He Saw and Believed
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He Saw and Believed

John 20:1–10  (ID: 3359)

The finality of Christ’s burial left His disciples in a state of fear and mourning. But The silence of the grave would not last for long. On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene discovered an empty tomb that proclaimed Jesus’ decisive victory over sin and gave rise to the fledgling faith of all who saw and believed. The Spirit of God, Alistair Begg explains, has the power to raise Christ from the dead and transform mockers and doubters into bold witnesses for Christ.

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to follow along as we now read part of John’s account of the events at the tomb. We have just read in part from Matthew. And some people are unsettled by the fact that Matthew and John are not exactly describing things in the same way. In point of fact, you ought to be encouraged by that; if they all got together and sort of manufactured a story, then it would be a problem with collusion, to tell you the truth. And so there is none of that here at all. You would expect that the reportage would be in eyewitness account, as is given here, and, of course, in Luke’s case, as it was reported to him.

But anyway, we’re going to read the first ten verses of John 20:

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.”


Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

The King who had arrived on a donkey on what we refer to as Palm Sunday was by Friday evening a corpse in a tomb. That is what is reported by the gospel writers. That is what is confirmed by both Jewish and Roman historians. It is also very clear that the Romans did not allow criminals to be buried. They actually wanted them left so that vultures would eat them: the culminating indignity and shame of such a cruel death. The Jews didn’t allow the body of someone who had been crucified to be buried in a family grave.

And it is that, then, that provides the context for the way in which Jesus was laid in a tomb in which no one had ever been laid. It is that which falls to this lovely man, Joseph of Arimathea, there in 19:38, who “was a disciple of Jesus,” and then these amazing words, “but secretly.” “A disciple of Jesus, but secretly.” And he was actually joined in this endeavor by another man who, I think, himself had become something of a secret disciple. This being, of course, Nicodemus, the one who had gone in chapter 3 of John to visit Jesus, but he had done so “by night.”[1] And now, in this context, it would appear that love for Jesus had overcome their secrecy—that they had decided, “No, we don’t care who knows. We are happy. We are going to do this, for we love Christ.”

I want just to mention that in passing, because I think it is distinctly possible that there are a number of people who, week by week—perhaps I have men in mind, I don’t know why—men who as yet are essentially secret disciples. That you, for whatever reason, have never come to the point where either that you would step forward and be baptized, or that you would be prepared to let your colleagues at work know, or perhaps even your wife or your children—to be able to say to them, “I am an unashamed follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Well, maybe today will prove to be such an occasion for some.

The two men, however, take the body of Jesus down from the cross, and they leave it in the tomb. And therefore, the picture that we have is of all of the silence of the graveyard. All of the silence of the tomb. Jesus’ body lay still and silent there—but, of course, as we read on, not for long. Not for long. And this morning we join literally millions around the world who, all these years later, are saying to one another and declaring before any who choose to hear our conviction that Jesus is actually alive.

When Jesus walked out of the tomb, he left death behind for himself and for all who believe.

We might have imagined that somehow or another the story would have petered out, gone away—certainly, in a kind of culture such as our own. And yet, fascinatingly—and some of you will have viewed this; I haven’t, only a tiny piece of it—but you will have watched the History Channel and the eight-part docudrama entitled Jesus: [His] Life, portrayed through the eyes of various individuals who had dealings with Jesus. Caiaphas, for example, his mother, and so on; Peter, and others too. I was intrigued by what the writer of the docudrama had to say. He said, “You know, irrespective of what people believe about these things, I anticipate,” he says, “it having a significant impact, because it is a subject that addresses big questions.” So there is a profit margin, if you like. There is a viewing audience. There is a sense of interest. Fascinating that a Galilean carpenter who was buried in this way would be attracting the attention of literally millions and millions of people around the world. He went on to say—that is, the docudrama man—“We all crave explanation about human existence. Why do people die? Why is our life the way it is? What will happen afterwards?” And then he says, almost getting it right, “Jesus was a teacher who answered those questions.”

