Today I spoke at Becontree Avenue Baptist Church and as we are still within the Easter period I spoke about the Resurrection.
Last week our minister Sue Millar talked about the events of that First Easter day. Today our Bible reading deals with events later in the day.
Luke 24: 36 – 49
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence. 44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Alternative facts and fake news has become common in recent months, particularly with politicians. If they are caught out they proclaim the truth is just “fake news” or of course there are “alternative facts”.
We saw that in the American presidential election last year and no doubt over the next few weeks we will have our own share of alternative facts and fake news in the run up to the General Election on 8th June.
How often do we hear politicians come out with alternative facts. Often in reply to a hard question they come back with “The truth is……..” and then come out with anything but the truth.
And to be honest it is sometimes hard to know what is truth and what is lies.
Just look at the recent use of sarin gas against people in Syria. Who did it? Are we certain it was the Syrian Air Force or was it the rebels? What is certain is that many people died or were seriously and awfully injured. A terrible evil has happened but everyone blames everyone else.
Many of us are on Social Media such as Facebook and we get fed all sorts of Alternative Facts. Sometimes well meaning but naive friends forward articles and news to us that has very little basis in truth. You know the sort of thing. Stories of how an unnamed friend managed to stave off a heart attack by standing on one leg and singing the Peruvian National Anthem.
I have received emails from the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations telling me that I have been the victim of a scam and how I am entitled to several $ million in compensation. All I have to do is to let them have my bank account details.
Similarly the FBI have similarly emailed me about fraud compensation. I never knew that the FBI email addresses are with hotmail!
And what about fake news. Often on Social media we see news items that a famous person is dead. But when we check it out with a reputable news website we find the truth.
Many years ago Gaynor’s Auntie Nell was accosted by an old friend in Grays and greeting with the words “Oh I thought you were dead!”
But alternative facts and fake news are nothing new.
Way back in Genesis we find Adam and Eve avoiding the truth with using alternative facts. They have eaten the apple that God told them not to eat.
The devil uses alternative facts to trick Adam and Eve into eating the apple. And then when challenged by God, Adam and Eve also provide a different version of reality.
And this continues through the Bible.
When Jesus is before Pontius Pilate, Pilate a skilled politician asks “What is truth?” But doesn’t wait for the answer. Perhaps he doesn’t want to know the answer. Many people don’t want to know the truth.
Sadly Christians are known to use alternative facts. One minister I heard preaching some years ago starting off his sermon with the following “Everybody has their own views about Jesus and everybody is right”. The truth about Jesus is that he is the Son of God and he died on the cross for our sins and rose victorious on Easter Day having defeated the powers of evil and reconciled us with God.
Another minister told folk at a Christmas Eve children’s service that Jesus was born at Christmas so that we could all have a lovely time as we are having today!
I was visited yesterday morning by a very earnest lady and a small child pedaling alternative facts about God and Jesus. She was very sincere, but sincerely wrong. Her cult’s false teaching about Jesus is certainly fake news.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is surrounded by alternative facts and fake news.
The Jewish authorities put out the alternative facts that Jesus was a fake, a troublemaker and a blasphemer claiming to be the son of God, when they decided he wasn’t. They were more than happy to have Jesus put to death to rid the country of someone they saw as a troublemaker. They told all sorts of “porkie pies” to support their case against Jesus.
They thought that with the death of Jesus they had seen the last of him but just in case his disciples stole the body to support Jesus’ prediction of rising from the death, they had a guard placed on the tomb.
But as we heard from Sue last week the tomb was open and the stone was rolled away . The guards had fled in terror and were paid by the Jewish authorities to provide fake news about what had happened.
This is what we read in Matthew 28 “ 1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. ”
and “11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. “
Just to set the scene for our Bible reading, I am going to quote from Charles Colson who was involved in the Watergate scandal of 1973 and was imprisoned for his part in the crimes committed. Colson repented of his actions and came to faith in Jesus Christ.
This is what he wrote about the resurrection:
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me, How? Because 12 men testified that they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
All four of the gospels deal with the story of Jesus in different ways because they were written with different audiences in mind.
So each of the gospels deal with the Easter story in different ways.
Our reading from Luke’s gospel happens at the end of the first Easter Day.
The guards at the tomb had fled following an earthquake and the tomb opening.
The women had gone to the tomb and found it empty. Mary subsequently met Jesus whom she didn’t initially recognise – after all she had seen him die on a cross and then lain in the tomb. She was overjoyed when she realised that Jesus was alive.
The disciples didn’t believe the women. Remember, at that time women were not regarded as reliable witnesses in a court of law.
According to Luke, Peter went to investigate for himself.
We all have to make our own minds up on Jesus. No one can do that for us. No one can believe on our behalf.
Peter had found the empty tomb and the carefully folded grave clothes – but the penny didn’t drop. He wondered what had happened.
Later in the day two disciples encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples that they encountered Jesus.
As they are talking, Jesus appear in the middle of them.
They think they have seen a ghost.
But Jesus is quick to reassure them that he is no ghost. Luke 24; 37 – 43 “They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”
Having given them the proof that he is who he says he is, Jesus then shares with them the scriptural evidence to back up that he had to died and then rise from the dead.
Incidentally there are some 300 old testament prophecies about Jesus and he fulfils all of them.
The Jewish people should have known their scripture, they would have learnt and memorised it from childhood. And yet Jesus’ followers need to be reminded, as in fact we do from time to time.
I can remember when the reality of scripture struck home for me, and I just knew that Jesus had died for me. What a revelation. Jesus loves me so much!
Jesus then tells the disciples that he has a job for them. They are to be his witnesses throughout the world, starting from Jerusalem.
But this is not going to be done in their own strength. Jesus says in Luke 24:49 “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit who Jesus had talked about in the days preceding his crucifixion. The Holy Spirit has many names and titles but one in particular we should remember is that he is the Spirit of Truth.
This what Jesus says on the matter in John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
So with God’s spirit with in us as our guide we should be able to see what is true and what is false.
We ourselves should not be involved in alternative facts and fake news. We should be people of truth and honesty. That may be difficult for us as we live our daily lives, but the Holy Spirit is the helper and the comforter who will be with us every step of the way.
And so just as the disciples were Jesus’ witnesses to the facts and the good news, so we have had the baton passed to us and it is our turn to tell people the Good News that they can, through faith in Jesus be forgiven for all the wrong things they have said and done.
The truth is that the Easter story is not fake news and that we can be forgiven and reconciled to God through faith in Jesus. Amen.