How do I know this is all true? I mean, we tell our kids stories and explain which ones are true and which ones aren’t. How do I know all this stuff about faith, and heaven and hell, and religion — how do I know it is all true? Honestly, I don’t know of many people who haven’t struggled with that question — either in their own hearts or in the head of someone they love. And since it is a matter of faith, and the devil is constantly attacking faith, it can be a heart-wrenching question on both sides of it — the one asking and the one who loves them and wants them to see the answer.
How do we know? The truth is: “because God says so and God is always right.”
“Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so,” right? But people still wrestle, because the devil gets them to ask why they believe that. How do I know?
The answers to that are many (and you can see a bunch of them if you go to abidinggrace.com and read the full sermon on this one). There’s the Scripture proof (God’s Word is never wrong), the logical proof (the order of creation, the inner voice of guilt pointing to someone bigger), the cultural proof (Would billions of people really believe it if it were wrong?), or just the fact that the enemies could have destroyed Christianity once and for all by simply showing the body (but they couldn’t because the tomb was empty because Christ is risen).
But somehow, the question remains. In last week’s article, we talked about those women on that first Easter after seeing the angels and the empty tomb. They were “afraid, yet filled with joy?” But, that fear was overcome, — their question was answered when Jesus showed up.
And for those disciples on the way to Emmaus who were so sad that night, Jesus appeared and explained it, and the proof was standing right there in front of him. Or the next week, when Thomas doubted that Jesus had really appeared to the other disciples. Jesus gave him the physical proof Thomas asked for: “See my hands.”
And he does the same for us. No, he doesn’t show up in your living room as you’re reading this. No one would believe you if you told them that anyway — and eventually, you might not be so sure of it yourself. He does something better. Look up Acts 10:34-43, where Peter is preaching and tells us how we can know. “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.”
This wasn’t just some prophet speaking things only they had heard. God made sure there were eyewitnesses to “Everything”
God raised Jesus and “caused him to be seen.” He made sure of it. And it was by people who would know. He appeared to them several times, eating and drinking with them — making sure they felt the nail marks — making sure they were fully equipped to guarantee this truth, and to pass it on.
And they did. Matthew and John wrote it down for us in their Gospels. Luke did the research and interviewed those that had seen it all. And Mark — well, he was Peter’s co-worker, so he had a pretty good source, not to mention the Holy Spirit says he actually gave them the words to write, which explains how it all lines up. This is verified history.
These guys’ story passes every authenticating test you can give a text of history. Of course, Satan doesn’t care about the facts. He just wants you to doubt. So God keeps going with the proof and Peter closes this sermon telling us all of God’s Word, from all the different authors, throughout all those centuries, all does the same thing “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
All of the Bible testifies to Jesus — the one all of them agree is the only way for forgiveness — through faith in Him. Through the One Peter himself saw live a perfect life in our place, the One no one could deny really died that Good Friday paying a price that wasn’t his, the One Peter ate with and touched and walked and talked with risen from the dead, because sin and death couldn’t hold him. How do I know it is true? The answer is right here.
This week, I’ll admit to tears — praying for a friend. He’s a guy who is in church regularly, he volunteers, he does the right things — and he recently floored me. He told me that he doesn’t really believe in God. He said it just doesn’t seem to be working. He’s not seeing the peace in his life. And I’ll admit, I couldn’t get him out of my mind as I was working on this sermon (not that I would want to). But, to him, and to all of you who have ever asked the question, “How do I know?” – I want to say this. Stop looking to yourself or your life as the proof. Like Thomas, look at Jesus. Look where Peter points. When you see him in His Word, there is no denying. He is. It doesn’t even make sense to argue it. Look at your hand. Is there any reason to doubt that’s a hand? How do you know it is a hand? Because it is. You don’t need to prove it. It is because it is.
How do I know this stuff about Jesus being our Savior is true? Because it is. That’s why Jesus was standing there in that upper room. Because He is. That’s why Peter preached with authority. Because it is. That’s why this Easter message has stood the test of time. Because it is. Because He is. Because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. Amen.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday at 8 & 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.