Sunday 31st May 2020
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Sunday 24th May 2020
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Sunday 17th May 2020
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Sunday 10th May 2020
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Sunday 3rd May 2020
John 21 v 15-15
If we were to go back into Matthew 22, Jesus has again astonished the crowds with His teaching, and this prompted an expert in the law to ask Him, "which is the greatest commandment in the law?" Jesus' reply, was no-doubt the same huge challenge for this man, as it is for us today. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."
The love Jesus is speaking of here is what the Greeks defined in their different interpretations of the word love, as Agape love. Seen perfectly in God's love for us. A love that's unconditional, that doesn't expect anything in return. It's love that's not rooted in affection, neither is it the sort of cold religious love that many think characterises God. Agape love is truly altruistic, its seen perfectly in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, where for His love for you and me, as unworthy of God’s love as we are, Jesus chose to step into our place, and take the punishment we deserve for sinning against God.
But there's also another definition in the N T Greek for love, and that's Philia. A love between friends, a strong bond between two people who perhaps share common values, interests and activities. It's a word for love commonly found throughout the NT.
And these two words Agape, and Philia play a key part in Jesus reinstating Peter. Firstly; and as it is for each of us when we sin against God, we need His forgiveness, in Peters case from the three times he denied ever knowing Jesus. Then having been forgiven, Peter, like us, is called to live a Holy life. Heb 12 v 14 "Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord."
The great challenge Jesus gave to Peter, and now to us, is to feed, tend and care for Christ's Church, just as Jesus the head shepherd faithfully cared for His flock, leading them, teaching them and caring for them. Now Peter is to take on that responsibility.
The responsibility to shepherd Christ's sheep didn't end when Peter was martyred for his faith, it's to be picked up by each of us, but as with Peter, our discipleship, our commitment to Christ, is determined by how we love Him, gauged by what Jesus says to us in Mark 8.
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow me."
I believe there's three things that we see in John 21 v 15-25, that are there in Mark 8. Denying self. In other words the cost of discipleship in feeding and caring for Christ's sheep. Taking up our cross. As Peter literally did, being led to where he didn't want to go. So; like Him we may find ourselves being led where we don't want to go, but in submission to Christ's will, are we prepared to glorify God in whatever way He calls us to do. Then thirdly; following Jesus. Surely means us following on by doing all that Jesus did, something that's only possible when we submit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. Look firstly at v 15-17.
Jesus reinstates Peter
We saw last week how when Peter and the rest of the disciples came ashore from their unscheduled fishing trip, there was a charcoal fire burning, the smell of the fire something that no-doubt prompted Peter to think back to that fateful night when Jesus was arrested, when Peter had denied ever knowing Jesus.
V 15 "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" The more than these, probably refers to the other disciples, because here's Peter, who'd once boldly claimed "that even if all the others deserted Jesus, he wouldn't, that he was prepared to die with Jesus." And I believe Peter's contrition, his unworthiness before the Lord is seen in the answers he gives to Jesus' questions. "Do you love me?"
Theologian John MacArthur suggests, as do others, that Peter may have been reluctant in his heart before the Lord to claim absolute supreme devotion to Christ, Agape love, as he'd publicly denied Jesus, and as he reflected on his life before, he knew it didn't fully support the claims he'd made before the Lord of supreme devotion to Him.
Three years before, when Peter came to Jesus, Jesus looked at him and said. "You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas." Peter, which in Aramaic meant ROCK. But notice here, Jesus goes back to using Peter's family name Simon, the name he was known by before coming to Christ, before leaving everything to follow Jesus. The word for love Jesus uses here, is Agape. In other words Jesus is challenging Peter. Did he possess in his heart, the same unconditional love that Jesus had for him, the same love He has for us today. A love that was prepared to forsake self, and lay down his life for us.
In Jesus' famous I AM quotes, He said, "I Am the Good Shepherd," and when we go back into John 10, we see just why Jesus asked Peter if he possessed Agape love for Him, because that would be seen in his love for others.
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away."
The question for Peter, is the same question for each of us, me included to reflect on today. How much do we love Jesus? Enough to really feed, tend and care for Christ's sheep; with that same Love he has for us. The task may be difficult and challenging, but we belong to Christ, we're not like an unloving hired hand, who runs away when trouble comes, but we're to be prepared to stand, in Christ's strength, against whatever Satan might throw at us.
"Feed my lambs." We get the idea here when Jesus is talking about lambs, that youngsters may have been in His mind. Or; perhaps, New Christians. Although God has brought about a work of regeneration in their lives, they're still young in their faith, and need nurturing.
So; how are we, as the Church, in this secular society of ours looking to feed our lambs today? Or; for that matter nurturing young Christians, who're eager to learn. How are we ensuring their lives are becoming rooted in Christ and in no other?
Again; using the same Agape term for love, Jesus asks Peter a second time. "Simon Son of John, do you love me?" Peter's response, "Yes Lord you know that I love you." This time Peter's call is to tend, or, take care of Christ's sheep.
Matthew 16 v 18. Peter was the one Jesus said He would build His church on. He's being called here by Jesus to be totally devoted to the task of being Christ's under shepherd in tending the flock. Like us, Peter could only do that if he was totally committed to serving Christ, and doing His will. And what Jesus required of Peter, He now requires of each of us today.
