When the Rocks Cry Out
(John 20, Genesis 23, Matthew 28)
Introduction: One of the important issues in any American legal case is the burden of proof. Who carries the burden to show the facts occurred in a certain way? The assignment of the burden of proof can make all the difference to winning. Let's say the plaintiff wins if the traffic light was red. The defendant wins if the light was green. If the plaintiff has the burden of proof, and no one is sure of the color of the light, the defendant wins. If the defendant has the burden of proof, the plaintiff would win. How about the truths of the Bible, who has the burden of proof in God's eyes? Does God believe that He has the burden to prove His truths to us? Or, does God believe that we have an obligation to figure out the truth? Perhaps it is something in between? Let's jump into our study and see how God has responded to this issue in the past!
- Jesus' Attitude Towards Proof
- Read John 3:36. How important is the issue of believing that Jesus is God? (It is the most important issue in life.)
- Read John 20:24-25. Who does Thomas seem to think has the burden of proving that Jesus rose from the grave? (Jesus.)
- What proof was available to Thomas? (1. Read Matthew 16:21. Jesus had been telling the disciples about this in advance. 2. He had the eyewitness account of all of the disciples.)
- Had Jesus already carried the burden of proof with Thomas?
- Is Thomas asking for more proof than is available to you?
- Read John 20:26-29. What has Thomas concluded? (That Jesus is Lord and God and He has been resurrected. Thomas has now found the answer to the issue in John 3:36.)
- Who assumed the burden of proof of Jesus' resurrection with Thomas? (Jesus did. He went beyond what should have been required.)
- What does this teach us about Jesus' attitude towards us when it comes to the burden of proof about God's truths? (God seems to be willing to go the second mile.)
- Notice John 20:29. What happens to those who accept Jesus without the level of proof required by Thomas? (They are blessed.)
- What does this mean? They are blessed because they accept Jesus as God? While those who have Thomas' approach, and do not see Jesus in the flesh, are lost?
- Seeing Him in Archeology
- How important is physical evidence to your belief in God's word?
- Read Genesis 23:1-6. How important to your faith is finding some archeological evidence that the Hittites existed? (For many years it was considered to be a problem that no archeological evidence showed the Hittites ever existed. However, more recently there have been several archeological finds attesting to the existence of the Hittites.)
- Read Numbers 1:17-19. The context for this is that God told Moses to take a census of the people. We see that Moses and Aaron are not only counting the people, but they are recording their names. The problem with this is that for many years critics of the Bible claimed that writing was not even in existence during Moses' time. The people were too primitive to write. This meant that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible, and it placed in doubt that God wrote the Ten Commandments and Moses the ceremonial law. How can we know that writing existed in the time of Moses? (Archeologists unearthed the Black Stele, a sculpted stone which contained the detailed laws of Hammurabi - which predated Moses. The Ebla Tablets, found in Northern Syria in the 1970's, reveal writing existed a thousand years before Moses.)
- Read Hebrews 11:24-26. Many years ago, the Smithsonian museum hosted an exhibit from the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. How many of you have seen that exhibit? If so, what did you think about it? (I saw this exhibit and thought it was fantastic. The incredible artistry in the gold death mask let you know that when the Bible refers to the "treasures of Egypt," it is right on target.)
- What do these Egyptian treasurers, coupled with the other things we know about Egypt, suggest about Moses' ability to write? (These treasures makes the critics that suggest Moses could not write look even less informed. The Egyptians obviously had a very sophisticated civilization. Their buildings show knowledge of math. They had a written language. Since Moses was trained as Pharaoh's son, he was obviously trained in science and writing.)
- Faith and Proof
- Read Matthew 28:2-7. Assume you were an investigator hired to determine the truth of this story. What steps would you take to confirm or disprove this story?
- What if you were an investigator who came 100 years later to confirm or disprove the story. How would that change your approach?
- We started out with Thomas demanding proof based on the wounds on Jesus' body. How is proving this story different? (Thomas knew Jesus. When Jesus came to him, it was easy to match his observations against the facts. When you are looking at tombs or other physical evidence, it is much harder when you do not even know for sure where Jesus' tomb was located.)
- Dr. William Shea recently gave a lecture in my local church about the Discovery Channel's claim to have found the tomb of Jesus. Part of the "proof" was the use of DNA evidence from the bones they found. Aside from contradicting the Bible, what seems improbable about the use of this "archeology" to disprove the resurrection? (Since they have no DNA from the living Jesus, they can hardly claim to show anything from DNA samples to prove their claim. Dr. Shea reported that the name "Jesus" and "Joseph" were very common names during Jesus' time. Finding a tomb with both of those names would be unremarkable.)
- Let's get back to our story in Matthew 28. Re-read Matthew 28:5-7. What physical evidence did the angel offer the women? (The messenger was was quite remarkable! Aside from that, his proof was that Jesus was not in the place where He was buried.)
- Would Jesus' absence be sufficient evidence for you? (It was sufficient to show He was not there. But, as to proof He had risen, that is another matter.)
- What additional evidence did the angel offer? (They would see Jesus in Galilee.)
- Read Matthew 28:8-10. What additional proof did Jesus give the women of His resurrection?
- What additional proof did He promise to the disciples? (That they would see Him.)
- We see that Jesus consistently offers the physical proof of Himself. He does not leave proof to the word of others. He does not leave proof to the empty tomb. What does that suggest about Jesus' proof to us today? (Strictly speaking, I have not seen Jesus and no one I know has seen Him. If He appeared personally to me, I would worry that it was one of Satan's tricks ( 2 Corinthians 11:14). But, I feel God's interaction in my life. There are many stories I would tell from just the last six months, but the most recent involves my daughter. Her van broke down at the entrance to the university she attends. The timing belt broke. She looked at this as a sign of God's disfavor. But, she (and maybe me!) are scheduled to drive her van 600 miles home in about one week. I see this as God's extraordinary favor to us that this fairly major engine problem did not occur hundreds of miles from home and the university.)
- Friend, God seems willing to carry the burden of proof that He exists and He came to rescue you from sin. Will you accept the evidence He has given?
- Next week: The Bible and Science.