January 23rd 2022: Dave Evans

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John 20:30-31

Church attendance is in decline. We hear a lot about faith, yet it can often be faith without no outward focus, faith in some unknown force or faith in ourselves. Sometimes it can be faith in a philosophy or in a set of beliefs. Sadly, many who take the name of Christian only have some vague things, with no focus or reality about it. Many seem to think that as long as they have faith, everything will be well. John gives us the answer to where true faith needs to find its focus.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

John begins his gospel with a great declaration, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). John then unfolds for us all that it means. Although John has 21 chapters, and chapter 21 is full of Resurrection appearances, he almost seems to come to a climax in the final verses of chapter 20. Thomas wasn’t present when the disciples saw the risen Jesus in the upper room, so refused to believe it and because of that he is known as ‘doubting Thomas.’ Yet that is not where John ends the passage. Thomas is no different from the other disciples when they heard the Resurrection news. Yet John points us to one of the greatest confessions of faith in the New Testament, from Thomas, an assertive statement of Thomas’ faith, ‘My Lord and My God.’

After this, John writes, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

John tells us here what is to be the great foundation of our faith; faith is to be that which is based on this foundation alone – that Jesus is the Christ, and He is the Son of God. The One whose life John has set out in his gospel is no other than the Messiah – the One who would fulfil all His Father’s purposes. He is the One who has been appointed to fill the plan of salvation. This anointed One was the perfect man, the Son of God, equal with the Father. This is John’s great conclusion he wants us to come to. He declares the claims are true. The evidence is overwhelming, even though it’s impossible to write everything Jesus said and did. In spite of that, John is saying, ‘All I have written gives clear evidence that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God.’

What signs have been written? John uses the word ‘sign’ more than any other gospel writer. A sign is a miracle of divine majesty, a declaration of who Jesus is, a signpost to look beyond the miracle to the One who stood before them.

Peter wrote, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know,” (Acts 2:22).

As Jesus performs these miracles, He pointed the crowds to the truth beyond the miracle. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, the people simply wanted their bellies full. But Jesus pointed out it was Him they needed to feed upon.

John 9:35-41, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

Jesus here is pointing out to the man and the Jewish leaders that there was a spiritual sight that was needed. The man worships Him. Here is a silent declaration that He is the Son of God.

As Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, he declared, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

There are many prophecies that John and other gospel writers record to point us to this great truth – that Jesus is the anointed One. John, more than any other writer, points to Jesus as the Messiah. In John 4 we read of Jesus’ meeting with the woman of Samaria, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:23-26).

The Lord Jesus Christ, again and again, as He interacted with the Jewish authorities, they saw the realities of His claims, even though they opposed Him and refused to accept Him. In John 5 we have the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda, after he is healed the Jews challenged the Lord Jesus Christ. They were persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17) John writes, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18)

The Jews saw what Jesus was claiming, yet they rejected Him. In these two verses John seems to sum up, the facts speak for themselves, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31). There is no greater fact than the fact of the Resurrection. What mere man would make this claim – put me to death and in three days I will rise again. Here is a claim that would make Him or break Him. As we read the gospels, we find the truth shines out from the page, ‘He is not here, He is risen.’

The gospel writers and the apostle Paul made this great claim. A man like Paul was writing when multitudes were still alive who had witnessed these things. Remember what Paul could write, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

John says the evidence is clear. So why does John write in this way? “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31). John is writing first of all to believers. How often we feel the pressures that come upon us as believers, which challenge our faith. We have to wrestle with our own doubting and unbelieving hearts. We have to confront Satan’s lies and insinuations. We live in a day and age where there is rampant unbelief around us. The pressure is to conform, to fit in with the world’s views, and our faith can be shaken at times. Satan, just as he did in the garden, he whispers in our ear, ‘Did God really say that? Is the gospel really true? Do you really need to make such a stand?’

When we face such problems, when we face such challenges, John’s exhortation to us is to come back to the gospel, come back and read of the life of your Lord and Saviour, consider again the evidence, read the gospel, gaze into the Saviour’s face, and go on believing. See Him again in all His glory and all His majesty. Follow the signs once more which will take you back to the foundation of your faith. It will remind you of the great truth that Paul declared that there is no other foundation than that which has been laid, Jesus Christ. Here is the foundation which will support you through all the different trials and challenges of life. Here is a foundation to rest upon.

Like the disciples, we can be slow to believe at times. But just as the Lord dealt gently with Thomas and the disciples, so He promises to deal gently with us and raise us up again. Why is it so important that we should consider John’s gospel? “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

When we meet with unbelievers, they want to know, ‘Why do you make so much of the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is He so important? Why do you go on about Him?’ Well, it is for this reason: that it is only in Jesus Christ, it is only in this foundation, it is only in His Name – which means all that He is and all that he has done – that you can find peace with God and life everlasting. Here is the source of true love, life everlasting, life with God, life which brings peace with God, life which brings forgiveness of sin and the prospect of heaven rather than hell. So, that’s why we preach the gospel, that’s why we beseech men and women and boys and girls, to come back to this gospel, to this foundation, to consider the evidence.

