As I felt myself coming to the end of this first Pentecost ‘sermon,’ I stated, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”
Little did I know at the time, but this statement, this fact, would become a central theme in all my future preaching: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”
That was it, wasn’t it? Isn’t this the only thing that really matters anymore? “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.” Before the Holy Spirit moved within us so mightily, we had seen Jesus dead, and then we had seen him alive. And yes, of course it was a startling and incredible thing to see. But it took the Holy Spirit to bring it into perfect clarity: our trust was no longer just in what we believed about Jesus, but now even more in what we had seen with our own eyes.
The Spirit was leading me so I continued, “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. We can all go look at his tomb. And if by some means we could see inside his tomb, we would see his decayed body.
“But I can tell you with all confidence, so much confidence I will wager my own body on the cross over this truth: You will not find Jesus’ body in any tomb. It’s not there, because he has risen!”
And this fact became our theme. When our feelings threatened to overwhelm us, and our faith became shaky, we returned to this simple but powerful fact: there is no body. He rose from death. We saw him dead; we saw him alive.”
Have you built your foundation of faith on this fact? When this world feels out of control, and the Father feels so distant, or it feels like he has forgotten about you completely, can you return to the rock-solid foundation of fact? You see, feelings are okay as servants, but they are disastrous masters.
Feelings will cause your faith to waver, so when this happens return to the facts: Jesus died for your sins, but he rose to prove to you that the Father loves you perfectly, and he is all powerful, and he is in perfect control. And nothing, not one thing, can happen to you apart from his will.
My dear friend John often begins his teaching emphasizing our eyewitness:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
We have seen; we have heard; we have touched.
I began my second letter to the churches, “We did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” We did not make this up. Why would we? It is getting us killed to say these things. We are only stating the facts.
So I concluded my talk this Pentecost morning with my voice rising, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
In all my years since, with all the conversions I have witnessed, this moment was the pinnacle of them all. The Spirit was moving with such power. The hearts of the men and women in the crowd were pierced, “cut to the heart,” they said. They all – yes all – cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
I replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Now here is the amazing thing: we baptized over three thousand men and women that day. Three thousand! What a day. Jesus had told us this Holy Spirit would be powerful, and he had promised us he would come, and come soon. And here he was. Immeasurably more than anything we could have imagined.
Remember: facts first, faith second, and feelings a distant third.