The Lutheran Hour: July 28, 2013

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Sermon Text for July 28, 2013

"The Rest of the Story" #80-47
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 28, 2013
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Colossians 2:6-8

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! That is God's truth which moves those who believe from hell to heaven. Today it is our prayer that faith in the Jesus of Holy Scripture may be the rest of our story, too. Grant this Lord to us all. Amen. 

This Lutheran Hour message is NOT about child abuse. Even so, this message begins with a recounting of the worst case of child abuse which I have ever seen. The story begins with me walking through the parking lot of a local hospital. I had just called on one of my congregation members who had had surgery and I was now going home for dinner. What caught my attention first were the shouts... adult shouts... coming from a parked car. The shouts were muffled and I couldn't make out what was being said, but I could hear the volume and the intensity of the tone. 

As I walked, the shouts became louder and eventually I reached the vehicle which held a man, a woman, and a little girl whom I guessed was about four years old. Both adults were shouting but the child didn't seem to be responding to their yells. Then I saw something truly shocking. The man hit the child. Hit the child with a strong slap across the face. It wasn't a one-time thing. He hit her again and yet again. Without debating too long about what I should do, I went up to the car, tapped on the window and shouted, "Excuse me, is there anything I can do here?" I had to jump back as both doors of the car flew open. The man roughly grabbed the child, I found out she was his daughter, and he double-timed his way across the parking lot. The woman obviously wanted to follow, but she did stop long enough to explain the abuse of their little one. 

She explained how their little girl, their only child, had managed to get hold of one of her bottles of medication. Not only that, the little girl had managed to prove that child-proof caps aren't child proof. She proved that by opening the medicine bottle and taking an unknown quantity of a sleeping pill. I walked with the mother as she explained, "We called the poison control center and they told us to get her here immediately to have her stomach pumped. The only other thing we were told to do is make sure that she stayed awake. We absolutely had to do everything necessary to make sure she stayed awake."

By then we were in the emergency room and the staff jumped into action. The daughter and mother went on while I spoke with the father. He verified what his wife had said and I volunteered to have a prayer with him. Together we waited until Mom returned and, with the doctor, shared that the little girl was out of immediate danger. I left the hospital pleased that the worst child abuse case I had ever seen was a story of love not uncontrolled parental fury. In short, I had found "the rest of the story" and the rest of the story said these parents were trying to save, not hurt, their beloved daughter. 

The rest of the story. For years the great newsman and philosopher Paul Harvey told his listeners "The Rest of the Story." His program began with him retelling some story which most people found to be familiar or fascinating. Then, when the story was seemingly complete, he shared more. Mr. Harvey supplied the little known bit of background which illuminated his audience and gave them insight into the reasons that original story had happened. 
The rest of the story. Motivated by curiosity, nosiness, genuine interest people want to know the rest of the story. 

If someone wins a gold medal at the Olympics, we want to know the rest of the story. We want to know what motivated this athlete's desire to excel; we want to know how long and how often they trained; we want to know how their family supported them and most of all we want to know the sacrifices they made to achieve their moment of greatness. As we find out the rest of the story, we will either label them as being committed or crazy; we will speak of them as if they were a close friend or a dear child or else we will shake our heads and say, "They gave up too much in their goal to win the gold." 

The rest of the story. Humans have always believed there is a rest of the story and if they know the rest of the story, if they are given and can grasp all of the hidden facts, they will be able to understand the situation; they will be able to make reasonable, rational decisions. We believe if we have the rest of the story, if we know the particulars and the specifics, even an obvious case of child abuse will be instantly transformed into the caring and concerned act of compassionate parents. 

The rest of the story. The desire to know the rest of the story permeates every aspect of our lives... including that of an individual's relationship with his Lord. When Jesus walked this earth, He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 ESV) His statement is absolute, it is complete, it is all-encompassing. There are no exceptions. He is saying, "If you wish to escape hell, which is the punishment for your sins; if you wish to be forgiven and saved, it is only going to happen if you are given faith in Me as your Savior." He is stating that He is the only Savior who can rescue us from Satan and release us from the clutches of eternal death. That kind of statement has some serious implications because it means that Jesus is saying every other religion, every other formula of faith is wrong. 

And that, my friends, is something that modern man finds hard, if not impossible, to accept. Not so long ago some pollsters hit the streets and asked Americans, "What do you think? Is Jesus humankind's only Savior and does the Bible hold God's special and singular plan of salvation?" They were surprised at what they found. Of the adults who were asked, 44% claimed that "the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths." Of the young people who were asked, "63% said believers of all faiths are praying to the same God." 

So, what does that mean? It means this: Jesus claims to be the world's only Savior and the world says, "Christ is just One of many different faces by which the Lord has revealed Himself to humanity." Both believers and unbelievers know that those statements must mean somebody is wrong; it means somebody is totally and eternally wrong. The great question arises when confused souls start to ask, "How can I know who is telling the truth and who is a bald-faced liar?" 

"How and by whom can I be saved?" is an all important question. Now before I try to answer that question you should know most people will begin with some serious prejudice against Jesus' claim to the ONE and ONLY Savior. We have our doubts because we know every rule has its exceptions and nothing is true for everybody all the time. As evidence, I submit one (Barna) survey which said that 75% of adults think truth is never absolute and is always determined by the individual and the situation. When young people were asked that question, more than 80% said truth depends on the circumstance. So when Jesus says, "I am the only Way to heaven," well,... people doubt Him. 

Yes, they may think upon Him as being a good Guy, a tremendous Teacher, a perceptive Philosopher, a Speaker of many fine and wonderful truths, but they disagree when He says He is everybody's Savior. They disagree and think: "There must be a rest of the story." They believe, "If I am given the rest of the story about Jesus, then I will be able to decide what is true and what is not." In thinking this way, these people are not alone and they are certainly not the first. Indeed, if you read through Paul's letters to the early Christian churches, you will find many of those early congregations had people who thought they needed the "rest of the story," and not unsurprisingly false prophets who said they could supply the rest of the story. 

That ancient search for the rest of the story continues on today. Consider the phenomenal interest in the book and movie "The DaVinci Code." Many of you know the book's plotline: Jesus was a prophet and when He died His wife, Mary Magdalene, was supposed to run His church. Jesus' disciples, envious of her role, did their best to get rid of her, destroy her reputation, and purge any positive reference of her from the pages of history. It doesn't matter the book was filled with provable historical and theological inaccuracies, no matter it distorted and destroyed the verifiable doctrines of Christianity, many people bought, read, and believed that book as if it were the Gospel truth. Quite wrongly they thought they had found the rest of the story which proved the Bible's story of Jesus had been a lie. 

Of course the DaVinci Code and its emulators are not the only ones who claim they have the rest of the story. It's a rare month which doesn't have the media shouting about some new discovery which will "rewrite the pages of Christian history." A few years ago the papers and television news claimed archaeologists had found the burial spot of Jesus and His family. If true, that finding would have ripped at the resurrection of the Christ, the cornerstone of Christianity. It is a sad thing that not nearly as much time and print space was devoted to sharing how the story was bogus. 

Then there have been the numerous reports of modern scholars who have recovered the "lost" books of the Bible. Let's see there is the Gospel of Judas and Thomas and Peter and a bookshelf of other lost books. Almost every report tells us how these books give "new" and "conflicting" and "enlightening" information about the story of the Christ. According to the reports these books, which give the rest of the story, which give the real story about Jesus, were condemned and forced underground by a prejudiced and capricious church. 