Well, no, actually, the Bible says that Jesus is the answer to those questions. He did not come merely to teach us things, but he came in order to declare the purpose of the Father. In other words, the writer says everybody is interested about death and dying—even though we try and run away from it. So we are interested. He’s asking the question, “Why do people die?” The Bible gives a very clear answer. The Bible says that the cause of death is sin—that death came into the world because of sin, and that is why we all die.[2] You remember, in the garden God says, “If you disobey me and eat of this, then you will surely die.”[3] And people read that and they say, “But, of course, they didn’t die. They went on living.” Yes, physically they did, eventually to die. But they were now alienated from God. They had been made to love and trust and obey God, to commune with God, to know God as a friend, but now they’re banished from the garden. And into their immediate little world comes suffering and pain and death.

But here’s the intriguing thing: Jesus did not sin. So if sin is the cause of death, why then did Jesus die? Well, the answer to that, again, is given to us in the Bible—that God’s plan from all of eternity was a plan of salvation that Jesus would take the place of sinners.

If you have Sunday school in your background and you were well taught, surely you were not able to miss the story of Abraham and Isaac, and how there in Genesis, Abraham is instructed to take his only son Isaac, and take him up onto the mountain that God has said, and there he is to offer him as a sacrifice. And we read that in awe and in wonder. We recoil from it, as Abraham would recoil from it, and as they separated from their friends and servants and as they make the journey now alone, and as Isaac says to his father, “Well, we’ve got the provision here for the fire and everything, but we haven’t got a sacrifice.” And Abraham says, “Son, the Lord himself will provide a sacrifice,” all the time knowing that Isaac was to be the sacrifice—and yet, all the time believing that God could raise someone from the dead.[4] And of course, what happens? Exactly what Abraham said happens. He turns and he looks, and there is a creature there caught in the thicket. And Isaac is removed from the place of sacrifice and of death, and the creature is placed on there.[5] What is being taught us there, in the very first book of the Bible, is the fact that God has a plan, a sacrifice for sin. Isaac doesn’t need to die, and you don’t need to die, and I don’t need to die, because a sinless Savior died. That’s the message. It’s a good message!

Sin was such that, for us, death captures us. Death wasn’t strong enough to keep Jesus a prisoner for more than a couple of days. It’s an amazing triumph. It’s as if Jesus just snapped the ropes that had bound him and that they’d used to tie him up, as it were, and he walks out. By the time Peter is preaching on the day of Pentecost, when all the pennies have dropped and he’s understood things, he says to the listening audience, he says, “Listen, it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”[6] It wasn’t even possible that he could have been consumed by death. When Jesus walked out of the tomb, he left death behind for himself and for all who believe.

Earlier in John’s Gospel, you have the record in chapter 11 of a previous resurrection. If you came this morning thinking there was only one resurrection, no, there was a resurrection before the resurrection of Jesus. There was the resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus was resurrected, to die again; Jesus was resurrected, never to die again. And on that occasion, remember, Jesus had said to Martha, “Martha, listen, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me shall live, and even though he dies and believes in me, he will never die.”[7] And then he said to her, “Do you believe this?”[8]

That’s really what Jesus says to each one of us this morning. We may have come as a family. We may come as a group. We may be old, young, smart, not so smart. And he comes, as it were, down the row, and he says, “Now, listen, I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this? Do you believe it?” Not in terms of mental assent but in terms of actual, believing, personal trust and confidence.

You see, the writer of this gospel, John himself, is all about believing. When you read it, he’s saying it again and again. He describes his own coming to believe. He’s not writing, then, in the gospel to simply inform us, nor is he writing to intrigue us, nor is he writing to inspire us. He is writing because he wants us to be converted—not intrigued, informed, inspired, but converted.

Now, there will be people who walk out of here, as they do on every occasion on a Sunday, and they’ll say something like that: “You know, that was quite intriguing.” Or they’ll say, “That was very informative,” or “I found that quite inspiring.” Well, fine. But that’s not the issue. John makes that perfectly clear. “These [things] are written,” he says at the end of chapter 20, in order “that you [might] believe … and that by believing you [might] have life in his name.”[9]

