

Evidence for the resurrection of Christ is the folks who have gathered here to worship. We did not create Easter. Easter created us, the church. We are here because Christ has breathed on us. He has created us out of nothing. There are no sociological factors that hold us together. We are not all of the same race. We are not all of the same gender. We are not all of the same social class, or European background, or educational background. We don't all have the same theology, the same beliefs or social principles. We are certainly not all Democrats or Republicans!

It is only by the grace of God, the power of the resurrected Christ, that we are here. The church often forgets this. We try to hold ourselves together by the usual human glue. We make rules. We devise bylaws and dress codes, so we will all look alike, talk alike, smell alike. But, none of the attempts work. The church is the church when we realize, recognize, and rejoice in the fact that the only reason we are here, and the only thing that binds us and holds us together is the resurrected Christ.

You want proof? 30 children are presenting a musical tomorrow/this morning. 30 third, fourth and fifth grade children led by CATCH teachers and workers. 30 children from Hispanic, African-American, Hmong, Filipino, and Caucasian backgrounds, 30 children bonded together by the resurrected Jesus Christ.

William Willimon, Chaplain of Duke University, was speaking at Concordia College in Minnesota. He was asked, "What proof do we have of the resurrection?" Willimon had just spoken with a young pastor who was struggling with a rural congregation in North Dakota, so he said,

"Proof? The only proof I have at the moment is that next Sunday, out in a remote crossroads somewhere in North Dakota, a young pastor will stand up and preach to about 30 North Dakota farm families. She will do so, despite the fact that her church is not growing, despite the fact that no one will thank her after the service, despite the fact that she receives a pitifully small salary for it and very little affirmation from her mostly passive and taciturn congregation. She and her sermon are the proof we have of the resurrection!"

You want proof? An 11-year-old boy was brought to church by Nadine, who was a neighbor at that time. She took him to breakfast first because he was hungry. He came forward to pray at the altar during the Invitation time. I asked him how I could help him pray. He said, "I want to pray for my Dad who is in prison." Several Sundays later, he and a cousin were pouring lots of cream and sugar into cups of coffee during Fellowship Time. Ellie asked if they were hungry. She took them to her Sunday School room and fed them the remains of the Seder meal her Sunday School class had enjoyed. Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, he came to the altar for a blessing. He said, "Today is my birthday." The previous week Doug Boister brought two bicycles to church for us to give to kids who needed them. At the altar last Sunday, on Easter Sunday, his birthday, after she gave him a blessing, Jody asked if he would like a bicycle for his birthday present! You would have to look far and wide to find a happier boy with bigger eyes! My people, we have a church here! You want proof? Jesus is moving in our midst. Christ is risen! (Christ is risen indeed!)

You want proof? From e-mail, sent by Debbie, mother of the girl I baptized last Saturday evening, who spontaneously announced to the congregation, "I'm a princess!"

Written by Danny Dutton, age 8, from Chula Vista, California, for his third grade homework assignment to "Explain God."

One of God's main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth. He doesn't make grown-ups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way, He doesn't have to take up His valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that to mothers and fathers.

God's second most important job is listening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, since some people, like preachers and things, pray at times besides bedtime.

God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere which keeps Him pretty busy. So you shouldn't go wasting His time by going over your mom and dad's head asking for something they said you couldn't have.

Atheists are people who don't believe in God. I don't think there are any in Chula Vista. At least there aren't any who come to our church.

Jesus is God's Son. He used to do all the hard work like walking on water and performing miracles and trying to teach the people who didn't want to learn about God. They finally got tired of Him preaching to them and they crucified Him. But He was good and kind like His Father and He told His Father that they didn't know what they were doing and to forgive them and God said OK.

His Dad (God) appreciated everything that He had done and all His hard work on earth so He told Him He didn't have to go out on the road anymore, He could stay in heaven. So He did.

And now He helps His Dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones He can take care of Himself without having to bother God. Like a secretary only more important. You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to hear you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the times.

You should always go to Church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there's anybody you want to make happy, it's God. Don't skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong! And, besides, the sun doesn't come out at the beach until noon anyway.

If you don't believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can't go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can. It is good to know He's around you when you're scared in the dark or when you can't swim very good and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids.

But you shouldn't just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and He can take me back anytime He pleases.

And that's why I believe in God.

You want proof? One week after Easter, the disciples were gathered together. This time Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Shalom, peace be with you." Wouldn't you like to have seen Thomas' face-- he who proclaimed, "I want proof. Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." Jesus looked at Thomas. What expression was on Jesus' face? Exasperation, disgust, impatience, or compassion? I prefer to think Jesus looked at Thomas with love and infinite patience, "Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."

Thomas wanted proof, and the ultimate proof, the ultimate evidence is a personal experience with the risen Christ. Thomas, in humility and awe, responded, "My Lord and my God!" Notice, not "the" Lord, or "our" Lord, but very personal, "My Lord and my God." You want proof? We sing, "You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart." That's the proof. I don't care what scholars dispute. I don't care what skeptics say. I know Jesus. Jesus walks with me and talks with me. Sure, I have honest doubts. But, faith is not the absence of doubt; faith is the presence of courage. Courage to believe. Courage to reach out and trust. Courage to live my life. Courage to face tomorrow. We will sing later in the service, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow."

Christ is risen! (Christ is risen indeed!)

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris