Easter day - John 20:24-31
Now I want to begin by asking you what all these things have in common. First we have a rabbit (Acetate 1- Rabbit). Then we have a lovely bunch of daffodils (Daffodils). Then we have a chocolate egg. And lastly a chick (Acetate 2- chick). So what do all these things have in common? Well they are all to do with Easter aren't they? We often think that Easter is about all these things.
But this morning I want us to see that Easter is about something far, far more important than these things- bunnies, or chicks or eggs. Rather it is about the best news in the world, that Jesus is alive and is the King of the whole world. But it may be that we find it very hard to believe that Jesus is alive. (Acetate 3- Questioner). Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Can we really believe that happened 2000 years ago?
Well one person who really didn't believe it was a man called Thomas. (Acetate 4- Thomas). He was with Jesus for three years, and was probably there when Jesus died on the cross on the Friday. But when his friends came to him telling him that Jesus was alive- well he simply refused to believe it. 'Show me the evidence,' he said. 'Unless I put my hands in Jesus' wounds, I will not believe. I won't believe it until I have hard evidence,' he said. Thomas wanted hard evidence. And he wanted to see Jesus for himself.
So what kind of evidence do you think it would take to convince someone like Thomas to believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead? And what kind of evidence do you think it would take for people like you and me to believe that Jesus really rose form the dead? Well I think there are three pieces of evidence and each one is hidden in one of these eggs. So I want a volunteer to help me crack open the first egg, and let's see what the first piece of evidence is this morning that Jesus rose from the dead.
Volunteer 1 opens Egg 1.
What is the Evidence?
1) The Tomb was Empty
(Acetate 5- Titles- reveal evidence 1 only). So the first piece of evidence is that the tomb was empty. Now I reckon that Thomas probably went down to the tomb just to check that Jesus was not still inside. But when he got there he would have found a scene like this. (Acetate 6- the empty tomb). The tomb was completely empty, apart from some old clothes that Jesus had been buried in. I wonder what Thomas would have thought? Well maybe he thought that robbers had come during the night and stolen the body away. Sometimes robbers did that to steal the clothes or the precious spices put on the body. But could anyone have broken into this tomb? Well I don't think so? Because for a start there was a huge rock in the way, rather like this one. (Acetate 7- Rock) Now this rock was huge. It would have weighed a tonne, which is about the weight of a small car! Now do you think anyone on their own could have moved a rock like this? No. But there is another reason why no-one could into the tomb, and that is because there were some guards on the tomb. And these were Roman guards. (Acetate 8- Guards). And these were the sort of guards you would not mess with. So could you imagine stealing something from them? Even if you breathed on them, they would be the sort of guards to given you a nasty shock! So no-one could have stolen the body, and even if someone did move the body, like the authorities, they would make sure everyone knew, so that they could prove Jesus was dead. So the first piece of evidence that Thomas must have checked out was that Jesus' tomb was empty. But do you think that convinced him? No! 'I'm not believing it until I have more evidence,' he said. So let's find out what the next piece of evidence is. And I'll need another volunteer to open the next egg.
2) Some People saw Jesus Alive
2nd volunteer opens 2nd egg. And the next piece of evidence is that some people saw Jesus alive. (Acetate 5 again- Titles- Reveal 1 & 2). So what sort of people saw Jesus alive? Well one of the first people to see Jesus alive was Mary, who was a friend of Jesus. Early on Sunday morning, just two days after Jesus had died on the cross, Mary went to the tomb to see if everything was OK. But when she got to the tomb she was amazed. The stone blocking the tomb was gone, and the guards were gone, and even more amazing, Jesus was gone. He was not there! But as Mary turned to go away back to the town, who should be there but Jesus, standing behind her. (Acetate 9- Mary and Jesus). She was overjoyed, and she rushed back to tell her friends. But do you think Thomas believed her? No! He didn't believe it at all. He probably thought she'd gone mad, or thought she'd been dreaming! I'm not believing it, said Thomas, until I have more evidence.
But lots of other people saw Jesus alive as well. At one time all the disciples, apart from Thomas, were in a room together, and who should come into the room but Jesus. (Acetate 10- Jesus and disciples). Again all the disciples were amazed. They could not believe their eyes, but it really was Jesus. And in fact, one time, to prove they were not dreaming, Jesus actually had breakfast with them on the beach. (Acetate 11- Jesus and disciples eating). But there was one person who just didn't believe it. Despite these two bits of evidence, despite the fact that Jesus' tomb was empty, and that all his friends had seen Jesus alive, still he did not believe them. 'I want to see for myself, said Thomas. I'm not believing it until I have more evidence.'
3) We can really meet Jesus
But there is one last piece of evidence that finally convinced Thomas that Jesus was alive. Let's see what it was. 3rd volunteer opens third egg. So what is the final piece of evidence? (Acetate 5 again- All titles). It is that we can really meet Jesus. Now in many ways I can understand Thomas' doubts. I wonder if you have ever been asked to believe something that seemed too amazing to be true. Well one day that happened to me. One day my Mum told me that a distant member of the family had won half a million pounds in a game she played. Well I didn't believe her. I thought it was just too unbelievable. It would never happen to anyone I knew. But my Mum insisted it was true. So I decided to check out the evidence. I spoke to other members of my family who said it was true, I even saw some of the money being spent on new windows in my grandma's house. But it was not until I met the person who had won the money that I knew it to be true. They could tell me themselves. But even then, just for the record, I never saw a penny, and I wasn't bitter!
And the way Thomas was convinced that Jesus was alive was because he actually met him personally, just as I was convinced that someone in my family had won half a million pounds when I spoke to them. That was what happened to Thomas just a week after Jesus rose again. (Acetate 12- Thomas and Jesus). Listen to what John says in the Bible reading we had earlier: Verse 27: ''Jesus said to Thomas: 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and out it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'' And that's exactly what Thomas did. He saw and believed that Jesus truly was alive. And that is what many people in this building have done. We too have believed that Jesus is alive and have come to know him for ourselves. As Jesus said: 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.' And we in this building are the third piece of evidence for people who don't believe, like Thomas. For we know that Jesus is alive and we can know him personally. We have not met him face to face, but we know he is alive because he is working in our lives.
What does it mean?
So Thomas did believe at last! And it may be that you too are wondering whether to believe what Thomas believed that day, that Jesus really is alive again. There are many of us here who do! But what does it mean? Why did Jesus rise again? Well Thomas' words to Jesus show us why Jesus rose again, and he shows us why Easter Sunday is such a fantastic day. Listen to what Thomas says to Jesus when he realised Jesus was alive. (Acetate 13- 'My Lord Verse 28 of our passage. 'Thomas answered Jesus: 'My Lord and My God.'' Thomas knew that if Jesus really was alive, and if he had defeated death and come back from the dead, then he must be God and if he is God then Jesus is the only one in the whole world who is worth giving our lives to. On the cross Jesus made it possible for us to be forgiven and given a fresh start, and when he rose again, he made it possible for us to have a new life with him, and live with him as our Saviour and King. And that is fantastic news today. The brilliant news is that each one of us in this building can be forgiven and live with Jesus as the King over our lives. It's what we were made for, and it is the best way to live. And if you have not received that gift of forgiveness and a fresh start, then even today it is still possible. Because that is what Easter Day is all about. New life.
So we've followed Thomas' story from someone who refused to believe, to someone who found out the truth, (Acetate 14- Happy Thomas) and he spent the rest of his life telling others that Jesus is alive and is the Saviour and King. The evidence is here for all to see. And this morning Jesus is alive and waiting for us to come back to him!
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