Now, just look at the text, if your Bible is open, and we’ll just run through it quickly to make sure that we’re not missing anything, and then I want to make a couple of statements on the strength of that. All through Saturday—through the Jewish Sabbath—all through Saturday, Christ is there in the tomb. No one is visiting; at least, there is no reporting of anyone visiting. Nobody is, if you like, bringing flowers to place by the grave, as we would do, often after the burial of a loved one. But early next morning, we’re told here that “while it was still dark,” Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. There’s a whole sermon here about Mary Magdalene that we will leave alone. Because the fantastic thing about Mary Magdalene is that her life was incredibly dark. Her life was so dark, she didn’t think she could ever get out of her predicament until the light of Jesus shone in. And now the lady whose life was once dark but has been flooded with light comes to the tomb under the cover of darkness. And she discovers what she had never expected—neither she nor any of the rest of them had expected. What is that? Well, the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

If you have never really considered this, you may be of the opinion that somehow or another, the followers of Jesus had, if you like, bought the whole package. And so they were simply waiting for Easter Sunday to come along, they were keenly looking forward to it, and they were going to have a wonderful time. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were hiding! They were disconsolate! As far as they were concerned, the whole thing had collapsed. It had come to a sorry end. The bravest of the men were actually women. And so it is that the women lead the charge, the men following behind.

We’re told that she ran—verse 2: “So she ran.” I would have run as well, and I think you would too. But she didn’t just run away; she ran “to Simon Peter and [to] the other disciple.” Note that little phrase “the other disciple.” It’s how John describes himself. It seems sort of quite self-deprecating, doesn’t it? You know, he doesn’t say, “John, because it’s me, it’s my…”

But you know, I’ve been reading this all week, and I don’t know whether there’s any validity in what I’m going to point out to you, but I’ll point it out to you anyway. She explains to them what she assumes—that somebody has taken Jesus out of the tomb: “They”—whoever “they” are—“have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do[n’t] know where they have laid him.” So, having explained that—and one of the other gospel writers, you will remember, says that the initial reaction on the part of Peter and the others was to say, “Frankly, you’re out of your mind. You know, something’s wrong with you.”[10] But she’s able to convince them, enough that they would set out running.

So, there in verse 3: “So Peter went out”—notice—“with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” So, for whatever reason, John wants us to know that he can run faster than Peter—that Peter set off first, but John beat him. For those of you who like to do, you know, hundred-yard sprints, there’s a little intrigue in here. And so “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.”

John’s faith is grounded in what he sees and in what he does not see. But he’s honest enough to tell us that at the point of the resurrection, he had not put two and two together.

And we’re told in just three verbs that he stooped, he looked in, and he saw: “He saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did[n’t] go in.” Then Simon Peter catches him up, and he goes straight into the tomb. If you know anything of Simon, this is no surprise. Simon would be like, “I’m going in, even if you don’t go in!” And in he goes. And his observation confirms the fact of the linen cloths, the graveclothes, lying there, and the separation of the face cloth which had been on the head of Jesus, and so on.

Now, some of you get very energized about these little details. I know, because you’ve spoken to me about them. You’ve sent me pieces about the graveclothes: “And one piece was there, and one piece was there, and that piece was this, and this and that.” And I appreciate that. I like that. It’s very kind of you to send it to me. And there is great value in that stuff. But essentially, what is being conveyed here is that what has happened to Jesus is vastly different from what happened to Lazarus. Because, remember, when he calls Lazarus forth from the tomb—John chapter 11—John records for us that Lazarus, “the man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.” And Jesus said to the people, “Unbind him, and let him go.”[11] Now here we are in the tomb of Jesus: no reason for unbinding, no reason for somebody to have to do this for Christ. The details of it are mysterious; the fact of it is undeniable. And we are told that it is this which gives rise to the fledgling faith of John. “Then the other disciple,” verse 8, “who had reached the tomb first”—you already told us that, John, but apparently it’s very important to you—“then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first”—got you—“also went in, and he saw and [he] believed.”

So John’s faith is grounded in what he sees and in what he does not see. He’s honest enough to tell us that at that point he had not put two and two together. In other words, remember that John is writing this gospel years after these events have transpired. So what he’s saying is this: “In the writing of the gospel now, I know what I didn’t know then on that day”—much in the same way as you have at the end of Luke’s Gospel, remember, where Jesus says to the disconsolate disciples, “How slow you are to believe all that the prophets have written.”[12] It’s quite remarkable, isn’t it, that Jesus explained this to them on multiple occasions, but they still did not understand the Scriptures? It’s a bit, again, like some of you here this morning. Myself and my colleagues have been seeking to explain it to you for a long, long time, but still you do not understand the Scriptures. How mysterious. Quite amazing.