We pray that God will open blind eyes, as the Saviour opened blind eyes, that we may see the truth of His words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” For those of us who are believers, those of us who are in local churches, this is an exhortation to the whole church. Do you want to go on knowing God’s blessing? Do you want to know what it is to continue with a living witness to the Saviour? Then, we must listen to these words written in one of the commentaries I was reading. “When the church continues to accept Jesus as the divinely appointed and qualified one, that is, as the Christ, the fulfilment of all the Old Testament hopes and promises, when it continues to recognise Him as the Son of God, in the most exalted sense of the term, it will then continue to have life, everlasting life in His name.”

History tells us when churches gave up this truth, they died. Here is the reason for so many empty chapels – people cease to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His Name. God grant that we may be a people who go on believing, who go on proclaiming the greatness of our Saviour and of His word. Amen.

April 21st 2019: Easter Sunday: Gareth Edwards

gareth-e-sept-2016John 20: 1-10

John, in chapter 19, goes to great lengths to establish Jesus really died. He wants people to know Jesus was dead and buried because there as a theory, a doctrine, which taught that Jesus didn’t really die. So John wants to establish once and for all that Jesus most certainly died and was buried. John does this because he also wants us to know Jesus was raised and alive (chapter 20).

In the opening ten verses of chapter 20 we see John’s insistence that He who was dead is alive. This truth became a cornerstone of the apostles’ teaching. This truth is so important that Paul later says, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:17-20). If the Resurrection is not true, Christianity is untrue. So John takes great care to present conclusive evidence that Jesus rose and is alive. John is like an expert barrister presenting his argument before the jury. His argument is so powerful any counter-argument is simply washed away by the mountain of evidence. The first ten verses describe the initial discovery Jesus was alive. Three points will be made:

  1. This event was unexpected and misunderstood.
    2. John provides us with significant detail that verifies this event.
    3. Belief began to dawn in John’s own heart.

 

  1. One of the things that lends credence to all 4 gospels is the disciples’ utter surprise. We would have expected the disciples to say Jesus rose from death just as they thought He had taught them He would. It would have been quite expected for them to say, ‘Yes, we were in the know. We were expecting it.’ But that’s not what happened. They admit candidly their unbelief. They were shocked at such an unexpected turn of events and misunderstood what had happened. They misunderstood Old Testament prophecies that predicted the Resurrection. Even arriving at the tomb and seeing it empty, they still didn’t understand. Others in the Upper Room were in grief and disarray, utterly demoralised. For Peter, seeing the grave clothes left behind, the penny didn’t drop. He went home wondering (Luke 24:11). It’s the second disciple, in verse 8, who saw and believed.

We have Mary’s words to Peter and John (verse 2). They reveal she and the others believed Jesus’ body was moved by the authorities. The immediate response to the empty tomb was not to rejoice that Jesus was alive, but that it was a conspiracy by the authorities. There was complete misunderstanding. The evidence is misunderstood. You’d have thought they’d have been rightly able to assess, given what they’d been taught. This reluctance to accept the Resurrection is not due to a lack of evidence but stubborn unbelief. Those who don’t believe do so because they don’t want to believe. It is a natural distrust of the human heart to simply refuse to humble yourself because you will not bow in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is God’s grace which opened our eyes to see that Jesus rose from the dead. We believe in the Resurrection because of the glory not because we are clever and have higher spiritual ability. It is not because we are more religious, brought up in a Christian family, having an insight others lack. It’s simply God in His grace has opened our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our hearts to believe.

We need to pray God would open the hearts of those around us that they would believe as we do. Nothing that we do will produce results, it’s only God who saves.

  1. The significant details John gives us. He does so to authenticate his account. He, the second disciple, the one who Jesus loved, includes an incidental note – he’s faster that Peter, he outran Peter. Other details are more significant. The stone was removed from the tomb, the linen cloths were left lying in their place and the face cloth was folded up. All hint at the nature of the Lord’s Resurrection. When Lazarus emerged from the tomb he was wrapped in clothes (John 11:44-55). In contrast, Jesus’ linen cloths were left in the tomb. Lazarus returned with the same physical limitations, but Jesus’ resurrected body could pass through the clothes, leaving them behind.

Why was the stone moved? It’s evident that the stone wasn’t moved to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in, so they could see for themselves the evidence. Similarly, the face cloth, being placed in such a way, shows a real presence of a real physical being who could take hold of and fold a cloth. What we see is Jesus rose to life with a real physical body but without the old limitations. He was resurrected to a higher place of physical existence. Lazarus was returned to his former life, Jesus was resurrected to a life of glory. Jesus rose physically, retaining His human nature fully, but He was raised as a glorified man. It marks not only a victory over death but a total elimination. The glorious truth is Jesus has smashed death and rendered it powerless. He rose, never to die again (Revelation 1:18). His resurrection life if glorious. He sets a precedence for those who will trust Him as their Saviour. In His Resurrection, they see the pattern of their resurrection, for all those who trust in Him. This event causes us to rejoice in the hope to eternal life. We have the most exciting prospect – as Jesus was after His Resurrection, so will we be after ours.

