APRIL 26, 2020
This past week, I caught a news story that I just had to share – a true Easter miracle of redemption and hope in the midst of the despair and devastation we are currently experiencing as a consequence of COVID-19.
Until COVID-19 took hold in South Africa, the gangs in Cape Town, Johannesburg, were involved in drugs, murder, and mayhem. But now, those hardcore gangs have declared a truce so that they can come together to help the very community they have been terrorizing and preying off of for years!
The article told of gang members speaking words of hope for a peaceful future so different from the past. One gang leader talked about how good it felt to help others and work together. There was also a video clip of the rival gang leaders praying together with the pastor who had been working with them for so long! Now THAT’S an Easter story!
But then, the reality check: the authorities are skeptical – and rightly so. The councilmen know the two gangs’ past evils. The gangs’ words sound good – their actions look good….but….Is this a short-term thing or a new normal?! Can good really come out of ‘evil’? Trust but verify!
Reminds me of the disciple Thomas when the other disciples told him the good news of the risen Lord, (John 20:19-29): “Unless I see, I won’t believe!”
Thomas gets such a bum rap for uttering those words – as though he were the only disciple who doubted! The others had doubted as well – check it out! (John 20:24-28). The others had been hiding in the upper room fearing that they would be captured and killed just like their Master; hiding and fearful until the risen Lord appeared in that upper room and showed them His wounds. Thomas hadn’t been there that day, so Christ appeared again to ALL of them a week later. Trust but verify!
I often wondered why it was so important for the Lord to cater to the doubts of the disciples. He told them He would rise from the dead – didn’t they trust Him to keep His word? The tomb was empty, but there had to be a rational explanation! Ah, but Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God – and so all bets are off!
The Lord knew the frailty of the disciples but He had work for them to do: the work of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and His message of forgiveness, love and reconciliation throughout the world. There could be no doubt in their minds as to Who Christ is! They had been through so much already: the trauma of losing Jesus; an uncertain post-crucifixion life without the Master; now, they would be laying their lives on the line for Christ! And remember, all but the disciple John, would be martyred because of their ministries.
Yet, now, in showing Himself to the disciples, Christ was acknowledging their need for verification of His deity to bolster them in the times to come.
No longer would they deny Him or second guess themselves. They had seen Him! No longer would they flee into the darkness or hide away to save their own lives. Christ lives! His teachings are true! Now get out there, disciples, and live the truth that you have seen!
Seeing the risen Christ changed those disciples’ lives and their witness changed the world for all time!
So, what about Christ’s comment: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” What is up with that?
Those are not words of criticism or judgment. Faith without doubt is not faith at all, it is fact. However, as we face our doubts we are able to grow in our belief in Christ not only by studying scripture but also through the verification of the power of the risen Christ in the lives of believers down through the centuries – they are the witnesses to the truth that is Christ. They are how we see the living Christ today! So, from my perspective, Christ’s words are words of encouragement for us!
As C.S. Lewis, British theologian and Christian author of books such as The Chronicles of Narnia, is famous for saying – people aren’t willing to die for a lie. Now remember, C.S. Lewis was an atheist who became a Christian partially through the witness of his friend and colleague, R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Trust in Christ verified through the witness of the life of another!
Many believers have died in Christ’s service over the years; we may or may not have know such persons; there also are Christ followers in our own communities – our homes – our places of work, who live the Christ life and are the verifiable witnesses to Christ for us.
So many persons are expressing doubt in the Lord’s presence among us during this pandemic – and who can blame them? Thankfully, there are verifiable witnesses to the truth all around us: the medical staffs, grocery clerks, truckers, delivery personnel, food suppliers, and everyone in between; those checking on the elderly running errands for them so that these vulnerable individuals can stay home; those longing for the strength found in Sunday worship and prayer but staying home and participating in worship remotely to keep the communities at large safe; even those choosing to share rather than hoard their supplies so that there is enough for all. These believers are also praying during this time – but they know and witness to the truth that prayer is an action word!
For sure, many folks who are not Christians engage in these wonderful actions as well – the only difference I can see is that for the Christian, the reason for our actions isn’t because “We are good people,” but because ‘Christ is a great Lord!’ This is our opportunity to act in His name and give Him all the credit! This humble anonymity is what makes us verifiable witnesses to Christ.
Can you imagine if the post-pandemic world became the beginning of a new, more peace-filled and generous world – all because the truth of the risen Christ was verified through the lives of His people? We don’t have to imagine such a world – we can witness to the reality! This truly does have the potential of having been an Easter like no other!