Seward United Methodist Church
Monday, July 16, 2018
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Unlikely Witnesses

Luke 24:1-12

 Among the Hebrew people, who for the most part believed in a resurrection of the faithful dead at the last day, there was a great respect for the bodies of the dead.  Some other ancient cultures did not honor the body of the dead.  Greeks, for example, who believed only in the eternal life of the spirit, did not really honor the body at death.  By the way, Luke was writing to a predominantly Greek audience, so notice how careful he is to point out that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb.

 One of the ways that the Hebrews honored the bodies of the dead was by anointing them for burial with spices, often at great expense.  Usually this was done before burial, but Jesus was buried very hastily on Friday evening.  As soon as the sun set on Friday, the Sabbath began.  And work, like anointing a body, couldn’t be done till sunset on Saturday.  And since it was too dangerous to do this on Saturday night, the earliest possible time was Sunday morning.  Of course, I like to think that this was all in God’s timing for the purpose of revealing the resurrection.

 When they arrive at the tomb, they find the stone rolled away, and the body gone.  Inside the tomb are two men, dressed in white garments, which is how angels were usually described in Scripture.

 They ask the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  Remember what he told you.”

 It is very important to remember.  Tragedy or difficulty has a way of cutting us off from the past, and making us prisoners in the present.  We often can’t see hope for the future because of the intensity of our suffering in the present.  In order to have faith and hope for the future, we need to remember God’s faithfulness in the past to escape the prison of the present.  

 The women rush to tell the news.  But there’s a problem.  They were women.  In the culture of the ancient world, not just Hebrew culture, but across many cultures, women were not considered to be reliable.  They were thought to be “so emotional, so irrational, so unstable” that their testimony was not even admitted in court.  Or if it was, it was automatically contradicted by the testimony of a man.  If 10 women stood up and said the same thing, then one man said the opposite, their testimony was thrown out.  

 Many have pointed out that this aspect of the story is so scandalous that it must be true.  And so it points to the truthfulness of the whole story!  If this story were made up, if the resurrection didn’t happen, there is no way that the all important “first witnesses” would have been women.  Someone “making the story up” in that culture would have put men as the first witnesses.

 Even the 12 Disciples who knew them doubted their testimony.  Literally, it says that they thought their testimony sounded like “insane ramblings.”  

 It occurs to me, that we are not so different from those women.  They were “unlikely witnesses,” and so are we.  We live 2000 years after the fact. We live in a “modern” era of “science and enlightenment.”  Why would anyone believe us that a man rose from the dead?  

 We should not be surprised if our testimony is doubted.  We should not “give up” if our testimony is not accepted outright.  Even the disciples needed time to go from a position of doubt to one of faith.  But what was the key?  What moved them from doubt to faith?  

 At least in the case of Peter, it was NOT the empty tomb.  The physical evidence was not enough.  It wasn’t until he encountered the living Christ that he was convinced of the resurrection.  And I think that is generally still the case.  People go from doubt to faith because they experience the presence of the living Christ and the difference that he makes among his people.  

 If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then Jesus Christ is alive and active in you.  Hopefully, you are allowing him to change your life.  And that living presence of Christ in you is what helps others to know Christ is alive.  

 Does this mean that we don’t have to “talk about the resurrection?”  Not at all.  People need to know the reason for the hope we have.  But talk alone won’t get the job done.  People need to see how Christ transforms his people.  That is what “backs up” and makes believable the testimony we share.  Our testimony is confirmed by the difference Jesus is making in our lives.  Share the good news of the resurrection, but don’t forget that it is only the presence of Christ in your life that makes your testimony believable.  

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