“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (John 20:1, NRSVue)
When it comes to faith, we’re in the dark more than we’re in the light. I know we’re supposed to love the light and fend off the darkness, but the truth is that the dark is where faith is often revealed. Faith is believing, even when we cannot see and don’t know! Knowledge and faith are not the same. When people describe faith as “I know that I know that I know…,” they are really describing knowledge—not faith. Faith isn’t about knowing—it’s about believing. Believing is very different from knowing. Allow me to explain.
Knowledge is based on empirical facts and must be substantiated and proven with replicated experimentation. Faith is based on the eternal truth of God’s existence that transcends facts, is often paradoxical, and requires that we hold opposites in tension. Scientific studies can’t prove faith because it’s rooted in our experience of God’s love, which is sometimes beyond our rational abilities. Just as we can’t prove love, we can’t prove what we believe. In the way we can see the effects of love, we can also see the impact of faith in God, so we believe in both. Knowledge makes logical sense (at least to the experts!), which validates it for them as truth; however, faith makes sense even when it doesn’t. Here’s where faith has the edge on knowledge; faith is eternal, but knowledge passes away (see 1 Corinthians 13).
John’s gospel narrates the story of Jesus’ resurrection “while it was still dark.” That’s John’s way of saying the disciples were still not believing and, therefore, in the dark about the miracle they had yet to witness. When Mary arrived at the tomb, the sun had not risen, and her belief system was still trying to orient in the dark. Even in the darkness, she could see that the stone had been removed from the tomb, so she went to tell the others, who came back to investigate her claims. After scratching their heads at the tomb’s mystery, they left Mary in the garden. Then, Jesus revealed himself to her, the darkness faded, and she found herself in the light. She had seen Jesus die on Good Friday; now, she saw him resurrected on Easter morning. She no longer lived in darkness, for she could see with her eyes that Jesus was no longer dead. It no longer took believing; Mary had seen the resurrected Jesus with her own eyes.
You and I still live in the darkness of “not knowing” because we did not see Jesus die or witness seeing him after his resurrection. We are left with the need to believe without the benefit of knowledge. We can’t touch his nail-scarred hands or thrust our fingers into his wounded side, and we can’t taste the fish he cooked for the disciples on the beach after his resurrection. We must believe, even though we lack the knowledge Mary and the disciples held.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer belief over knowledge. As excited as I am when I learn something new, I’m even more excited when my faith gives me a sense of well-being and security despite troubling circumstances. I put my faith in God’s love for me, in Jesus’ ability to save me through his death and resurrection, and in the Holy Spirit, who deepens my faith as I spend time praying and meditating. Knowledge is great, but faith is greater.
This Sunday, we celebrate the greatest mystery of our faith as we retell the story of Jesus’ resurrection. Don’t expect me to try to “prove” the resurrection as some preachers are wont to do. I believe in the resurrection—not because anyone has proven it—but because I’ve seen its effect. That’s all I need to believe!
I hope you will join us this Easter Sunday to experience God’s presence for yourself as we worship together. Don’t forget to bring a friend! See you on Sunday. — Senior Pastor Dale Cohen