Somehow these reports never get around to mentioning that these books are works of fiction written more than 100 years after Jesus died. Nobody says these novels were put out by men who were trying to appear legitimate by passing their work off as having come from the hand of one of Jesus' disciples. It is roughly the equivalent of me writing a biography of Teddy Roosevelt, putting Mark Twain's name on the manuscript, and claiming I have the real truth about Teddy. My fictional book may make for interesting reading, but it can't claim to be true and it certainly doesn't tell the rest of the story. 

So what is the answer to those of you who believe there is a rest of the story when it comes to Jesus? My answer is the same as that of St. Paul. To the church in Colossae he wrote: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy or empty deceit." Instead, "walk in, be built up, and established in the faith of Jesus Christ." In short, when it comes to Jesus, when it comes to God's Word, the rest of the story is... well, other than what the Lord may write in your heart, there is no rest of the story. 

That's it. When it comes to Jesus and the salvation He won for you with His life, suffering, death, and resurrection, there is no rest of the story. There is no hidden evidence. There is no smoking gun. Although my saying such things may go against your logic and they certainly contradict the modern idea that no truth is applicable in all time and for all people, the statement still stands: in the Bible you have the beginning, the middle, and the end of Jesus' story. There is nothing more. Period. 

Now, I don't expect you to accept my word on this. Instead, I would like you to consider this: there are very few scholars who will doubt Jesus lived in the 1st century of this era named after Him. The vast majority will agree that He was crucified under the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate. Nobody questions the fact that when a Roman death squad said you were dead, you were dead. The great, the all-important question is this: what happened after Jesus was buried? 

All of Bible-believing Christianity says, "on the third day He rose from the dead." We know that if Jesus did not rise, then Jesus is not God's Son; He is not the Messiah; He is not the Savior; His words are worthless, and there is no forgiveness of sins or salvation to be found by having faith in Him. On the other hand, if Jesus did rise from the dead as He said He would, then we can believe the other claims He made about Himself. We can believe Him because if He rose, He is God's Son, the promised Redeemer, the Savior, the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

So, did Jesus rise? What is the rest of the story? It is this: years after Jesus was crucified, the disciples, without any fear of being contradicted were saying, "Don't believe us... ask the hundreds who saw Him alive after the crucifixion." What is the rest of the story? It is this: ff Jesus didn't rise, why didn't those who hated Him, produce a body. All they had to do was say: "Here, come take a look for yourself. Take a peek at Jesus' decomposing corpse." They didn't do that. Do you know what else they didn't do? Nobody found a decomposed body who kind of looked like Jesus and tried to pass off those remains as that of the Savior. 

Why? There were too many people who knew the truth. There were too many folks who were willing to testify, who did testify that Jesus Christ rose on the third day as He said He would. If you want to know the rest of the story, how about this: if the disciples knew Jesus' resurrection was a hoax, why were they ready to die in terrible and painful ways? Don't you think one of them would have said, "Look, it's all been a joke. We weren't trying to hurt anybody, we were just having a laugh. We moved His body to another place"? The truth is none, not one of the leaders in the early church said that or anything like it. They died preaching what they had seen: Jesus Christ has risen. 

So that's the rest of the story... or almost. The rest of the story is still being written in your heart. Years ago I heard of two pastors who were putting up two signs on the road which went between their churches. They got the first sign up. It read: "The end is near. Turn around now before it is too late." They were getting ready to put up the second sign when a car went shooting by them. As it did, the driver called out, "Why don't you religious nuts leave us alone!" Both car and driver disappeared around the curve ahead. In a few seconds the pastors heard the screech of braking tires and a splash. The preachers looked at each other and quickly put up the second sign which read: "Danger! Bridge Out Ahead!" That second sign was the rest of the story. 

Well folks, you can call me a religious nut if you want, but today you've heard the rest of the story about Jesus. It is our prayer that the Savior's story has touched your heart. And, if you would like to know more about the Savior, we are glad to be of assistance. To that end I extend this offer and say please call us at The Lutheran Hour. And that, dear friends, is the rest of the story. Amen. 

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for July 28, 2013
Topic: Is Seeing Always Believing?

