37They were frightened and terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost.
38But Jesus said, “Why are you so frightened? Why do you doubt? 39Look at my hands and my feet and see who I am! Touch me and find out for yourselves. Ghosts don't have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
40After Jesus said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41The disciples were so glad and amazed that they could not believe it. Jesus then asked them, “Do you have something to eat?”
Over the years I’ve heard people give various reasons why they don’t believe the good news about Jesus Christ. These reasons run the gamut from the deeply personal to the loftily philosophical, from heartbreak to arrogance. Some invoke science, claiming faith and “logic” are somehow irreconcilable. Others point to the moral shortcomings of those of us who do believe, claiming the credibility gap is too wide. Others have been hurt by Christians, or feel God abandoned them at their point of greatest need, or find Christian’s views on various issues narrow or offensive. And so on.
The Bible gives one reason for unbelief that I’ve never heard anyone use, but I think it’s underneath all the others: joy and amazement.
At the end of Luke’s gospel, the risen Christ appears to all his disciples in one place. He gives dramatic proof that it’s really him, in flesh and blood, not a ghost. And then Luke says this: “…they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…” (Luke 24:41).
What? Why would joy and amazement keep anyone from believing?
Well, think about it. Imagine someone ran up to you right here, right now, and said any or all of the following: you just inherited ten million dollars; you’ve just been voted Time magazine’s Man or Woman of the year; Prince William and Princess Kate are dying to meet you – can you come for dinner?
It’s all too good to be true. You wouldn’t believe it for joy and amazement.
A few years ago I received a phone call from the personal assistant of Sir Richard Branson, owner and CEO of Virgin Air and Virgin Music. Richard wanted to know if I would, at his expense, fly in his airplane first class to London to stay at a five-star hotel in the center of the city for a week and meet with an elite group of world leaders to solve global issues.
It was all too good to be true. I didn’t believe it for joy and amazement. Turns out, my skepticism was well-founded. It was all a mistake. She had called the wrong Mark Buchanan.
What is the gospel? It’s this: the owner, creator and ruler of the universe seeks you out personally, covers all your debts at his own expense, adopts you as a beloved child, gives you all you need to live life to the full, and then invites you to stay with him in his house forever.
It seems too good to be true. It’s hard to believe for joy and amazement.
Turns out, your skepticism is ill-founded. There’s no mistake here. It’s all true. He’s called the right person: you.
Believe it for joy and amazement.
Lord Jesus Christ, when I stop and think about it rationally and seriously, all this does seem too good to be true. And yet, in my very limited experience of you, I have found you to be utterly consistent with the story I read here. I worship you, with joy and amazement. Amen