Anniversary Service: August 7th 2017: Dave Norbury

Dave Norbury - Aug 2017John 20

We have a gospel and a faith, which to some extent is under attack. There are groups of people in the U.K. who would say our faith is a blind faith with no evidence. I beg to differ.

Our faith is rooted in history. There is objective evidence to what we believe. Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again. We have solid, reliable evidence on which our faith is built.

‘Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.’ (John 20:1). Here we have the reality. Mary Magdalene was a wonderful lady who loved the Lord deeply. Mary had watched the unjust trial and was with Jesus every moment of His awful suffering. She had suffered the trauma of seeing Jesus crucified, losing the one she loved most. She turned up at the tomb and found His body had gone. The stone was taken away to reveal an empty tomb. ‘While it was still dark’ tells us Mary Magdalene had not had much sleep.

Jesus had told his disciples repeatedly that He would die and rise on the third day:

‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ (Luke 9:22).

‘And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.’” (Luke 13:32).

‘For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.” (Luke 18:32-33).

This is pretty clear. It was the third day yet nobody thought, they didn’t believe Jesus would rise from the dead . . . Yet they came to believe. Why? The Bible tells us the disciples saw Him a number of times. They ate with Him, they touched Him. 500 people saw Him at one time.

Some people say they made it up. Let’s examine this. If you were to make it up, the last person you would say Jesus would meet would be a woman. Women in those days were not seen as reliable witnesses and were not even allowed to give evidence in court. Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus, even though she was of low status.

‘Then the other disciples, 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.’ (John 20:8-9). Did Jesus show Himself first to Peter and John as a risen Saviour? No, He showed Himself to Mary Magdalene. What an amazing, wonderful Saviour we have. He broke the cultural norms.

This is powerful, clear evidence, therefore the resurrection happened, then everything is OK. Jesus is really who He says He is. It is really true.

We have a faith that rests in the risen Jesus Christ. ‘But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.’ (John 20:11). Notice the wonderful way John opens this truth to us. Mary Magdalene had been through a terrible trauma. Jesus had gone. She saw two angels in front of her, ‘And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain,’ (John 20:12). She saw Jesus but did not know it was Him, ‘She turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.’ She had two angels in front of her and Jesus behind her. When we’re overwhelmed, remember there are two angels before you and the Lord behind you. You are not alone. Mary Magdalene finally understood when she heard her name being spoken by Jesus. If you could hear Him today, He would be saying your name tenderly. Mary Magdalene then clung to Him as she put her arms around Him, but , ‘Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ (John 20:17).

Our faith experiences God Himself. This is not just objective, it is subjective. You and I, with all our sin, can be forgiven and experience God Himself. Mary held onto Jesus, but Jesus said not to hold on to Him. There are different interpretations of this. In my view you don’t need to hold on to Jesus now because He has ascended. We now have the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a greater experience than holding onto Jesus personally. The Holy Spirit is with us.

Have you known the touch of God on your life? Have you received a glimpse of His glory? There’s a personal, close experience you can know. You and I do not have blind faith. Our faith is rooted in history, it’s a faith that rests in the risen Jesus Christ. He comes to us in His Holy Spirit. He is known to us in a personal, subjective way. Our faith experiences God Himself.

 

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