The Proof is NOT in the Pudding (October 28, 2018)
The Proof is NOT in the Pudding
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “the proof is in the pudding.” Maybe you’ve used it from time to time. But did you know, that’s not the whole phrase? It’s actually a very old proverb that dates back at least to the 14th century. It was shortened in the early 1900s to the phrase we have today. But the longer form of this proverb is actually, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Basically, it’s saying, you can only call something a success after you have tried it or used it. For example, “Hey, I’ve heard that new doodad isn’t that great.” “Really, you should try it! I actually really like it!” Only after trying something can you speak knowledgeably about it.
This same concept is used by many to refute the teachings of the Bible and the hope that it gives. This really pertains to the teaching of life after death. “How do you really know there is life after death if you’ve never seen the other side with your own eyes?” They demand proof. Not just a fluttering hope or an inkling of faith. But solid, concrete proof. And what do you do? What kind of proof is there to offer them? Certainly, you are not going to kill yourself and hope that God would bring you back, so you can talk about it. We’ve heard of something like this in the account of the rich man and poor Lazarus. The rich man, after he had died, begged that Lazarus be raised from the dead as proof to his 5 brothers of an afterlife (Lk 16:27-28) – keep in mind, this is a different Lazarus than the one that Jesus did raise from the dead. In this instance, Lazarus was not brought back. There was not proof to offer. So what can you do? What kind of proof can you offer such a person who is obstinate and won’t even listen to a word of the gospel?
First, you could point to the many miracles surrounding the accounts of Jesus. In fact, this is the very reason Jesus did miracles, to prove who he was. Peter said it this way, “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). There was no denying it. Even Jesus’ enemies couldn’t discredit the miracles that Jesus did. There were times when his enemies were racking their brains trying to figure out how they could get around the clear miracles, and yet deny Jesus’ deity. The very purpose of the miracles Jesus did was to give undeniable proof that he was who he said he was.
And did you know that there are different words used for the miracles that Jesus did? Sometimes they are called miracles. Sometimes they are called wonders, and other times signs. It isn’t necessarily to categorize different kinds of miracles, but each of these words emphasizes a different purpose for Jesus’ miracles. And here, Peter uses all three terms. “Accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22). “Miracles” emphasizes that they are works of supernatural power. Things that break the laws of nature. “Wonders” emphasizes that they create wonder and amazement – grabbing people’s attention saying, “Look, see this man, pay attention to him!” “Signs” emphasizes that these works have some heavenly, divine significance; namely, pointing to Jesus as the Christ. No honest Jew could deny what Jesus had done, proving his divine power and authority. Proving that he was the Christ who would bring life and salvation. In fact, not that we need the added proof, but there are even accounts outside of the Bible that talk about the wondrous things that Jesus did, and the unexplainable devotion to this Jesus, even after his death.
One of the miracles, not to miss, is the very fact that the Apostle Peter is saying all of this. Do you remember where Acts chapter 2 falls? When it happened? Usually we use this as an Easter text because of the subject matter. Just a few weeks before, Peter was too afraid to admit even to a servant girl that he knew Jesus. His companions joined him behind locked doors after Jesus had been crucified for fear of what the Jewish leaders might do to them. But then, Jesus rose from the dead! The very sign that the Jews asked for. “The Jews responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’” (Jn 2:18-19). He went on to explain that the temple he was talking about was his body. Then you have the miracle of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came in a miraculous way to give the disciples not only understanding of all that had happened, but also boldness! And that is seen here as Peter is boldly addressing the very people he was hiding from just days before. Remember, this is no prophet or priest. This is not a learned man like Paul. This is not Jesus, but Peter – a fisherman who now preached a masterful sermon that cut to the hearts of his hearers and led them to repentance and faith. If Peter were preaching a lie, then nothing would have changed. Then Jesus would still be dead in the grave and fearful Peter would boldly be putting himself out there for persecution, and attack. But something did happen. Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. The Holy Spirit had been poured out on the disciples at Pentecost so that they understood and were emboldened to speak! These were all signs of proof pointing to the truth that Jesus had indeed died and been raised to life.
