SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Changed People Are the Best Evidence that Christ is Alive
Revelation 1:12, 17-18; John 20:11-18, 30-31
Key Verse: He placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever.” – Revelation 1:17-18
Why is church attendance at its highest on Easter Sunday? Surely the crowds swell because so many people truly want to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. But they are not sure.
To some the biblical story of the resurrection seems like a fairy tale. Still they come to church on Easter Sunday hoping to hear convincing proof at last. Most of them are not ready to become devout disciples of Jesus; they simply want to be in on it if there is actually life after the grave.
Does the church have convincing evidence to offer inquiring minds? Obviously we must do more than deny that the bones found in some Jerusalem ossuary are those of our Lord Jesus. The skeptics also deserve more of an answer than having Christians say that Jesus’ resurrection is true because the Bible says so.
While visiting a Jewish synagogue I asked the brilliant young rabbi why most Jews have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah. His reply remains etched in my brain: “We admire Jesus. We believe he was a good man. But we must see more evidence before we can accept him as God’s Messiah. There is simply not enough evidence to support that claim.”
Nonbelievers will never be convinced by our proclamations that Jesus was raised from the dead. Releasing colorful balloons is not enough. Having children hunt a thousand Easter eggs will not persuade the skeptics. Nor can we change their minds by singing lustily, “Up from the grave He arose.” Like the young rabbi, they need more than all that to be convinced. So have we no compelling evidence?
Yes we do! Our best evidence that Christ is alive is changed people! Believers like Mary and John won the hearts of skeptics in the first century. In every succeeding century God has used the same plan to spread the good news that Christ is alive. Now it is our turn.
God convinced John with a dramatic vision. In that vision John saw the Christ. What a sight that was! I tremble inside every time I read John’s description of Christ. I can see those eyes “like a flame of fire”! No wonder John “fell at his feet as though dead.” You and I would have also.
Frankly, I do not need such a vision. I can read John’s testimony and believe. In his vision John saw the Risen Christ. With the eyes of my spirit I see Him too. With the ears of my spirit I hear him say that he was dead but now he is alive forever more, and that he is the first and the last. As I fall at his feet I hear him gently speak to me also, “Walter, do not be afraid.”
Though I cannot explain it, somehow I know that Christ is alive, and he has made me alive. He is in me and I am in him. Once he was at the door, knocking and asking permission to enter. Now he is in my heart and I am alive in ways I have never been before. I am not perfect; far from it because I see my flaws and realize how much more work he needs to do in me. But I am a changed man! And best of all, I am being changed daily as I learn to surrender more and more of myself to him.
I see my own journey in that of Mary Magdalene. I imagine you can see your own also. Mary loved Jesus because her sins had been forgiven. Now her peace is gone. She is weeping, overcome with sorrow. Not only is Jesus dead; his body has been stolen from the tomb. No wonder she is crying.
Then Jesus appears! He speaks to her, calling her by name. Her sorrow turns to joy. Christ is alive! In an instant Mary is a changed woman. Her darkness is pierced by the Light of the World; her sadness is replaced by the Lord’s gift of eternal joy. That is exactly what the living Christ did for me. Sadness and doubt covered me like a storm cloud when our son died. I was ready to drink from the cup of bitterness.
Then a man showed up, a man whose words and love caused my faith to be restored. Mary had seen Jesus and in a way I saw Jesus too. Only I saw him “in” the man God sent to us. As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow the Risen Christ was within that man, and He spoke to us, through the man, as surely as He spoke to Mary outside the empty tomb.
Mary had a message. She could testify, “I have seen the Lord.” God used her changed life and her testimony to bring others to faith in Christ. What the world needs today is more believers like Mary and John. Changed people arouse the interest of nonbelievers. They want to know what caused the change. What is the source of their joy?
There is a great hymn I love to sing because it expresses exactly what Mary and John felt, and what all changed people believe: “Jesus is All the World to Me.” But while singing it will nourish our own faith, the skeptics need much more than to hear the song. They need to see these words fleshed out in our daily lives:
Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all,
He is my strength from day to day, without him I would fall.
When I am sad, to him I go, no other one can cheer me so,
When I am sad, he makes me glad, he’s my friend.
When we truly live like that, when by grace we live lives that it takes the Risen Christ to explain, then we become the evidence God needs to convince inquiring nonbelievers that the Resurrection is no fairy tale.
On this glad morning let us
remember that belief in the Resurrection of Christ is the linchpin of the
Christian faith. On the day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed confidently, “God has
raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts ). As he closed his powerful
sermon, Peter said: “Therefore let all
In the days of the early church the disciples were not content to invite people to church; they proclaimed the resurrection of Christ. Doctor Luke ties this teaching in with the growth of the church: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all” (Acts ).
So in the days that follow this magnificent Resurrection Sunday, let us ask for the grace necessary to live so that others can see Christ in us. Changed men and women, who have seen and hear the Lord, can by the grace of God live so that skeptics can actually see that we really do “serve a risen Savior”! Let us live it as well as sing it!
I serve a risen Savior, he’s in the world today;
I know that he is living, whatever foes may say.
I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer,
and just the time I need him, he’s always near.
He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, he lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know he lives?
He lives within my heart.
Amen! Hallelujah! Glory!
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