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).