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Apr 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 5, 2015 – Acts 25:18-19

Intro: We are going to drop into a story already well under way

The Apostle Paul is in custody in Caesarea
– his case has already been heard twice before two Roman governors
• both have found him innocent of any crime “worthy of death or imprisonment” (Acts 23:29; 25:25 & cf. 26:31)
• so, though he’s innocent, he’s held over for political reasons (Acts 24:27; 25:9)
– as Roman citizen, Paul had the right to appeal to Caesar, which he did
• that created a problem for Festus, the current governor
◦ he needed a substantial charge against Paul — and he did not have one
• King Agrippa–“an expert” in the customs and issues among the Jews–visited Caesarea
◦ Festus told Agrippa about his frustrating situation with Paul
◦ perhaps Agrippa could provide legal help in putting together a formal charge

Festus’ description of what he learned during Paul’s trial went like this:

When the accusers stood up, they began bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting, but they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive. Acts 25:18-19

– here is the story of Easter boiled down to its essence

a dead man, Jesus, whom his followers affirmed to be alive

• I love this simple, blunt assessment of Paul’s message as presented by an outsider
• Festus embodies the pragmatic Roman mentality — and a soldier no less
◦ he had no interest in the fine points of Paul’s theology or even if it were true
◦ he delivered his report with a minimum of details
– all Festus intended to do was to summarize someone else’s beliefs
• he hoped to make sense out of Paul’s testimony
• naturally he missed a lot – maybe the whole point
◦ but he did get this much right; Jesus had died, and Paul affirmed that he was alive

What did Festus think about Paul’s affirmation of Jesus’ resurrection?

Of course, we can’t know since he did not say and we’re unable to read his mind
– but it seems he doesn’t think about it at all
• it was exactly the kind of thing that did not interest him
◦ he has a religion and it is Rome
◦ he has a “lord” and he is Caesar (v. 26)
• as far as Festus was concerned, Paul might as well be talking about Easter bunnies
– Paul did not get on much better in Athens
• for awhile he had an audience of philosophically-minded Greeks
◦ but he soon lost them

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to [ridicule], but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” (Acts 17:32)

• that’s when they got up and walked away

The Bible never pretends it’s easy to believe Jesus rose
– women were first to the tomb and to learn of Jesus’ resurrection
• they were then sent to tell the apostles

But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. (Lk. 24:11)

• people died and that was the end of them — they were never seen again
– and, of course, there was Jesus’ disciple, Thomas who affirmed his disbelief:

Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. (Jn. 20:25)

• why was he so graphic regarding his need to explore Jesus’ wounds??
• I think his emotionally excessive language expressed his shock and outrage
◦ their story of Jesus’ resurrection sounded ludicrous to him and disrespectful
◦ there was no room in his mind for it to be true

Is the question of Jesus’ resurrection resolved for you?

I’m not asking whether you know for certain that he rose from the
– faith does not exist in the category of certainty
– I’m asking if you’ve come to accept it? Are you at peace with it?

Different types have to approach Jesus’ resurrection in their own way
– for some, it comes easier:

  • the devout person is ready to believe
    ◦ if the message is unbelievable, then it simply demands greater faith
  • the creative person may not find it too difficult to accept it
    ◦ they may appreciate its drama and beauty
    ◦ following the violent torture and death, an unconquerable hope emerges

– then there are the hard sell folks:

  • the highly rational person, who needs “proof”
    ◦ they immediately run into the difficulty of trying to prove an historical event
    ◦ like Thomas, without sufficient evidence they cannot make the leap
  • the obstinately cynical person, chronically suspicious
    ◦ perhaps they had the optimism of hope knocked out of them early on

– both of the last two types rarely resolve this issue by going at it intellectually
• nevertheless, honest and rational inquiry can still be a good start

A fifth type includes others like myself

We are driven to a resolve regarding Jesus’ resurrection through sheer desperation

Last night I caught part of my favorite movie
– however, I can’t recommend it because of the gore and cold-blooded violence
• “Man On Fire” stars Denzel Washington
◦ he plays Creasy, a burned-out CIA assassin
◦ he drowns his dark and guilt-ridden past in alcohol
• Christopher Walken is cast as Rayburn, Creasy’s friend and former partner
◦ in one scene, Creasy asks Rayburn,
“Do you think God will forgive us for what we’ve done?”
Rayburn’s terse answer: “No”
– Creasy tries not to bond with the little girl (Pita) he’s hired to protect
• but her goodness, innocence and determination to win his friendship prevails
• while sitting in an outdoor cantina with Rayburn and his wife, Pita says,
“Now’s as good a time as any,” and hands Creasy a small bear
(she had previously nicknamed him, “Creasy Bear”) — “Open it,” she says
◦ inside the bear Creasy finds a chain and pendant
Pita explains, “It’s St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.”
Rayburn looks over at Creasy and warmly says, “Well deserved”
– the pendant becomes a symbol of Creasy’s resurrection
• later–when Creasy is taking revenge for Pita’s kidnap and murder–Rayburn has a meeting with Inspector Manzano
Manzano asks, ” . . . what was the daughter to him?”
[raising his index finger to emphasize his point] Rayburn says, “She showed him it was alright to live again”
– I hang onto the living Jesus because he’s a collector of “lost causes”
• through his resurrection I have learned it’s alright for me to live again
• in fact, alive from the dead, Jesus shares the very life of God with me

Ultimately, we all come to resolve regarding Jesus’ resurrection in the same way
– by his response to us–our need, prayer and surrender–in the deepest part of our being
• it is a deeper place than our doubts and anxieties

Conc: The Easter story contains many symbols

The two that stand out the most are the cross and the empty tomb
– we go to cross with anything in us that needs to die
– we come from the tomb with anything that needs to be brought back to life

This dead man, Jesus,
whom Paul affirmed to be alive,
meets us in our confusion and desperation,
and tells us, “Because I live, you also will live”

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