2004 header issue 15

BirdThinking Points

Mickey Chiang

A matter of believing
[Luke 24:9]

Just after dawn when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome came to the tomb where the body of Jesus was laid.  But lo and behold, the guards posted by the high priests were not there, the large stone that closed the entrance had been rolled away, and the tomb was empty!  The angel who had rolled the stone away told them that Jesus had risen.  “Go quickly and tell his disciples!” he said [Matthew 28:5-7].  

John records that Mary Magdalene “came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved” [John 20:2] and told them the exciting news.  What happened to the other women?  Didn’t they rush to tell the disciples too?  

Matthew tells us they did: “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his [Christ’s] disciples” [Matthew 28:8].  So why did John mention Mary Magdalene as the one who told Peter and John?  Could it be that all the women ran, but Mary Magdalene being a younger woman had the speed and stamina to arrive first?  

Breathless and excited, Mary Magdalene was almost incoherent: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him!” [John 20:2].  Note the word “we”.  The other women were coming in behind her, weren’t they?   “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others” [Luke 24:9].   

How did the disciples react to the news?  Well, Peter and John started running to the tomb [John 20:3&4].  Why did they run?  Because the news was simply wonderful to them and they were eager to see things for themselves?  Put yourself in the shoes of Peter or John.  What would you feel as you ran, at first slowly, then faster, towards the tomb.

Er, how do we know the disciples ran slowly at first?  Well, if each was not running as fast as he could, would they not have run side by side, together?  Indeed they did, for John 20:4 tells us that “the two were running together” [hoi duo homou].  The emphasis is on the word “together”.  

But John also tells us that, “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first” [John 20:4].  Two Greek words are used to emphasize the fast speed at which John later ran: proedramen meaning “ran ahead” and tachion meaning “quickly”, “haste’ or “faster”.  John is emphasizing the sudden increase in speed by John.    Did John run faster because he was a younger man than Peter?  Or because he loved Jesus more and his love spurred him on?  Did Peter ask John to run ahead, or did John’s belief increase as he ran?  We do not know. What we do know is that Peter and John ran to the tomb.  What happened to the other nine disciples?  Did they not similarly run, or walk, to the tomb?  No?  Why not?  

Luke 24:11 tells us the answer: “These words [of the women] seemed to them as nonsense and they would not believe.”  Mark confirms this.  “When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she [Mary Madalene] had seen him, they did not believe it” [Mark 16:11].  This disbelief is emphasized in the next two verses about the report of the two persons who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus: “but they [the disciples] did not believe them either”  [Mark 16:13].  

For what the women had reported was beyond human reasoning.  Angels?  Who had ever seen angels?  Risen from the dead?  Have you seen anyone raising himself from the dead?  Moreover, weren’t women unacceptable as eyewitnesses in those days?  

Still, wasn’t it terrible of the nine disciples not to believe?  But aren’t we just like them today?  When confronted with so-called scientific explanations and theories don’t we secretly dismiss the Creation account in Genesis 1 as “unscientific”?  Many Christians secretly disbelieve the Bible’s accounts of the parting of the Red/Reeds Sea and the virgin birth [even though cloning and artificial insemination now prove that virgin birth is not impossible].  Like the nine disciples, we too “would not believe”.  We would rather believe in human reason than in a God who created human reason.  

Eleven disciples heard the same good news about the resurrection of Jesus, but only two believed, and started running towards the tomb.  The other nine would not [not could not] believe.   In which category are you today?  

Christ has risen!  Are you running your heart out towards Him, or is disbelief causing you to have no heart to run?  Are you running to join in the work when you hear reports that the Lord is doing some good work somewhere around you?  If you want to experience the presence and the goodness of the Lord, don’t you have to be where He is at work among people?  Go on, run!

CHAPEL NOTES

Ruth vis-à-vis Divine Providence

The speaker for last week’s chapel was Margaret Lim.  Margaret works at the Great Eastern Life Insurance in the Corporate Communications department, and worships at Zion BP Church (Serangoon Gardens).

The sermon was preceded by the singing of “Be Still, My Soul: the Lord is on Thy Side”; and followed by “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me.”  Both hymns are assurances of God’s unfailing love and guidance, and both hymns, chosen by the speaker, underscored her message.

The message was structured upon the concept of instruments of measurement.  We were introduced to the world of IQ, AQ, and EQ.  After assuring us of Ruth’s possession of these qualities, she went on to spell out Ruth’s other qualities (or “quotients”!).

Ruth had diligence and faithfulness in her work (DFQ); she demonstrated commitment and care (CCQ) in her relationship with Naomi; and she carried about her a spirit of joy (JQ). 

Having been properly cued in (or “Q-d in”) to Ruth’s character, we are then reminded of God’s providential care.  It is not so much who Ruth is as how God works that brought about the miracle of transformation.  And if we should be in less fortunate circumstances, it remains for us but to wait patiently for the Lord.  The word of assurance is that God provides for those who cling tenaciously to Him, as Ruth did. 

Chapel Speaker on 28 April will be Mr Victor Chua.

NEWS BITS

  1. Calling all BGST MDiv students. If you intend to graduate in Jan 2005 and have not taken The Christian Spirit (TS251) which is a required course for the MDiv curriculum, please submit your registration soon. This course will be run in Term 3, 2004. The dates will be announced later.

  2. Dr Ng Peh Cheng will be speaking at the Cherith Baptist Church Theological Education Sunday on 25th April.

  3. Our heartiest congratulations to our alumni  Mr Cecil Peters (DipCS, 1991) as he is appointed the new Principal of Grace Bible College in Jamshedpur, India.

Building Fund 22

A BLESSED 
BIRTHDAY TO ...


Mr Chew Soon Lee  19/4

Dr Lee Soon Tai  19/4

Mr Lee Soon Yong  19/4

Dr Peter Wang  22/4

Mr K.P. Menon  24/4 

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