Thinking people have often—and understandably—met the claims of the Bible with doubt and suspicion. But while it is perfectly reasonable for introductions to Jesus to begin with doubt, they don’t always have to end that way.
Doubt often stands like an unscalable wall so that the only reasonable choice we have is to turn around. But when thought confronts perception, reality confronts religion and one reason confronts another, the shadow of doubt can dissipate until the once unscalable wall begins to reveal a secret passageway that leads to a new reality—an informed faith that makes doubt seem like the dark clouds that could not hide the sun any longer.
There is a reasonable way past the natural first instinct of doubt. But like a path concealed by weeds that were allowed to grow in a garden that was left without care, the way past doubt was concealed by the threat of an honest question and the anxiety of seeking an answer, for fear of what one may find.
But the seeking heart is not discouraged by a wild untamed wilderness because it can still see the hints of a garden path. The power of curiosity is difficult to discourage. Questions will be asked. Answers will be sought. Hungers will be satisfied until faith is born out of doubt.
The Bible sees the present day as the journey between two days of cosmic significance—the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the day of His return. For the earnest Christian this is not religion, it is reality. For the honest skeptic this is not reality, it is absurdity.
It is a strange and unbelievable idea and it must be known that it was as strange and unbelievable to its first audience as it is to anyone today. The idea of a man being raised from the dead was not any more unreasonable yesterday than it is today.
The accounts in the Bible of the early church show that there is no value in the assumption that people in the past were so gullible, naive and superstitious that any claim of a man being raised from the dead would be met with eagerness and without suspicion.
Jewish leaders were outraged. Roman rulers were threatened. Greek thinkers were amused. It was as difficult to believe for people in the past as it is for people in the present, but no less true to its evangelists in the past as it is for its heralds today.
But a risen Jesus is not a religious one. He stood apart from religion yesterday and He stands apart from it today.
Religion must give way to reality. The reality of a risen Jesus is not merely the greatest hope of the church. It is the greatest challenge to the church.
When thinking people met Jesus yesterday they were intrigued by Him. When thinking people meet His body today they are put off by Him. Something has been lost in the character that was revealed by the physical body of Christ and the present body of Christ. Jesus revealed God. The church reveals human nature. He inspired faith. We inspire doubt.
The early church was born out of the experience of a risen Jesus. It turned their doubts into faith. An experience of the risen Jesus today can do the same.
Our great hope is that a risen Jesus remains with us today to call reality out of religion, hope out of cynicism and faith out of doubt, until He returns to us tomorrow to bring beauty out of brokenness, peace out of restlessness and a garden out of the wilderness.
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