Results Not Typical

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Text: Matthew 28:1-10

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Faith for All of the Time

Today, we celebrate the highest point of the greatest story ever told: Jesus is indeed the Messiah, sent by God for the salvation of His people.  He died, and He rose again: “Death has lost its victory, the grave has been denied, hallelujah, Jesus is alive!”[1]

This is the truth upon which the Christian faith is based – a truth told by the witness of Scripture and the historical accounts of the people who experienced the events of that day. For over 2,000 years, millions have devoted their lives – and sometimes gave their lives – in response to the events of that first Easter.  The world has been changed in many ways by those lives, and the Christian faith has been passed on from generation to generation on the strength of the continuing witness begun so long ago.

Especially on Easter Sunday, it’s tempting to paint a glorious picture of generation after generation of faithful believers victoriously sailing through their years, every obstacle falling away before the power of the Lord God Almighty. But, we shouldn’t do that because it deprives us of the opportunity to understand the significance of the Resurrection in everyday life – a faith for all of the time, not just the high times.

Results That Aren’t Typical

Why do we have a hard time accepting that something is the truth?

Some of the temptation to put our faith in terms of how great things are comes from a natural desire to minimize the negative and accentuate the positive. Much of it, though, I think, is our response to a world that doesn’t tell the truth – though it insists it is. We’ve been conditioned to be suspicious of what claims to be the truth, even if it looks good.  Everything might look right, but then we read the fine print which says, “Results not typical.”

The whole phrase “results not typical” came into play in 1980 when the Federal Trade Commission introduced rules for advertising intended to protect consumers from unscrupulous advertising claims.  With these rules in place, advertisers were required to clearly disclose the results customers could expect from a product. The loophole in the rules was included to allow testimonials which described unusual or extraordinary results so long as the ad copy included the phrase, “results not typical.”

This changed in 2009 after years of exploitation – the FTC now says that there has to be balance in the testimonials, positive AND negative included.

We know this really hasn’t changed anything… life goes on, and there’s still plenty of fantastic claims out there that don’t represent reality.  There’s lots of loose play with the truth in many quarters, and we warn each other, “If it seems too good to be true, it is!” We’ve gotten used to, and we don’t expect things to be truthful.

So, in this world of untypical results and things that seem too good to be true, we’re presented with the story of a man who said he was the Son of God, was executed, and then rose from the dead three days later.  Our first reaction would be – this isn’t typical, and it MUST be too good to be true!

If you read in the verses after what we’ve read this morning, you’ll see some of this in play in what Matthew tells us.  Some of the guards go into the city of Jerusalem and tell the chief priests everything that has happened. The priests see the resurrection as an inconvenient truth, so they conspire with the elders to pay off the soldiers with a large sum of money. In exchange for the cash, they are to tell everyone that Jesus’ disciples came by night and stole his body away, while they were asleep. So the guards take the money and run, doing as they are directed (vv. 11-15).

In other words – “Don’t believe it: this is way too good to be true.”  Results not typical!


But Do We Want Typical?

The really neat thing, though, is that, in the midst of not trusting and not accepting, we still have the capacity within us to believe, to have faith.  Two thousand years have come and gone, and the resurrection is still being reported by people who have caught a glimpse of the risen Jesus in the middle of human life. These sightings aren’t face to face and don’t include Easter morning foot-grabbing. But eyewitnesses still report that Jesus is alive and active, in the lives of both individuals and communities.

In the days following the crucifixion, everyone assumed that the typical had happened: a man was crucified, and the typical happened: he died. A short time later, God produced results that weren’t at all typical.

Jesus is still working through individuals in life-changing ways, ways that are in no way typical!

When it comes to religious truth, we will always find Jesus in the messiness of human life, in situations that are fully of complexity and uncertainty – and don’t typically grab headlines.

So let me ask you, “Why do we want ‘typical’?” If things were typical, there would be no hope. If God had done the typical 2,000 years ago, why would we have anything to believe in?

The testimony of time is that Jesus is alive and well, in people who share the gospel; He’s active and effective, in communities that love God and neighbor while working to build up the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Definitely not typical: Christ is risen, just as the women and the guards reported.

Sources Consulted:

“The Experts Were Wrong,” Homiletics, April 2011

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. NT-1B (Matthew) (IVP, 2002)

Wilkins, Michael J. Matthew (Zondervan, 2004)

[1] Ron Kenoly, “Jesus Is Alive!”