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"Seeing or Believing?"
by Barbara Smith

"Now, if hope deferred makes the heart sick, hope disappointed . . . kills the heart," Matthew Henry observed in the 17th century. (Matthew Henry's Commentaries) Approaching the millennium, countless hopes of the world's -- and the Church's -- have been disappointed. The twentieth century has magnified hopelessness: brutality, political oppression and corruption, wars, diseases, illiteracy, ignorance and apathy are pandemic. The world is overflowing into the Church, sickening the minds and hearts of Christians.

Many will sit beside us in the pews this Easter Sunday who are without hope. Some who throng to church this Easter have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Others who crowd in beside us have simply forgotten their hope. Weary and beset with worry, many churchgoers - both church members and visitors - will hear a talk about the first Easter. They will sing, "Jesus Christ is Risen Today!" and smell the aroma of lilies. Yet what hope will they carry away from the joyful, familiar rituals? Sadly, many born again Christians are also hopeless, defeated, despairing; they are as disappointed with Jesus as the first century disciples before the resurrection.

Jerusalem, 33 A.D.
The first Easter dawned on disciples of Christ who had forgotten what Jesus Christ said: He would die, be buried and rise from the dead on the third day. (Matthew 16:21-28; Mark 8:31-38; Luke 9: 22-27) Some believers hid in terror, some left town, a few went about their duties; but all were disappointed - without hope - until their eyes beheld the Risen Christ. Seeing the Risen Christ, those who had run in fear of their lives on Good Friday were willing to surrender them joyfully three days later.

After that traumatic first Good Friday, two of Christ's disciples withdrew from Jerusalem and walked toward Emmaus, rehearsing the recent catastrophic events. (Luke 24:13-36) The deliverance they had hoped for had not happened. This was the third day since His execution. The two men who walked those seven miles knew that the Lord Jesus had neither routed the Romans nor proven the Pharisees wrong. Still reeling from the recent events in Jerusalem, these travelers did not recognize their Master when He joined them on the road. Dr. Luke does not say why they did not recognize Christ, but Scripture says their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. (Luke 24:15-18)

Consider how disappointment and depression can blind us to the people and comfort surrounding us.

As they walked and talked in the company of the risen Christ, the two disciples were dead to the Living Hope before them; they failed to see the literal fulfilment of Scripture. (Psalm 16: 10) Men who should have known that the Messiah's flesh would dwell securely were oblivious to the Breath of Life beside them!

Consider now the comforts we continually forfeit because we will not remember His words or believe that Jesus walks beside of us.

Although Christ had taught the disciples that He must suffer, die, and be raised up on the third day, none of the disciples "got it." ( Luke 22:23-24) Their emotions moved them more than the words of Christ that had told them what would happen. It was beginning to seem that He was simply a good man who perished because of political corruption and religious intrigue; now even His Body was gone.

When the two men related their grief, Christ listened and then chided them: "'O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?' And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24:25-27)

Consider that believing what our feelings tell us is always easier than believing what the word of God declares.

Easter, 1998
Are you disappointed with Jesus Christ? Are you feeling depressed because He has failed to meet your expectations and answer your prayers? Even Christians may despair when we neglect the core hope of Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Anxiety, disappointment and depression do afflict believers, but we have a remedy.

The two on the road to Emmaus provide an example of how to talk and act in the midst of crushing disappointment. They kept going. They treated the unrecognized Christ kindly. They invited Him in and yielded position to Him. (Luke 24:30) Finally, when Christ revealed Himself, the two took the news back to the other disciples who were still frightened and hiding. They conveyed the good news: Jesus Christ is risen!

When disappointment strikes, the conversation among believers should go back to the beginning: God's promises. We must review the promises and the fulfillment of God's word, beginning with the old testament prophets. "A golden thread of gospel grace runs through the whole web of the Old Testament, " writes Matthew Henry. Moreover, we should not talk about our troubles without inviting Christ to participate, without bringing His word to bear. To do so is to defer hope and prolong our griefs. (Prov. 13:12)

Telling What We Know to Those Whose Hope is Ebbing
What is your hope this Easter? Sadly, many denominations today skip over what really happened the first Easter: they seem embarrassed to tell the "Old, Old Story." Some do not explain why the news that first morning changed a band of defeated, despairing disciples into compelling evangelists, teachers and servants: men and women who turned the Roman world literally upside down.

A few years ago a minister in a prominent church in our nation's capital dismissed the question of what happened to Jesus' body as a secondary issue, less important than Christians showing the love of Christ to one another. If love from other church members is our only hope, no wonder the disillusionment and disappointment!

If Jesus Christ did not walk out of that tomb, with living limbs of flesh and bone, we are lost, despite our loving concern for each other! (1 Corinthians 15:15-17) Nothing matters; life is indeed a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. Knowing this, Christ's enemies have always argued that the resurrection didn't happen since the day He laid aside His grave clothes. (Matthew 28:11-15) If we accept this argument we become dependent on puny comfort - not Christ's powerful consolation.

Christ's Resurrection is not a winsome fantasy propagated in a stirring hymn. Nor is it a haunting fragrance that reminds us of spring. It is a fact; the assurance and conviction of things seen and unseen (Hebrews 11:1) The Christian celebration of Christ's Resurrection commemorates more than the change of seasons; it affirms that Jesus Christ rose from death, and changed the core of who we are and how we act.

So, be sure you remind the person who squeezes in beside you this Easter morning that "Jesus Christ IS risen," just as He promised.


© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)




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