After the Roman procurator Festus had arranged for the apostle Paul to give an account of himself before King Agrippa and Queen Bernice, the apostle explained what the Lord Jesus had done to him and for him. He did this in the context of describing how God had fulfilled HIs promises to Israel. In the course of his talk, he asked this question, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:10).
This is a wonderful question. Why should something like that be thought incredible? As Christian believers, we do not simply believe that the resurrection is an out-there possibility. We believe that it is another example of God’s idea of the ordinary.
It is no more remarkable that we should live before God in another life after this than it is that we should be alive before Him in this one. But here is the rub—this life is remarkable also. I mean, what are the odds?
We need to understand that the sin of unbelief is not committed when we think that a story of life beyond death is somehow incredible. The sin of unbelief is actually committed when we fail to understand that life before death is just as incredible. Lack of wonder about what we have already been given is the reason for our lack of faith in what we have been promised.
If we come to receive this life with gratitude, we will then be in a position to receive the promised life with faith. Gratitude means that we get what’s going on. Unbelief about the future is actually a disguised form of ingratitude about the present and the past. Being a skeptic can seem sophisticated, which is why so many people want to seem that way. But being an ingrate is not winsome at all, and that is why we don’t frame these issues with that in mind.
But God knew our frailties as a race, and how easy it would be for us to laugh at the idea of a resurrection at the end of history. This is why God arranged for the prototype of the resurrection to occur right in the middle of history. There it is—another reason for gratitude. Jesus rose. We are all of us surrounded by the marvels of the first creation, but according to our pretenses we are too sophisticated to see any of it, and so God placed the great marvel of the new creation right in the middle of everything, where even we could see it. Jesus rose as the down payment of all that is coming. Life is everywhere, and the new life, the life of the world to come, has taken root in the soil of this world, and has been steadily growing for two thousand years.
So those who want to remain jaded have to pretend that that didn’t happen either. This is why Paul got the response he received from the philosophers at Athens. They listened to him until he got to the part about the resurrection of Jesus, and then a number of them held him in derision (Acts 17:32).
But why is this thought to be incredible? Look around you—at the sun, and moon, trees and flowers, rivers and oceans, and of course at God’s image bearers, seen in your wife, your husband, your sons and daughters, and of course, your neighbor. How many blades of grass can we see right now, bursting with life?
If we were to hear a great musician sing the most beautiful song we had ever heard, would we doubt his abilities to sing us another one? Not at all—when he was done, we would plead with him to sing us another one, in the full confidence that this is something he would have no trouble in doing. How would we know that? Well, we would know on the basis of what we had just heard. That is the position we are in right now.
We know that Larry will live again because he lived the first time. And we know that because Jesus gave him his first life, and we all saw many years of it. And then the Lord gave him life again in the new birth, and what a glory that was. Why would he not fulfill all the rest of His promises? Why would we think that incredible?
Those who don’t believe there will be an encore are those who are not listening now. Those who are listening now understand how there must be an encore.
In the words of committal that will be said in just a few moments, we will testify to our “sure and certain” confidence of the resurrection that God has promised us. We will do this with hearts full of faith, hope, and love. Lawrence A. Greensides, may you rest in God’s grace and peace. However long our lives are, we will see you soon.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.