He is risen!
Hiroo Onoda was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines by his Japanese imperial commander during World war II. He was ordered to do all that he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island. There were three others with him.
One day, they came across a leaflet from the local islanders to them saying “The war ended August 15th. Come down from the mountains!” The few remaining cells discussed this leaflet extensively, but eventually decided that it was Allied propaganda trying to get them to give themselves up. They felt that there was no way that Japan could have lost so quickly since the time when they were deployed. Indeed, this would seem strange to anyone who had no knowledge of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Eventually, near the end of the same year local islanders, fed up with being shot at and raided, got a Boeing B-17 to drop leaflets all over the jungle. These leaflets had the order to surrender printed on them from General Yamashita. The few remaining cells once again scrutinized these leaflets to try to determine their authenticity. In the end, the wording on the leaflet pertaining to the method with which they would be sent back to Japan seemed fishy to them; largely because the wording made it seem as if Japan had lost, something they couldn’t fathom and which was a big problem in their willingness to accept the war had ended. If Japan had won, they would come and get them. Japan couldn’t lose, so the war must still be going.
When this didn’t work, more leaflets were dropped with newspapers from Japan; photographs and letters from the soldiers families; delegates were sent from Japan and went through the jungle speaking over loudspeakers begging the soldiers to give themselves up. In every case the cells encountered, there was always something suspicious in their minds about the way it was done to cause them to believe it was an elaborate hoax by the Allied troops.
Years passed in the jungle with these four soldiers continuing to perform their sworn duty of harrying the enemy at every opportunity and gather intelligence as best they could. At a certain point, when most everybody they saw was dressed in civilian clothing, they began thinking that this too was a ruse from the Allied forces to lull the Japanese guerrilla soldiers into a false sense of confidence. They considered the fact that every time they fired on these “civilians” shortly thereafter search parties would arrive hunting them. Over time they had gradually let their solitude twist their minds into thinking everyone was an enemy, even their own fellow Japanese who would occasionally come and try to find them and get them to come home. These of course in their minds were Japanese prisoners forced to come lure them away from the safety of the jungle.
Isnt’ that crazy!
Hiroo did not believe that the war had ended! But the fact was- it did! His belief did not affect the reality that the war had ended, but it did greatly affect how he lived for 29 years!
The same can be said of the resurrection! People may not believe it happened. But the fact is – it did! Believing whether or not the Jesus death and resurrection happened does not affect their reality, but it certainly affects how you live and enjoy your life!
The disciples weren’t in the jungle, but they were hiding in an upper room. They had been told by some of the women that Jesus had risen from the dead. But that’s crazy – more crazy than an atomic bomb! John and Peter saw the empty tomb! but they must not have really believed it. They were scared. They were scared that the war had just begun. Their leader had been killed and now their fellow Jews were coming after them!
Well Jesus, himself, came and found them huddled together paranoid of the enemy. He appeared in their midst and whispered, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them something that would give them certain peace: His hands once limp moving, His side once pierced healed, Life after death! Then they were glad! Jesus said again, “as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” and when he said this He breathed on them and said, “receive the holy spirit If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven, if you withhold the sins of any they are withheld.”
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Now we so often like to call Thomas – doubting Thomas! But he is any different than the rest of the disciples. They didn’t believe until they saw either!
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus sends the Church to tell people hiding and scared, “the War is over! Come out of hiding! Surrender! He is risen! He died for you. He rose again. You have forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus name!”
The resurrection is not the product of belief. It happened whether its believed or not. It is an historical event, like the signing of the surrender of the Japanese! There were more than 500 witnesses. They never found the body. The witnesses were not gullible easy believers. They clearly struggled with someone rising from the dead. They were scientific in their need for proof, like Thomas said, ‘unless I see his hand, etc.’
Don’t let anyone tell you that the resurrection belongs over here in the faith category and science belongs over here in the knowing category. John says in the beginning of his first letter, “That which was( from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands.”
But do not be afraid to doubt either. Thomas doubted. Thomas asked a question. Jesus responded. The Resurrection can withstand questioning. It can withstand doubts. And the church, like Jesus is a safe place, to question, to struggle, to need more. Truth, if it is truth, can handle scrutiny right? In fact Jesus came to those who doubt Just as He came to Thomas so the Church and her people come to those who doubt.
In fact it is imperative that people feel free to talk, to question, because the Devil wants you to keep your doubts to yourself, locked in a room, afraid. The Devil wants to keep you like those Japanese soldiers, hiding and living in a fear of your own imagination!
He is Risen!
There are people in dark rooms in your town! They live in fear like Hiroo Onada; suspicious, paranoid, fighting their past, their sin, scared of judgment day, scared of death. They live in a landscape marred by sin and suffering. The war is far from over for them. And don’t be surprised if at first they think you are passing out propaganda because it does sound way to good to be true! Don’t give up on them!
Jesus sends you to go those places, to your neighbors, to your coworkers and classmates – don’t wait for them to come here ! Go and tell them “We have seen the Lord!” He is risen! He has paid the price for all of our sins. He has conquered death!
Surrender! The War has ended!