There’s an old saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true.” There are some things that are so farfetched that their veracity is questioned at every turn.
A few Thursdays ago, I was watching 20/20 on ABC. One of their segments devoted itself to one of the current fads: detoxification of the body. The segment’s specific focus was on a brand of Detox Foot Pads. For $19.99 your can purchase a two-week supply that is guaranteed to rid your body of all those horrible toxins. All you have to do is put a pad on the bottom of each foot when you go to bed and the next morning remove them to discover, with sight and smell, all those toxins that deplete your body of necessary energy. Improve your health and wellness for only $19.99, plus shipping and handling.
But wait! There’s more. As an extra bonus for purchasing the Detox Foot Pads, you’ll receive, at no additional cost, a set of Detox Eye Patches designed to remove the appearance of dark circles, crow’s feet, and puffy eyes. 20/20 did their usual investigation and interviewed some folks who tried the footpads only to discover there was no change in the way they felt. While leaving it up to the viewer, 20/20 concluded consumers are just wasting their money if buying those pads. It’s just one of those things that seem too good to be true and in all likelihood is not true.
There are many “seems too good to be true” things in life. Those “seems too good to be true” things have been around forever I suppose. It is possible to detect them even in the resurrection of Jesus of from the dead. Have you ever thought about resurrection being something that seems too good to be true?
In Acts 1 there is a hint it was. Please hear these words from Acts 1:1-5. “In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'”
Luke, the author of these words, addressed them to a certain “Theophilus.” We are first introduced to Theophilus in Luke 1. Theophilus is a Greek name meaning “lover of God” or “dear one to God.” Scholars aren’t sure who he was. He may have been a benefactor sponsoring the publication of both volumes, the Gospel of Luke and Acts. Or Theophilus may have simply been a symbolic name for any Christ-follower who would read these words. Perhaps you and I, and every other saint, are Theophilus – lovers of God and ones who are dear to God. Surely we are. Luke wrote about everything Jesus did from the beginning of His public ministry until His glorious ascension. That formal accounting is found in Luke 3:21-38Luke 24.
Luke told Theophilus that after the resurrection, Jesus used “many convincing proofs…” (Luke 1:3). That seems a bit odd to me. Does it to you? Many convincing proofs? What were they and why were they needed? The words translated, “convincing proofs” are from one Greek word, tekmerion, which means “a sure sign.” Of course in its plural form, here in Acts 1:3, it means “sure signs.” So what were the “many convincing proofs?” Two signs were presented many times over the course of 40 days: His bodily appearance and His speaking about the Kingdom of God. In Luke 24, vividly convincing proofs were offered: on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-32); to Peter (Luke 24:34); and to the disciples (Luke 24:36-43). Each time during those 40 days, the resurrected Jesus’ appearances and speeches seemed too good to be true. But they were. The more He appeared and spoke to them, the more convinced they became.
Some years after the resurrection of Christ, Paul, in writing to the church in Corinth, offered the very first written word about resurrection – several years before the Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John accounts were written. Paul announced by way of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
Many convincing proofs. Seems too good to be true. But it is true. Jesus is alive. It really is true. He is alive this very day. It is proven by your presence this morning. If you didn’t believe He was alive, I’m not sure you would be here. I am fully aware that is somewhat of a naive thing to say. I’m quiet certain some of us just show up out of habit – not that there is anything wrong with being in the habit of showing up for Sunday study and worship. Unfortunately, the habit of showing up can become nothing more than just that: the habit of showing up. We may show up with no desire for anything to happen, let alone to think of anything happening, that can be attributed only to the supernatural and overwhelming Presence of the Holy God.
Sadly the aliveness of Jesus doesn’t affect some of us very much anymore. We have become so accustomed to the clichés and God-talk that the reality of Jesus’ presence doesn’t do much to us. Even when another is speaking on behalf of Christ and the words are true, there is, for some of us, a mental block that prevents us from hearing, because we are too familiar, or we’ve not taken seriously the abiding of presence of Christ. Unfortunately, the convincing proofs just aren’t very convincing anymore.
Yet, I want to believe, so I maintain my ideal and offer the benefit of the doubt that our presence in this room is a sure sign, a convincing proof that He is alive. It may seem too good to be true, but I believe it is. This is why I invite you to believe it with me and commit to seeing Jesus alive and hearing Him in what might be considered unlikely places and people.
Pope Benedict XVI recently gave his first papal visit to the United States. The Pope blessed a group of children with disabilities and told them it was a special joy to spend time with them. He spoke at Saint Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, just a few miles north of New York. “Sometimes, it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured,” the Pope told the children and their caregivers. “God has blessed you with life, differing talents, and gifts. Through these, you are able to serve Him and society in various ways.” He shook hands with and touched the faces of the children, many of whom were in wheelchairs. Another one of those convincing proofs, one of those sure signs, don’t you think?
Jesus in the faces and lives of disabled people, whatever their challenge may? Seems too good to be true, but it is. Here’s another. How about the Pope himself? Could Jesus be presenting Himself alive to us in Benedict XVI through Benedict’s appearance and speaking? Here’s a better one. How about you and me? Could Jesus be presenting Himself alive to me in you, and could He be presenting Himself alive to you in me? Too good to be true? Oh, but it is true. Jesus is alive in you and me and the Pope and those children. Jesus still is presenting Himself alive by many convincing proofs. All we have to do is be observant – to watch and listen.
Our son, Nicholas, just turned 18. It is hard to imagine him being that age. I pondered his birth and rehearsed the memory early Friday as I always do on that date. That day in 1990 became today in 2008 all too quickly. It seems too good to be true, but it is true. I looked at a collage of pictures hanging in my office that Jackie arranged for me and presented on Father’s Day 1991. I looked at the aliveness of my son through snapshots of those first 14 months of life. Then I remembered another snapshot, another proof of his aliveness: his baptism on Easter 1998 after he prayed to receive Christ a few weeks prior. Now I look at him and see an even great aliveness than I did when he was born on Wednesday, April 18, 1990, in Owensboro, Ken., and even when he was born again on Sunday, March 22, 1998, in Springfield, Tenn. I see a convincing proof that Jesus is alive. He still is appearing and speaking through Nicholas. It seems too good to be true, but it is!
He is appearing and speaking through our students, our senior adults, our middle aged adults, and our children. He is appearing and speaking through all who’ve made the good confession. If you are having trouble believing, I invite you to look around you. Jesus still is appearing and speaking, showing His aliveness with many convincing proofs.
Seems too good to be true, but it is. He really is appearing and speaking through you and me. So, let us present ourselves alive with many convincing proofs to one another and the world. The world needs an appearance of Jesus and a word from Him. Will it come from you and me? Of course it will. Seems too good to be true, but it is.