Well, the tomb is empty, and so “the disciples went back to their homes.” And every boy under the age of twelve is saying, “And that’s what I’m looking forward to as well, Pastor Begg.” That’s fine. And so we will go back to our homes—in what state, regarding faith and belief? That’s the question.

You see, when Paul mentions the resurrection at the end of his address in Acts chapter 17, when he’s speaking to the thinking population of Athens, when he gets to the issue of the resurrection, we’re told that the response was threefold. Immediately, some people mocked. Some people then said, “Well, perhaps you could give another talk on this sometime. We’d like to think about it.” And some people believed.[13] Now, let me take those three responses, frame them briefly, and ask you to ask yourself, “Into which category do I fall?” That is, into which category do you fall? I know which category in which I fall.

So, response number one. Instead of saying, “they mocked him,” we’re going to call response number one, “Would you believe it?” “Would you believe it?” When I came to America in 1983 and made all sorts of new friends, I made the friend of an older man, and this was one of his clichés. He used to say it all the time, in a very sort of “Cleveland” voice: “Would ya believe it?” You know. “Would ya believe it?” he used to say. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to believe it or not believe it. I didn’t know what he meant. “Would ya believe it?” I think he meant, “You’re not supposed to believe it,” but I didn’t know, so sometimes I said, “Yeah, I think so,” and he said, “No, you shouldn’t!” I said, “No, I don’t. I don’t believe it, no, of course not.” But he had me upside down. “Would ya believe it?” It was a way of saying, “Nobody in his right mind believes this!” It’s the response of incredulity, if you like. It’s the response of skepticism. It’s the response, probably, of some of you to this point in your life. You find yourself saying, “Would you believe it? I think I’ve got myself in a room where people actually believe in the physical, literal bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the grave.” Yes, you have.

But what would you have as an alternative? Some of the suggestions that are offered up, trotted out every year, the same stories? “The reason that the tomb was empty was because,” they say, “the ladies went to the wrong tomb.” Must have been a man who wrote that. That is sexist! That is politically incorrect. That is the caricature: “My wife could get lost in an elevator”—that kind of thing, right? I didn’t say she could. It’s a description. But you get the point. Give the women some credit, please! And if, for example, they did show up at the wrong tomb, then they could have gone to Joseph and said, “Hey, we were clearly at the wrong tomb. Where exactly is that new tomb?”

Some say he was stolen by his enemies. No motive. All they wanted was a body so that they could produce the body in Jerusalem and say, “Look, his folks are telling lies. He’s dead. He’s as dead as a doornail.” Some want to suggest that Jesus was stolen by his friends. In fact, the authorities were concerned about that. They said, “We want to put a guard over this tomb, in case his friends come and steal him away and make people believe that he’s actually alive, even though he’s really dead.”[14] Well, they didn’t understand his friends. Because his friends weren’t about going to steal the body—and, incidentally, what a job they must have done of it. Seventy-five pounds of spices enwrapping the body, with all of these cloths. And for whatever reason, they decided, “What we’ll do is, we’ll just unwind them all, and we’ll disengage it all. And then we’ll put them all back, as if…” You say to yourself, “Would ya believe it? Would ya?”

I have to be quickened by the Holy Spirit before I can believe. The faith with which I believe and trust is only mine because God has created it within my heart.

Some apparently do. Let me tell you why: because you so desperately want any kind of explanation that relieves you of the responsibility of considering the possibility that Jesus Christ is the very person that he claimed to be, that he is alive, and that you’re going to reckon with him. It’s like Aldous Huxley, when he says, “I had a reason for my atheism. I decided I did not want to believe in God, because it proved to be for me a freedom, both sexually and politically. Accountable to no God; therefore, I can believe and do as I please.”[15] Would you believe it?

Response number two: the pondering response, not the incredulous response. You said to yourself for a moment, “Can I believe this?” “Can I believe this?” This is the response, if you like, of personal inquiry—of thinking, examining, pondering. In other words, it is a response which takes the Bible seriously, which realizes that in the reading of the Bible, it’s not a call to some emotional search, but it’s a call to consider what is placed there. In fact, what happens when we start to really read the Bible with an eye of incipient faith is that we might find ourselves saying, as Pilate eventually said, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”[16] You remember he says that? “I can find nothing wrong with this man,” he says. “You keep coming here with all these charges against him. I’m gonna wash my hands of the whole affair, but what do you want me to do with Jesus? The Anointed One. The Messiah of God. What will I do with Jesus?”[17] Well, there’s the question, isn’t it? What are you going to do with Jesus?

