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MATTHEW 28:1-7

Sunday Night Live Sermons

By Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

A friend of mine at Sydney Rotary Club, came up to me after one of our meetings a couple of years ago and said, "I know you have a great interest in the Australian campaign at Gallipoli and that you took a film crew there and made the first film in the trenches of ANZAC COVE since 1920 when the burial parties arrived. You'll be interested in that I'm going there next week." I asked my friend, Dr Mark Spencer, a Sydney dental surgeon and expert underwater photographer was he doing any underwater photography there. He replied, "Yes, I am taking a team and we hope to identify a sunken Australian submarine that was the first submarine ever to penetrate the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara."

I told Mark I could save him much time and money. I had read the official war history of C.E.W.BEAN, a dozen books on the Anzac campaign, and in the writing of the script for the film we made, "Our Magnificent Defeat", I had never heard of any Australian submarines in the campaign. There were one or two from the English Royal Navy, but I was sure that there were no Australian submarines and I doubted the Australian Navy had a submarine in 1915. Furthermore, the British submariners who had penetrated the Dardanelles were all given Victoria Crosses and were regarded as war-heroes. If Australian submariners had penetrated the Turkish lines, and sunk any of the Turkish or German ships, surely our submariners would also have received Victoria Crosses and I knew none had been awarded. I had seen the old World War 1 chains with massive links and iron netting which the Turks had strung across the Narrows in the Dardanelles to stop any vessel passing.

No - I am sure no Australian submarine did all that! I am a skeptic and very passionate about historical accuracy. I would need some good evidence before I fell for that one! And I am sure that many of you who know something about World War 1, would not swallow that either. A couple of days later I asked the Minister of the Navy, then Browyn Bishop, if she had ever heard of an Australian navy submarine which had in April 1915 harassed and sank Turkish ships during the Gallipoli campaign. The Minister said, "Yes, I have. And I have instructed the Department of the Navy to make some funds available to verify the fact." My skepticism was shaken by such official support. Dr Mark Spencer is here this morning. Come on up Mark and bring those photographs!

Did you find and identify an Australian submarine?
Was it the first to penetrate the Dardanelles?
Did it sink any enemy craft?
Why is it not in our history books?
Why weren't the submariners made heroes?
Did any receive Victoria Crosses?
Now my doubts are satisfied. I haven't been there myself, and I haven't touched it with my hands. I needed some very good evidence to change my mind and I am satisfied because it fits in coherently with everything else I have read and seen and studied and filmed. Now I have seen Mark's photographs and videos. I have read the well-researched book, 'STOKER'S SUBMARINE" by the Australian authors, Fred and Elizabeth Brenchley. Fred is the former editor of the Australian Financial Review and a senior executive with the Fairfax group, and Elizabeth is an academic in history and archaeology. Are you believers as well now?

That was the same issue with Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus. On the first sunrise after the Crucifixion reports came that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Thomas had been there at the Cross. He had seen the Roman cruelty and all the bestiality involved in crucifying a man. Thomas had witnessed the agony of the Roman scourging, the crown of thorns cruelly pressed on His head, the gut-wrenching hammering of the nails into His wrists and ankles, and of His death upon the cross. He had seen the dead body laid in the tomb. Jesus was dead. Thomas knew that for sure!

All Friday night and Saturday and Saturday night he had been depressed and despaired. Now some women had come running up to the disciples and said that Jesus was alive and risen from the dead, and they had spoken to Him. Thomas wrapped his pain and hurt in a cloak of skepticism. Thomas sniffed. That's women for you! He was a man and he knew better. He could take the hurt. But the others supported the women. "The other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" Thomas was a sad skeptic and not easily swayed. He wanted definite proof that Jesus was alive: "Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it." John 20:19-25

The answer was to come to Thomas in a most surprising way!

Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, was not going to take the news from the women who had been at the tomb that first Sunday sunrise after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Even though the women had said they had seen Him and the other disciples were full of the fact that Jesus had appeared to them, Thomas stood his ground. He knew that people did not rise from the dead. Furthermore he had seen Jesus die and had seen His dead body. You don't change your opinion over the dead body when you have seen it as Thomas had. The following Sunday morning, the disciples and friends were again in the Upper Room where they were sharing the bread and wine at the first Communion Service ever held. Thomas was there this time, with them. John 20:26-28 "Though the doors were locked (for fear of the Jews), Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!""

Thomas's skeptism had melted, and firmed into rock firm faith. After His resurrection Jesus appeared to hundreds of people during the next fifty days, and then over several years: To the women John 20:1-18, to Peter later the same day Lk 24:34; to two disciples on Emmaus Road; Lk 24:13-31 to the apostles (Thomas absent); Lk 24:36-45 to the apostles (Thomas present); Jn 20:24-29 to seven by the Lake of Tiberias; Jn 21:1-23 to five hundred in Galilee; 1 Cor 15:6 to James in Jerusalem and Bethany; 1 Cor. 15:7 to many at the Ascension; Acts 1:3-11 to Stephen when he is stoned to death; Acts 7:55 a few years later to Paul near Damascus; Acts 9:3-6 to Paul in the temple Acts 22:17-19 and years later to John on Patmos. Rev 1:10f.

With those appearances the believers' attitudes changed completely. Despair changed into hope. Fear turned into courage. Doubt was converted into faith. The timid became confident. The persecutor became a preacher. The insipid became inspired! A simple fact of history had brought the church into being, and swept it across the world with driving power. No one could ever believe that the Christian church, so indestructible in its nature, so unlimited in its possibilities, so indispensable in its value to the souls of men could ever have sprung from anything that was not absolutely genuine and real.

Jesus Christ was indestructible, and His vitality, power and love flowed into the lives of those who believed in Him and followed His way of sacrifice and service. The resurrection fact made the difference. The Communist rulers of Russia, scoffed at the faith, declared their commitment to atheism, persecuted the church, and lined the Government against the Risen Christ. But once more the meek Galilean has triumphed.

He came to anxious doubt. Only ten disciples saw Jesus that first time. Thomas was absent. When he returned they excitedly told of the appearance of Jesus. Thomas could not explain the difference in them, but one thing was for sure: he wouldn't believe unless he saw it for himself. And in the middle of his expressing such anxious doubts Jesus came to him. Now Thomas sank to his knees in trusting faith. Never again would he doubt. Now he knew. He came to believing faith.

Australians are a skeptical people. These days skepticism is regarded as a sign of intelligence. But it can also be a sign of pig-headed ignorance; of a refusal to face to facts; of assuming that you know everything; of being blindly prejudiced; of disregarding the testimony of eye witnesses; of not searching for yourself.

Like me, many of you did not believe an Australian submarine played an important part in the Gallipoli campaign. But you now know different. You have heard an eye-witnesses. It is the same with the resurrection of Jesus. Open you minds! Read the accounts. Hear the eye-witness testimony. See for yourself. Trust in faith. The first message saying Jesus was risen from the dead, contained a promise: "You will see Him!" Matt 28:7

So Jesus comes today regardless of how we feel. Go back to the Gospels and read them with an open mind. John put it well. John 20: 29-31 "Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

"Biblical Archaeology Review" Feb 1985.
"Jesus Within Judaism." J.H.Charlesworth. SPCK 1988


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