We have been talking about how witnessing is an important part of the gospel, as important as who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for the world. It is the engine that propels the message around the world. We, as the church, are important to the gospel, because we are Christ's representatives on earth, and we are witnesses to his glory.
But it is possible to be a false witness, even as a Christian. Our readings this morning are full of examples of this false witness. This type of witness is fueled by unbelief. In Mark 9, a father comes to Jesus to ask for healing for his son. Jesus tells him that all things can be done for he who believes. The father responds, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” We are each a combination of belief and unbelief, and when we are swimming in the world's tides, the unbelief rises and becomes more dominant. When we immerse ourselves in scripture and prayer, the belief rises.
So, in or gospel passage, we have disciples setting eyes on the risen Christ and thinking he is a GHOST. Unbelief. In our Acts passage, Peter heals the paralytic, and the witnesses all are astonished and confused. Peter must a magician, or he himself is a god. Peter has to give a mini sermon to them on the spot to explain that it is not he who has the power but their own God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that did it. All you have to do is call on the name of Jesus Christ, his son, you know, the author of life, the one you killed. Unbelief.
Last year we had a woman here suffering from bone cancer who has chronic headaches. We all laid hands on her. The bone cancer didn't go away, but the headaches left entirely. Praise God! Right? No, we tried to figure out who laid hands on her neck that day, so we could give that person the glory. Unbelief, and yet we are a congregation of believers!
Whenever Cathi has a migraine, I'll pray over her. An hour later, I'll ask her if she took Advil. She'll shake her head at me and say, “your prayer did it.” God did it, and here I am, full of unbelief, thinking man-made drugs are the only solution.
Christ gives us solutions to this problem we have—the combination of belief and unbelief. Christ himself teaches us how to shrink that seed of unbelief and water and nurture the belief. Looking at the gospel passage again, we see that the disciples are freaked out, because they think Jesus is a ghost. This is their unbelief. Here is what Jesus instructs:
1. Follow the evidence. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” They examine the physical evidence. Then Jesus eats a fish in their presence. Ghosts don't eat. We follow the evidence and accept where it leads. The best evidence is eyewitness testimony, which is, as we have said, an integral part of the gospel. Reading church history, reading biographies of the saints, reading current world events from a Christian perspective is a way to get large doses of miraculous events throughout history to the present.
One of the most inspiring books is “A Life of Prayer” by George Muller, where he documents all of the prayers the Lord answered of his, sometimes to the exact request. His life was a test of God's strength. He never asked men for money or food for his large orphanage. He only asked God, and it paid off. There is another book called “The Wonders of Prayer” which also documents all of the amazing things God has done for mankind over the centuries, outside the Bible.
Then there's the Bible. The second instruction of Jesus from our gospel passage is “search the scriptures.” He said to the disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He shares the gospel and then tells them that they are witnesses to these things.” Witnesses just by studying scripture? Yes. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit with us, opening our minds to understand the scriptures.
Now, someone who does not have the Holy Spirit who tries to read this book will find that it is all white noise. We have the Holy Spirit, and so we have understanding of this, but if we don't read it, we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to unlock it for us. Meditating on these words allows the Holy Spirit to reveal things that were previously hidden about Jesus.
The door is open. We just have to walk through. Follow the evidence and search the scriptures and you will find that Jesus is God and Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. We are witnesses to these facts. That is the gospel. Follow the evidence. Search the scriptures. Believe.