You see, we ought not to think that somehow or another we can look into ourselves, into the treasure chest of our existence, and push aside, as it were, unbelief and take off the shelf belief: “Oh yeah. This is a sort of transaction. God, you do your part, and I will do my part.” Here’s the real deal: we can’t. You see, the answer to the question “Can I believe?” is, first of all, no. Why? Because the Bible says that we’re dead in our trespasses and in our sins.[18] So the only way a man or a woman ever comes to believe is a result of the quickening work of the Holy Spirit. I have to be quickened before I can believe. The faith with which I believe and trust is only mine because God has created it within my heart. Now, if you think about that for a moment, it will make perfect sense to you. You say to yourself, “Why is it that I could have come to this church so many times, sit right in the same place, with this same person, and this person believes, hearing the exact same thing, and I do not? Can I believe it?”

The last response: “I do believe it.” Or better still, “I believe him.” Later in this chapter, John records for us the encounter between Jesus and Thomas. And some of us, perhaps, are a lot like Thomas. We say to ourselves, “Of all the followers of Jesus with whom I identify, I think I’m mostly like Thomas.” “I’m not going to believe,” he said, “unless I can do this.” And Jesus says, “Well then, fine, put your finger here; put out your hand, place it in my side. Don’t disbelieve, but believe.”[19]

And “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ [And] Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you[’ve] seen me?’” The answer to that is really yes. Then he says, “[Listen.] Blessed are those who have not seen and yet … [believe].”[20] When Peter writes to the scattered believers of his day, he says this to them: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and [you] rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”[21]

You see, for us this morning, it is not that faith comes by sight but that faith comes by what is heard—or, if you like, by what is read. “Faith comes [by] hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”[22] “Through the word of Christ.” You can hear my word right now. But I could preach to you till my lungs gave out, and still you would never believe—unless you hear the word of Christ. You say, “Well, what do you mean by that? You talking about something spooky?” No, not spooky. “Something supernatural?” Definitely.

You remember when Nicodemus, back in chapter 3, comes to Jesus, and he has these inquiries about Jesus—“You’re a teacher sent from God, because no one would ever do the things you’ve been able to do”—Jesus cuts to the chase and he says, “You know, you need a heart transplant, Nicodemus. You need to be born again. If you’re not born again, you can’t see the kingdom of God, and you can’t enter the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus, of course, answers in a very physical way, and Jesus explains to him, “Listen, we’re not talking in physical terms; we’re talking in spiritual terms.” And then he says to him, he says, “You know what, Nicodemus? The wind blows where it wills. And we can’t tell where it’s coming from or where it’s going to.” And then he says, “Such is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”[23] In other words, this is a profound mystery. John’s emphasis is not simply on believing that what Jesus said is true but actually trusting him as a personal Savior.

You see, it is the Spirit of God that brings God’s Word to our hearts. Again—and this is still in John’s Gospel, earlier in 16, when Jesus is explaining to his disciples that he’s going to go away, and when he goes away the Holy Spirit will come. And he says, “And when the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world of the meaning of sin. He will convince the world of the nature of goodness and of the significance of judgment.”[24] “He will expose their sin,” he says, “because they do not believe in me.”[25]

Now, you think about that for just a moment. There is no doubt that unbelief is the great sin. But surely Jesus is saying something at least along with that: “He will expose their sin because they do not believe in me. Because the only way they will come to believe in me is to believe in me as I am—namely, a Savior. And if they are not aware of their sin, then there is no reason for them to have a Savior.”

And that, you see, is largely where our congregation is, Sunday by Sunday. All these lovely people—friends and neighbors—in this great city of Cleveland, living our lives every day, as if somehow or another a good God, if he exists, will reward nice people like us if we just do our best. When in actual fact, the story of the Bible is something vastly different. It’s mercy on the part of God, it’s grace on the part of God, to convict us of our sin.

The story of Jesus is not the story of him becoming your life coach. It is the story of Jesus becoming your Savior.