ANNOUNCER: Is seeing always believing? Stay with us as we discuss that topic with our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer. 

KLAUS: A blessed day to you, Mark. 

ANNOUNCER: And to you as well. One of Jesus' disciples has come to be known as "Doubting Thomas." We read about him in the Gospel of John, chapter 20. I suppose you could say Thomas was a skeptic. 

KLAUS: Yeah. A skeptical disciple, that's amazing! Amazing, because Thomas had walked with Jesus and had seen Him perform miracles, including raising Lazarus from the dead. 

ANNOUNCER: However, Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them after His resurrection and Thomas didn't believe the reports that Jesus had risen from the dead.

KLAUS: Yeah, here's the icing on the cake. Thomas wasn't expecting any resurrection, even though Jesus had told His disciples that He would defeat death and rise again. 

ANNOUNCER: So, to put Thomas' doubts to rest, Jesus once again appeared bodily to the disciples and He allowed Thomas to even touch His wounds. 

KLAUS: That's right. The Bible also mentions several other post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. There were the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Another time, he was seen by five hundred at the same time. He appeared to his half-brother James. After that, James believed and became a leader in the church at Jerusalem. And last of all, He appeared in a vision to St. Paul on the road to Damascus.

ANNOUNCER: So, why doesn't God do the same thing for us today? 

KLAUS: You said Thomas was a skeptic. That's really not quite right. Thomas was just a regular Joe, a logical kind of guy who just wasn't ready to believe people rise from the dead. Maybe he even doubted that Lazarus had been truly dead when he was buried, I don't know. They hadn't been there when Lazarus died and was buried. But in Jesus' case, Thomas had first-hand reports that Jesus was truly dead and now reports that He had risen. 

ANNOUNCER: So, how does Christ show Himself to us today? If He were to appear on live television, wouldn't that eliminate all disbelief right then and there? 

KLAUS: Honest answer? No, not really. Do you remember Jesus' parable about the rich man and Lazarus? The rich man in hell pleads for someone from the dead to go back, warn his brothers so that they don't wind up there as well. And Abraham replies, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:3)

ANNOUNCER: Seems like it would be worth a try. 

KLAUS: OK, let's look at it this way. Consider some modern conspiracy theories. A lot of folks don't believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President Kennedy. There are those who doubt that man has ever walked on the moon, and some who refuse to believe 9/11 was the work of foreign terrorists. Mark, what's the common denominator in all of those instances I've just named? 

ANNOUNCER: People don't believe what they're told? 

KLAUS: That's right. People don't trust what other people say.

ANNOUNCER: It brings to mind that old saying, "To those who believe, no explanation is necessary, to those who doubt, no explanation will suffice." 

KLAUS: Exactly. In the year 2000 I saw a news story from Jerusalem. This was at the time of Y2K, the sky was falling, computers were going to die, reporters said all kinds of crazies were coming out of the woodwork and showing up in Jerusalem. He said a man who claimed to be Jesus had a room down the hall from his own. The reporter didn't believe the man was Jesus because he didn't believe the man. The only reason someone will believe Jesus rose from the dead is because the Bible says it is so. If you believe the Bible is God revealing Himself to us, then you believe what it says. If you think the Bible lies, well, nobody can talk you out of it, even if someone were to rise from the dead. 

ANNOUNCER: They'll look for other explanations rather than believe that Jesus rose again, because that would mean He really is who He claimed to be. 

KLAUS: Make no mistake-Jesus will appear someday for all to see. But for those who don't already believe, it's going to be too late. Jesus won't be there to dismiss our doubts but to dispense His judgment. That's a difference.

ANNOUNCER: And as we close, we recall what Jesus said to Thomas. He said, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

KLAUS: And that's the purpose of John's Gospel and all of Scripture. That's where God reveals Himself to us, works faith in us to believe, so that by believing, we have life in His name.

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"Praise Be to Christ in Whom We See" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

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