In Part 1, I talked about God’s wisdom in giving the Gospel over some spectacular sign. Why? Because only Jesus can address the real problem of our hearts. Fire from heaven might wow people, but only a crucified Savior can bring us back to God and give us true assurance.
This all sounds nice, but I could easily raise this objection: “Well, I can understand what you’re saying. Jesus dying on the cross is better than a spectacular sign. I get that. But isn’t that still a sign? I mean if I was actually there and saw him die and rise from the dead, then it would be easy to believe. But I didn’t see it and I can only read about it in the Bible. That’s not a sign, that’s just one story among all the religious stories and how can I be sure its true? Chris, honestly, I have a strange suspicion that this is a cop-out answer as to why miracles and signs don’t seem to happen today…”
The question I want to ask in this post is this. Which do you think would better resolve your doubts and provide a solid foundation for your faith: the Scriptures or to personally witness Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection? If you could only have one which would it be?
In my first post I talked about the sufficiency of Christ for our doubts. In this post, I want to talk about the sufficiency of the Scriptures of revealing Christ. Like last time, my thoughts here are not my own, but come courtesy of a recent sermon I heard from my church’s youth pastor, Henry Chung. He was speaking from Luke 24 on the resurrection of Christ and pointed out something I’d never seen before: how Jesus emphasizes the Word of God as our source of faith, even over his own physical death and resurrection.
Wait, really? the Scriptures over his own death and resurrection? Yep. Pastor Henry pointed out three instances throughout chapter 24 where the Word of God takes a central place.
The first instance is when the women visit the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. They are surprised to find the stone rolled away and two angels there instead of their Lord. The angels, however, are more surprised why the women have come mourning as if Jesus were dead. They ask them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise?” In other words, Jesus, the very Word of God made flesh, predicted this. And you’re surprised?” Here are eyewitnesses who heard Jesus say that he must “[die] for our sins according to the Scriptures, [be] buried, [and be] raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:2-3, Luke 9:22,44, Matt:17:22-23, Mark 9:30). And yet, though they witness the Lord die just as he predicted, they are completely oblivious to any possibility that he might come back to life.
The narrative then switches from the women at the tomb to two men on the road to Emmaus. Two travelers are walking and discussing Jesus’ death which they too had witnessed. Both were deeply saddened because they “had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Jesus comes to them in disguise so that their “eyes were kept from recognizing him” and asks them about their conversation. The two men go on to recount the sad details of how the man they thought would be Messiah had been crucified. What does Jesus do next? Drop the disguise and say, “Need proof that I’m risen? Here I am”? Notice what he says and does:
“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24: 25-27)
And look what happens next:
“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Annd he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of bread” (Luke 24:30-35)
Christ proves who he is, not by showing them physical proofs of his resurrection– he intentionally keeps them from knowing his identity– but rather he convinces them by reasoning with them from the Scriptures. They too witnessed the Lord’s death and had even heard the women’s account of seeing angels at the tomb (v. 22-24), but they were not convinced of his resurrection until they had seen it proven through the Scriptures. Only then, did their hearts burn with certainty that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah.
Finally, the narrative shifts to when Jesus appears to his disciples. Here, we see the same thing happen: physical proof of the crucifixion and resurrection do not convince the disciples.
“As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your heart? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate before them.” (Luke 24:36-43)
I guess the women and the two travelers had some excuse– they still had not seen the Lord. But here Jesus appears in the flesh to the disciples, the ones who were supposed to know him best. He offers physical proof to touch his wounds, and yet still the texts reads they “disbelieved for joy”. What happens next? We see the Scriptures emphasized again!
“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them. Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47)
Isn’t that crazy? It wasn’t just us, 21st century readers, who struggled with doubts, even the disciples and those closest to Jesus still doubted even though they saw the actual proof of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus’ words in Luke 16, which he spoke in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man are prophetically true here: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (v.31). And yet, at the same time, we see the text give a resounding affirmation to the sufficiency of the Scriptures for it was not until they witnessed Jesus in the Scriptures that they were able to believe.
I could write a whole other post about what it is that makes the Scriptures so important for faith (simple answer: Holy Spirit, see John 16:7 ), but my main point is this: let us not be dissatisfied with the Scriptures as the solution for our doubts. Let us not elevate experience, or signs, or philosophical wisdom and seek to use them as our primary answer to our questions above our Bibles. The Bible is enough!
To end this post, I’ll leave you with some final questions. Could it be that the simple reason we struggle so much with doubt is that we don’t know the Scriptures? Could it be we’re just like the Sadducees to whom Jesus said, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures, nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24). Could it be that if we studied them with all our heart we would see how all the Scriptures point to Christ in the greatest story ever told? And that, if we really studied our Bibles we would find ourselves trusting and standing in awe of this God more and not less?
Let’s find out!
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV)