Daily Devotional - 24 July 2020
“For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7)!
Many people deny the existence of God. Even more refuse to believe that Jesus was the Messiah–the one sent to rescue us. They taunt and even persecute those who profess a faith in Jesus as Saviour. A belief in heaven, forgiveness of sins or any set standard of ‘truth’ is for them entirely nonsensical. If asked, ‘What would it take to change your mind?’ many would undoubtedly answer, ‘Proof.’ But the truth of the matter is that when someone is determined to believe a particular thing, there often is no level of irrefutable proof that will suffice to change his/her mind.
I was reminded of this fact today, as I read Matthew 28. The latter half of the chapter is well-known–Jesus commissions the disciples to continue the work of the Kingdom He has begun, just before ascending to heaven with the angelic promise that He will come again in the same way. The first half is a little less known with some of the details not receiving much attention even at Easter. Jesus comes back to life! But before anyone sees Him, a great earthquake happens as an angel–whose appearance is like lightning–rolls the stone away from the front of the tomb and sits on the boulder, prepared to explain the reason for the missing body. “He’s not here! He has risen, just as He said He would.” There are two groups of witnesses to this event. We most often follow the story of the women that head off to tell the disciples this wonderful news. But they aren’t the only ones present.
Roman guards had been put in place to make certain no one tried to perpetuate the lie that Jesus would come back to life. The Pharisees had heard His pronouncement–that Jesus would be raised from the dead–and wanted to insure that none of the disciples were allowed to perpetrate any further mischief. These same guards saw the angel, saw him remove the boulder, saw the empty tomb...and had become absolutely petrified by what they witnessed. Understandably, they ran off to tell the chief priests. It was in their best interest to report these events; if they were accused of sleeping on the job, their very lives were at stake.
As first hand witnesses, still shaking with fear, the guards would have no doubt presented a believable account, albeit amazing–they obviously believed the story they told. How do the chief priests respond? Here before them is irrefutable proof that Jesus has done exactly as He predicted...He has risen from the dead...an angel of heaven has provided the evidence...He must be the Messiah. Nope! Not these guys.
Their first decision is to consult with the elders and devise a plan...a plan to quash the proof they’ve just been given. They gave the guards a ‘large’ bride to spread the story that the disciples had come in the middle of the night and stolen the body while they slept. The bribe must have been fantastic to convince them...to prevent them from sharing the amazing details of what they had witnessed and to risk punishment for ‘sleeping.’ And of course this false version of events spread simultaneously with the women’s true account of what occurred at the tomb, thus providing a narrative for those who believed and those who didn’t to shore up their opposing beliefs about who Jesus was.
What will it take to convince the unbelieving? Not proof! Those who refuse to believe the truth often dig deeper trenches of denial when faced with it. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day–the ones who had worked so hard to eliminate Him–remained adamant in their unbelief, preferring rather to perpetrate a lie than to admit that they had been wrong...that much of their belief about the Messiah had been off base...that they themselves had been guilty of killing the long awaited Rescuer.
Our faith in God must come through belief and not proofs. It is only as we submit our pride, admit our error and relinquish our need for proof–which will never suffice in the face of our rejection of it–that we will truly experience God. It is good to remember what Jesus said; “Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4). We need to stop demanding proof–which will never suffice for the one who refuses to believe; instead we need to recognize that we may in fact be wrong and open ourselves to hearing a different version of events. He is Lord!
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!