Preacher: Don’t Be Afraid of Evidence This Easter

If you talk about evidence at Easter you don’t really trust the Bible or the work of the Holy Spirit. Why act as though evidence is at all necessary for talking about our risen Lord. This is the Christian FAITH we are talking about, after all.

If you love serious theology and biblical apologetics, you really aren’t supposed to use evidences in your presentation of the gospel. Right? Wrong.

I think the the gospel writer Luke must have missed that memo. He begins his gospel with these words:

[1] Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4, ESV)

Luke clearly states his purpose in writing his gospel, to organize eyewitness accounts to compile a narrative so that his reader might have certainty regarding what they have been taught and what they believe. But shouldn’t we just trust the Holy Spirit to give us certainty? Luke certainly doesn’t discount the Holy Spirit, he’s the one who records the event of the Pentecost for crying out loud.

Luke seems concerned about his audience understanding the eyewitness testimony so that they might have certainty. Consider how he begins his account of the formation of the church in Acts:

[1] In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, [2] until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. [3] He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3, ESV)

Then there’s that pesky sermon of Paul’s when he’s preaching in Athens and he points to the resurrection as God’s way of providing assurance, or proof, or evidence, through raising Jesus from the dead.

[30] The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31, ESV)

Call me crazy, but it seems like Luke and Paul care about the historical evidence for the resurrection. They treat it as if it’s important. Luke presents it as a central aim in writing his gospel. When Paul outlines his argument for the resurrection to the Corinthian church he includes a reference to 500 eyewitnesses, many of whom were still alive at the time of Paul’s writing (1 Corinthians 15:6). Why include evidential references if they are of no value?

But Jesus probably wouldn’t be as concerned about any sort of evidences, would he? Didn’t he tell Thomas, that rotten doubter, that he should just trust and believe? Of course not, he told him to touch his hands that were pierced, to feel his side that was split open. Take a fresh look at this dramatic exchange:

[24] Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

[26] Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” [29] Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29, ESV)

The greatest thing about the gospel, in my humble but accurate opinion, is that it is true. That it is true is attested first and foremost in Scripture, God’s revelation of himself. The truthfulness of the biblical message is impressed upon our consciences through the work of the Spirit.

But its truthfulness also means that it actually happened in history. If it didn’t happen in history, as a real event, then it means nothing. But if it did happen in history it likely left a trail of evidences. Many have undertaken to disprove the resurrection by examining what they anticipate to be a lack of evidence, only to discover the opposite.

Now, don’t fully depend upon your understanding or ability to articulate all of the historical arguments and evidences for the resurrection this Sunday. But don’t ignore them. When you preach this Easter Sunday you are describing an event that took place in human history, the very event from which all of history derives its meaning.

Trust the Spirit to work through the Word. But don’t act as though evidences are peripheral. Luke didn’t. Paul didn’t. Jesus didn’t. You shouldn’t either.

Who knows, you might just have a Thomas or two in your midst this Sunday.