In the audio podcast of this service, the Scripture Reading starts at 19 min 00 secs: Mark 16:1-8

The Sermon starts at 20 min 30 secs: “Fairy Tale?  Or, Story That Changes Everything!”

Pastor Todd Buurstra

Pastor Todd Buurstra - Pastor of Worship and WitnessYou may be nuts or naïve if…

…you’ve never questioned how a man could rise from the dead!

…you have never investigated the discrepancies in the story like:

how many women were there? Mark & Luke have 3, Matt 2, and John 1;

how many angels were there? Mark–1 man, Luke–2 men; Matt/John–2 angels

where Jesus met the disciples? Matt/Mark—Galilee; Luke—Jerusalem.

So, is the Easter story just a fairy tale? Or, is it the story that changes everything?!

For think of how Jesus and his followers have changed the world:

Jesus changed the way we tell time: BC or AD, BCE or CE.

He changed how we spend time: holy day from Sat to Sun; holidays: Easter & Christmas

He changed how we look at ourselves and others (Love your neighbor…)

And in his name his followers started: schools to learn to read the Bible ½ millennium ago; hospitals to care for the sick; human rights to guide the law, etc.

This story is either a great fairy tale or the greatest story ever told! Let’s be scientists and historians this morning to test the unbelievable claims of Jesus’ resurrection.

Think of my robe as not just the ancient clothes of priests and preachers, but as a scientist’s lab coat, for this research has changed my life. Almost 50 years ago I was born into a very dedicated church-going family. Yet 30+ years ago I had decided the Easter story might all be gobbledegook. How could it be true? So I became an agnostic. Lord, if you’re really out there show yourself to me, I prayed one last time. As my faith flickered out, I noticed my world’s skies were darkening without Truth’s light. The universe felt colder to me without a loving God. The prevailing winds blew harder-shall I believe this or that? So I had to know: was someone dreaming? Or should I give my whole life to Jesus?

So with the help of N. T. Wright and his book, Surprised by Hope, let’s look for proof either that it didn’t happen, or that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

First, theories that it didn’t happen, starting with those discrepancies in the stories about how many women, men, angels were there, and where were they supposed to meet? This is what you hear on talk shows to disprove the Bible. Quite honestly, does it matter if Mark and Luke heard of 3 women, Matthew 2 and John 1? Is it really that important if Mark and Luke heard him described as a man, but Matthew and John heard angel? And couldn’t it be true that Jesus met his followers in Galilee and Jerusalem on the same day? The discrepancies fall apart pretty quickly, but there are bigger fish to fry than these.

As in, the swoon theory. Maybe Jesus looked dead, but revived in the cool tomb and pushed the stone away? Impossible. Roman soldiers knew how to kill, and not even a healthy man could move the huge grave stone, and then fight off the guards? Not a chance

Ah, but maybe it was a case of mistaken identity. It was brother James, not Jesus. But after 40 days his followers would have told them apart. After all, they weren’t twins.

Could it have been just a spiritual resurrection? But then we’d expect them to describe Jesus like a phantomy ghost, but they saw him eat fish, and they touched his nail holes. Jesus’ body was somewhat different to go through doors, but it was still physical.

If that debunks the main fairy tale theories, what’s to prove positively that Jesus arose? Two things, mainly: the empty tomb and the reported sightings of Jesus.

The Jews would have liked to muzzle the apostles’ story that Jesus was the Messiah because he came back from the dead. All they had to do was produce the body, or the bones from the ossuary, and the whole story would have died. It didn’t so they couldn’t

Secondly, according to Paul, 500 people saw Jesus after Easter. The Jerusalem Times could have interviewed anyone to test their story. Many of the apostles were martyred for preaching the resurrection. Would they have died for what they knew was a lie?

The best historical and scientific conclusion available is that Jesus arose. But in this case scientific/historical results are like lighting a candle to see whether the sun ha[s] risen because if this is true, it’s so much bigger than our puny minds can fathom.

So we’re left with the only human ability big enough to grasp it: a faith that transcends but includes what we call history and what we call science. So now I believe that this is not a fairy tale, but the greatest story ever told! Jan Torres, long time member and grand/mother of the Betz’ writes her spiritual journey this way:

Do you believe? Watch out, in the words of an author friend of mine, it will even change the way you make your coffee! I invite you to explore the implications of this story with me, or at your local church, during this Easter season. See if Jesus doesn’t transform you!


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