As Mary, Peter and John gazed in amazement at the empty tomb we should bow in wonder, love and praise. There is total victory over sin, hell and death. The symbol of His glory is not a cross on jewellery, it is the symbol of the empty tomb. The details John gives us shows the nature of Jesus’ glorious resurrection.

 

  1. One of the main themes of John’s gospel is the theme of light and darkness. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (John 3), showing a reference that he was in the dark. Judas betrayed Jesus in darkness. In John 12:35-36 we see the repetition of darkness. John symbolically tells us Mary made her way to the tomb while it was still dark. Other writers say she arrived whilst it was dawn. Dark reflects Mary’s despair and unbelief. But in verse 8 John, speaking of himself, says he saw and believed. The light of faith dawns to dispel the darkness of unbelief. With Jesus’ resurrection a new day of faith dawns in John’s heart. Has the light of faith dawned in your soul as you see the empty tomb? Have you come out of the darkness of your unbelief? If not, why not? You are called to walk in the light.

Dear Christian friend, you have come to the light, then walk in it. Become more and more like the Saviour. Rejoice that He has not left you in the darkness of sin and unbelief. Look forward to the joy of heaven above, the Lamb. In glory we won’t be taken up with the splendour of our surroundings but the glory of our risen Lord. Walk in the fullness of His bright light and never in darkness again (Revelation 21:22). The light of faith dawned in John’s heart. Has it dawned in yours? If it has, know you will never walk in darkness again. Be a light in this world. Know there is a day coming when you will see the inexpressible glory of the Lord Himself. The Resurrection is but the beginning of the journey into light. Praise be to His name, our Resurrected Lord.

August 20th 2017: Dave Norbury

John 20: 19-32

Dave-Norbury-Aug 20th 2017The Guardian states that 20,000 messages a day hit us – via email, television, radio etc. They have one single message in terms of spiritual life, ‘We live in a one floored bungalow, there is no heaven and no hell. God keep out.’ Therefore, it is not unusual that there are times when we begin to doubt. Here, in John chapter 20, we have Thomas, always associated as ‘The Doubter.’ We are labelled by the things we can’t do. This is very sad. Doubt is something we all get. Thomas had serious doubts, ‘So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hands into His side, I will never believe.”’ (John 20:25). The truth be known, the disciples had doubts. There are at least three times in the book of Luke when Jesus said He would rise on the third day, yet none of them were reminded of this or understood it. Sometimes we doubt God can get us through difficult situations. Doubt can riddle us, it is real.

Doubt is a leap of faith into something else. Many doubt God’s existence when so many people say there is no God. If you don’t believe there is a God, you believe in something else. If there is no God there is no purpose in life – ultimately you become dust and that’s the end of it. We ought to help people explore what they do believe in.  

What happened to Thomas? ‘On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.’ (John 20:19-20). The disciples were in fear of the Jews. The Bible is honest about it. God understands. However, they were glad when they saw Jesus. If Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then the truth of Christianity is real. Christ died for our sins and rose again. We have a risen Saviour!

Thomas was not with the disciples. We do not know why he wasn’t there. The disciples tell him they have seen the risen Jesus. Then Thomas makes the remarkable statement, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hands into His side, I will never believe.”’ (John 20:25). Thomas expresses his doubt in a very clear way. How would you react to that? The Lord Jesus did not condemn Mary, Peter and John for their doubts. If we have doubts, Jesus doesn’t condemn us, He wants to help us. That’s exactly what He did with Thomas. The disciples were with Thomas for eight day, yet he did not believe them. They may have been frustrated with Thomas. Isn’t God wonderful to give us the example of Thomas? When Jesus came, He didn’t say ‘Thomas, I’ve been waiting for you for eight days!” No, He said, ‘Peace be with you.’ The Lord Jesus is full of grace – kindness we don’t deserve. Then He went straight into the problem, giving Thomas the evidence he wanted, ‘Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”’ (John 20: 27).

The greatest blessings are in the valleys, the storms of life. Jesus gives Thomas all the evidence he needs. ‘Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). This is the greatest statement anyone can ever make. Thomas is a wonderful example of what the Bible is written for – whatever difficulties you are facing, go to His Word, meet Him personally in His Word. Absorb God’s Word day and night. ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delights is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”’ (Psalm 1:1-2).

Listen to the voice of God, not the messages around you. He will meet you in your doubts, He will strengthen you. Trust Him, He will make you safe. (Psalm 3).