It wasn’t just the miracles though. There was also the prophecy. Wow, that prophecy. Sometimes I have to remind myself that what I am reading was written hundreds of years before Jesus even walked the earth because the prophecies are so detailed. Last week we sang Psalm 22. If you like, flip through the hymnal and find Psalm 22 – or you could even use the pew Bible. It’s as if David were standing right there at the cross recording what he had heard and seen, but in reality, he wrote about 1,000 years before Jesus took on flesh. Even here in Acts, Peter quotes David – a beloved ancestor of the Jews. He quotes what David wrote, “You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay” (Acts 2:27). Peter then goes on to explain that it had to be Jesus speaking prophecy through David. He points out that David died and was buried. You could still go and see his tomb. If you were to open it, you would find bones clean of flesh because of the decay long ago. But Jesus, raised in three days was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay (Acts 2:31). And there are many other prophecies so specific that it would be foolish to deny that Jesus was who he said he was, and did what he said he did.
We also see from the prophecy, and the things that Jesus said, that his death was always part of the plan. It wasn’t adjusting on the go. It wasn’t a plan B. Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins was always part of the plan. We don’t need to taste the pudding – death – to know and believe in Jesus as our Savior. He tasted death for us. And all the miracles and prophecy teach us to trust him, believe him.
The Jews knew this. They saw the miracles. They knew the prophecy. But sin just has a way of making us stupid. There was no way to refute the proof they had been given. They found themselves silenced by the proof on more than one occasion. But overcome by their sinful nature, they did what was stupid. Going against all reason, all proof, the clear truth, they crucified the Christ in the blindness of their sin. It was part of God’s plan, yes, but they are without excuse. They knew it was wrong, but they did it anyway. And now Peter is gently but accurately calling them out on it.
And he’s not just calling them out on it. He could be calling you and me out on it as well. Even though we did not actively nail Jesus to the cross, we are just as responsible. The Jews too didn’t nail Jesus to the cross. Peter said, “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). He could say the very thing to us as well. “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). And we are no less guilty. You’ve read the prophecy. By the Holy Spirit you believe the miracles are true. You trust that Jesus is who he says he is – the Christ, your Savior. You even have the full revelation of the Word written down in black and white. There’s no denying your faith. But then, you and I go and do something stupid. By the stubbornness of sin, we willingly cross the line, and disobey God’s Word. What are we doing? And the Bible addresses this. It says, “For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth” – that’s really what we are doing. We are saying, “God, I know your will, but I don’t want to know it right now. I want to reject the truth and do my own thing right now.” – “for those who… reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Rm 2:8).
“But…” Peter is so gracious. He doesn’t allow his listeners to linger long in the sting of the law. Probably because he has felt that sting himself, not long ago. He knew who Jesus was. He followed Jesus for several years, saw all the miracles, witnessed prophecy unfolding before his very eyes. He confessed the truth he believed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). But then he rejected that truth. Knowing full well what he was doing, he cried out and called down curses, “I don’t know the man!” (Mt 26:74). “Then he remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Mt 26:75). It hurts. When we finally come to our senses after the stupidity of sin, it hurts. When we are called out for our sins, “You… put him to death” (Acts 2:23). It hurts. So, Peter doesn’t leave us there long. Your Savior doesn’t leave you there in your sinfulness. “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keeps its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). And ever since that proof, the resurrection, your life has never been the same.
Because of that proof, you have hope for your daily living. The words were originally spoken by Jesus, through prophecy, but because of his death and resurrection for you, they also become your words. “I saw the Lord always before me” (Acts 2:25). Now your whole life, everything you do, is seen through the lens of the resurrection. Now in any moment in life you can confidently say, “Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Acts 2:25). Now you can be glad, and rest in hope – the hope of your own resurrection – all because Christ proved it to be true with his own resurrection. And even though your body may one day see decay, you can still say, “You will not abandon me to the grave… You have made known to me paths of life; you will fill me with joy [when I stand] in your presence” (Acts 2:27-28).
You have this hope. Despite any dark time, any moment of foolish sinfulness, you can come back to this hope and be restored and filled with joy. Share that joy. Peter said, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it” (Acts 2:32). Peter, along with the other apostles made this their life. Well, Jesus called them to do this, but you can see how they were changed because of the proof and hope they had been given. They took this witness relentlessly to the ends of the earth! You have been called too. You have been called to share the hope that you have. And that doesn’t mean you have to travel to distant lands to do so. It doesn’t mean you have to make it your life’s work. But this witness will affect every aspect of your life. The way you live will be different. Your steady confidence through hardship. Your mirror of thanks reflecting God’s goodness. And the way you speak and conduct your life will all be changed. Without tasting, you have your proof. Live in that truth.