Crucifixion, stabbing, stoning, flaying, beheading - I'm describing the ways the original apostles of Jesus died. They died a variety of ways, but one thing was consistent. They died because they would not budge from their conviction on the truth of Jesus' resurrection, the power of his message, the value of their relationship with him.
They were so certain of their eternity that they willingly faced death, the most gruesome of deaths, instead of denying it.
Would you like to be that sure? Now, I'm not asking you if you want to be flayed or crucified, but do you want the absolute confidence that allowed those disciples to face those most horrendous of deaths without a doubt? Do you want to live a life free from worry? Good, because the key is in our text for today, Luke 24, the account of what happened Easter Sunday night.
In the text, we see these same apostles, the supremely confident, bold, absolutely certain, willing to die disciples. How are they doing? Verse 37 tells us, "startled and frightened." Jesus says, "doubts are rising in their minds." So he asks them the question I want you to ask yourself today, "Why are you troubled?" They had no confidence even after all they had reports of his resurrection.
So look at what Jesus does for them that brought them from being the fearful flock of fools locked up in that upper room scared of the Jews to the death-defying disciples who stood up to kings and emperors, torture and death.
What happened? Jesus appeared. He proved his physical resurrection to all their senses. Their ears - he speaks those beautiful words, "Peace be with you." Their hands - "Touch me...flesh and bones." "See me." Scars in hands and feet.
And taste - He even eats something in front of them so they can see it isn't some kind of apparition. He proved it.
But he realized something about that proof. It wasn't enough. It wasn't enough because it was apprehended by human senses, fallible, weak, sinful human senses. My eyes have been tricked before. My ears have heard lies. My senses have been deceived. All of that proof would necessarily come with a shadow of a doubt. So when Jesus asks, "Why are you troubled?" we'd have a good answer. We've been wrong before.
And even worse, even if we are convinced that God exists and even that Jesus is God - the natural next question is harder to prove. Does God exist for me? Those disciples had no doubt about whether God was powerful and truthful and caring - it was just a question of whether he existed "for them." Do you know that doubt? Does God care enough to help me?
Now I realize it sometimes sounds silly talking about doubt, because intellectually we know the right answer. But in our real world, in this world of harsh realities, there are real questions: Is God strong enough to overcome my addiction? Is he strong enough to provide for my family when I've lost my job? Is he caring enough to give me joy when I've lost my loved one? Can he handle my sickness? Is he strong enough to bring me through the devastation of a damaged relationship?
So Jesus takes the proof to the next level. He takes us from what we see to what God says. And that is where our confidence lies.
You see, every rational argument, every logical explanation, every proof our senses give us - they come with a shadow of a doubt - because they come from us, from sinful, stained, imperfect us. So Jesus points us to the flawless, the perfect, the holy word, the word that Isaiah tells us "endures forever" (40:8). Listen to Jesus remove all our reason to be troubled when he says, "It is written."
"Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Luke 24:44.
It had to happen. The promises God made in Scripture had to be fulfilled. Why? Because of who God is. Creation tells us he's powerful and wise. Our consciences tell us he is a just god. But who is he? Only He could tell us that he is love. Scripture tells us that God's love for you is too great to let you suffer with doubt. The Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled because God loves you.
And Jesus goes on to explain that: "Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written, ‘Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations." Here is what our imperfect senses could never tell us. Here is what our beautiful logic and reason could never deduce. God loves you so much that he sacrificed his life to satisfy his justice for your sins. And it is God who opens your mind to see that. And you see that with the eyes of faith - the perfect, flawless, totally dependable eyes of faith - the eyes that no hand is quicker than, the eyes that cannot be deceived because they are not from us sinful humans. Faith is God's gift to us - so seeing all this through the eyes of faith - there is no doubt.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.