I was thinking about it just in between the services. I was thinking about my urologist, way back in 2004 and ’05 and ’06. And how one morning he called me up in ’07, and he says, “You know, Alistair, I’m going to retire. And I want you to come in and see me, and I want to biopsy you. Because I don’t want to retire and discover that I missed cancer in you. Therefore, let me biopsy you.” My immediate response was, “Does it hurt?” He said, “I won’t hurt you.” Well, what a mercy it was. That was 2007. Ironically, my urologist died of prostate cancer a few years ago. I thought about it. I said, “He saved others, but himself he could not save.” That’s Jesus.

“Come down from the cross if you’re the Christ. Why are you staying up there?”[26]

“Because I love you. Because in eternity past, along with the Father and the Spirit, we determined that this should be the case.”

It is God’s Spirit that brings home to us God’s Word to show us what we are. You see, on your own—on our own this morning—any one of us is able to make these sort of deductions and expressions. You find people saying, you know, “I’m really fed up with things the way they are,” or “I have failed to reach my goals,” or “I have let myself down, and I’ve let others down.” And you get this superficial Easter story which goes, “Well, that’s nice you would mention that. But here’s the good news: Jesus gives hope, and have a great day, and get a daffodil on the way out the door, all right?” You walk out the door and say, “That’s the biggest chronicle of despair I have ever heard.”

The story of Jesus is not the story of him becoming your life coach. It is the story of Jesus becoming your Savior. That’s why he convicts of sin. We sin by thinking, wanting, and doing what displeases God. Our sin deserves to be punished. Only someone who doesn’t deserve to be punished can take our place. And the Lord Jesus was prepared to suffer and die so that we could be saved from our sins. “It was his love for me that nailed him to the tree, to die in agony for all my sin.”[27]

Would you believe it? Can I believe it? I believe it!

There’s only one way to become a Christian. Did you know that? You don’t become a Christian by having somebody do something for you. You don’t become a Christian as a result of some religious exercise on the outside. To become a Christian means to trust in Jesus as our Savior, to acknowledge that we need him because we’re sinful, to acknowledge that we can’t save ourselves, to acknowledge that we don’t deserve his love nor salvation, but that he loves us and promises to save everyone who trusts in him. Perhaps today you’ll be part of that company.

Let’s just have a moment of silent prayer.

We’re all going to leave in a moment or two, and we scatter, and so many things can take our minds away. Let me say to you that if you are in that center category, consider this: please take a copy of the New Testament or a copy of the Gospel of John away with you, and read the Bible. See what God will say to you. And if you’re sitting here saying, “Well, I actually do believe. I want to believe. What shall I say?”—well, let me suggest to you something along these lines; just from where you sit and in your heart will be sufficient:

Lord Jesus Christ, I confess that I’m a guilty, lost, helpless sinner. I want you to save me, to take your rightful place as Lord of my life. I want to trust in your blood, shed for sinners. And I’m coming to you just as I am, nothing to plead in my defense. Please take me, and make me all that you want me to be. Amen.


[1] John 3:2 (ESV).

[2] See Romans 5:12.

[3] Genesis 2:17 (paraphrased).

[4] See Hebrews 11:17–19.

[5] See Genesis 22:1–14.

[6] Acts 2:24 (paraphrased).

[7] John 11:25–26 (paraphrased).

[8] John 11:26 (ESV).

[9] John 20:31 (ESV).

[10] See Mark 16:13–14; Luke 24:10–11.

[11] John 11:44 (ESV).

[12] Luke 24:25 (paraphrased).

[13] See Acts 17:32–34.

[14] See Matthew 27:62–66.

[15] Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods Employed for Their Realization (New York: Harper, 1937), 312, 316. Paraphrased.

[16] Matthew 27:22 (ESV).

[17] Matthew 27:22–26 (paraphrased).

[18] See Ephesians 2:1.

[19] John 20:24–27 (paraphrased).

[20] John 20:28–29 (ESV).

[21] 1 Peter 1:8–9 (ESV).

[22] Romans 10:17 (ESV).

[23] John 3:2–8 (paraphrased).

[24] John 16:8 (paraphrased).

[25] John 16:9 (Phillips).

[26] Matthew 27:42–44 (paraphrased).

[27] Norman J. Clayton, “For All My Sin” (1943).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.