Sermon April 18
What just happened?
1 John 3:1-7
Our Gospel readings at this season are jumping around the different gospel accounts, filling in a multi-dimensional picture. Some of today’s reading was in the story from last week, but here we see a different light thrown on it.
The passage immediately before today’s account in Luke is the road to Emmaus, where Jesus travels with two disheartened disciples. He tells them all about the scriptures referring to the Messiah, then as he breaks bread for their meal, disappears from their view. The disciples rush back to the others and tell them, breathlessly, all that they had heard, and that their hearts were burning within their chests as they listened to Jesus. They were also talking about Simon’s encounter with Jesus.
Can you imagine the hope springing up within them? ‘I saw him, I saw him, he’s not dead, it’s all true! He’s alive!’
Those who hadn’t seen Jesus would have been excited but wondering, and suddenly, there Jesus is, standing in their midst! ‘Peace be with you, he says. Hi guys.’ Just an ordinary greeting.
Oh Hi Jesus, we were just talking about you, wait, what??!!!
The very person they had been hoping was still alive, or brought back to life, was there! They were shocked and terrified! Whenever the normal way of life, of physics, of the laws of nature, is turned upside down, it messes with our heads. The supernatural breaking into our lives is fascinating but really scary. This was
the reaction the disciples had.
Jesus was compassionate to them and knew that they needed more than the proof of their eyes and ears. They needed to touch him. So he showed them his wounds and they knew then that this was not a mere ghost, not a disembodied spirit, but a real flesh-and-blood man, Jesus, alive and well! But with these horrible wounds in his hands, feet and side.
The next bit shows us that they were no longer terrified – ‘while in their joy they were still wondering.’ The Jesus does a very human thing – he asks if there is anything to eat. A ghost would not need food. This also shows that Jesus is still fully human, though he has taken up again his fully divine nature too. The humanity of Jesus is really important for us, his followers, because it connects him to our life experiences, the good, the bad, the joyful and the sorrowful.
Jesus then tells them the same summary of the scriptures that he had explained on the road to Emmaus, and finally it all makes sense. The disciples know now that he really is the messiah, the chosen one, God come to earth in human form! Jesus is real and alive!
Over the centuries, people have tried to discredit Jesus as being a character from fiction, but there are so many accounts from his life, death and resurrection that his life is established as a fact without a doubt. One of those who investigated was Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist, who decided to treat the story of Jesus as any other subject under very sceptical investigation. Strobel set out to discredit Jesus, to prove that it was all a fiction, but in his research he could only with all honesty come to one conclusion. The evidence was overwhelming that
Jesus really did live and die and rise again. In the course of this work Strobel became a Christian, and wrote a book called ‘The case for Christ” -it is a good read.
When we know the reality of Jesus, it changes our lives. This is not news to most of us – we have heard this account many times, and have been following Jesus for years.
Sometimes though it can be hard to trust God to listen to us.
Sometimes prayer seems to go unanswered. Someone described it to me recently as trying to call God, but no one picks up the phone. It can seem as if our prayers are going into a space where they don’t get anywhere. This can be especially true where there is sickness and distress that just never seems to go away, when prayers for healing are left unanswered, where nothing seems to change.
This is where faith comes in. Faith means trusting in God’s healing and resurrection love even when we don’t see it.
We are in an in-between season. In the Epistle of John he describes it like this: ‘Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.’
If we can trust that we are children of God, we can trust in the future. If you’re anything like me you might be curious and even impatient to see what is in store for our future. It’s a bit like when you’re a kid and you know that Mum has put the Christmas presents in the high cupboard and you will just have to wait to see what is there!
John reassures us: ‘What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.’
Isn’t this exciting? We will see Jesus as he is! Maybe he will be like an angel, gleaming white with light. He might be seated at the right hand of God! He might be on a rainbow throne!
This hope that we have in him makes us pure.
Pure doesn’t just mean not havingbad thoughts. Think of pure spring water, containing no additives or contaminants. Or pure gold, with no extra chemicals. Being pure followers of Jesus means that everything we do can be measured up against the standard of Christ himself, acting in pure love to everyone, with no inconsistencies.
This is a challenge for mature Christians, to be completely Godly in all we do, wherever we are. It can be all too easy to gossip, or think unkind thoughts, or to act out of anger. We are human, we are part of a fallen world. From the reading, “And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” To purify ourselves is an ongoing process. There will be times when we fall short, when we don’t make it. That’s why we have the confession at the beginning of the service, to bring those times to God for forgiveness.
That’s why Jesus said ‘that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in the Messiah’s name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’
Repentance and forgiveness go together – it is hard to forgive someone who is not sorry. Jesus asked the disciples to start where they were, in Jerusalem. He is
asking us this Easter tide to start where we are too, with those around us, to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins. It’s not easy, the world hates us for having this message. May Jesus walk with us all as we rise to this challenge once again.