Three times Peter denied knowing Christ, now Jesus asks him a third time, "Do you love me." This time He uses the word Philia, a word that signified something less than total devotion. Even bringing into question the level of love Peter thought he was safe in claiming before Jesus. But again with it comes the same command. "Feed my sheep."
John records that Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked him three times if he loved him. I'm sure Peter probably felt Jesus had made His point challenging his commitment to Christ, and each time Peter's answered "you know that I love you."
Like the different word's used by Jesus and Peter for love in these verses. So there are also different words in the Greek in Peter's response, the word KNOW. "You know that I love you," John reminds us early on in this gospel that Jesus does indeed know the hearts of all men. Peter's, as well as each of ours today.
We know that around that fire, Peter found forgiveness from Jesus, but to help Him stand firm in the future, Jesus challenged him three times to examine his heart.
Something Jesus may well be doing in us. Challenging, just how much we love Jesus ourselves today? Are we prepared to love Him more than v 15, whatever the "these," might have been for Peter, in order to properly feed, care and tend God’s sheep, the church? For Peter, huge challenges lay ahead, especially the challenge of knowing that after he'd served Christ, like the Lord Jesus, he would martyred. Read v 18-19.
Laying down our lives for Christ
From the moment God chose us out of the world to belong to Him. His call on us has been for us to love Him. Expressed in faithfully serving Him in the world in any way He chooses for us to serve. For some, they may be called to evangelism, either here or overseas. For others, after years of study to become doctors or surgeons, instead of them earning huge salaries, being prepared to serve in organisations like Leprosy Mission, or other Christian medical charities.
But like Peter, that means us truly Loving Christ, with a single minded love that puts His interests first, and not ours. The way of the cross challenges us each day to submit our lives to Him, being prepared to lay down our lives for Him, if in doing so that brings glory to His name. Around 60 AD there was a fire in Rome. The Emperor Nero was convinced Christians were responsible, and many were rounded up and martyred by the Roman authorities. Church history put Peter among the Martyrs.
For many of our brothers and sisters around the world, they may see each day as being their last, and I'm sure if that were us, it would cause us to examine our hearts much more closely, and learn to put our trust firmly in the risen Lord. The one whose overcome death, and now reigns in glory for ever. Psalm 118, we read these words. "The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?"
Finally; and briefly, Like Peter, we're each called to follow Jesus. Look at v 20-25. Again in what Jesus says here regarding John. Jesus is challenging Peter, that His plan for Peter is to feed, take care of and tend the flock. Not be concerned what Jesus would require of John, which as we know would be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to write down this gospel, but also record the revelation Jesus gave him whilst he was a prisoner for Christ.
We're each called to follow Christ faithfully today and to serve Him as He calls us to serve. But what's clear from this passage, is that, like Peter, if we know we stand guilty before Christ of sinning against Him, then we're to come to the cross in humility, that our sins may be forgiven, and we be made right before the Lord. Peter stood forgiven, reinstated before the Lord, just as I pray each of us are today.
But the challenge for Peter, and for us is as reinstated believers, is; does our love for Christ reflect our being forgiven? Does it go beyond Philia love, a love that shows less devotion to Christ than He demands of us. Or can we claim to possess Agape love. A love that is clearly evident in that we reflect Christ's wholehearted love for those around us. Secondly; like Peter, is our love for Jesus prepared, if called to, to lay down our lives for Him, so that through us, He may be glorified. Lastly; like Peter, are we prepared to follow Jesus with the same single minded commitment to serve Him, that He had for us when he set His face to Jerusalem, and the cross, that we might be forgiven.
Only in the quietness of our hearts can we answer these extremely challenging questions, but as God's people, we're each called to serve Him. Then like Peter, they're questions we need to ask of ourselves today. Amen.
Sunday 26th April 2020
Reading John 21 v 1-14
I don't think I'm stating the obvious this morning in saying that in the main, Churches are probably not as well attended as they once were. With or without the current Pandemic, I'm sure we could come up with many reasons why that would be the case today. Before the lockdown there was an Ad on the TV for a travel company, featuring a family on holiday in Greece visiting an orthodox Church. The kids were being kids, which prompted Mum to say, "Shush, we're in God's house." The reply came, "Who's God?"
Whilst we might tut at that, I believe it's a response that's becoming more and more evident in our liberal thinking society that's systematically allowing the truth of the gospel to become marginalised. Where, once men and women, if not born again of the spirit of God, had a certain knowledge of a sovereign creator God, and to that end, they held a degree of reverence for Him. Whereas the response from many today is, "Who's God?"
My concern as a Christian Pastor, is that we as the Church, especially in the western world, are failing to uphold Jesus' command. "To go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I commanded you. And surely I am with you always."
Something that if you were with us last week when we looked at John 20, when Jesus breathed His Spirit into the disciples, in preparation for Pentecost, it signalled the beginning of their ministry. So today, what we see in John 21, is Jesus again appearing to the disciples, this time in Galilee, and preparing them further for the mission of taking the gospel out into the world. The power of the gospel that Paul reminds us when it's proclaimed and received brings Salvation to all who believe. So for us today, the baton of proclaiming the gospel has been handed on to us.
Turn with me to today's text from John 21 v 1-14. Because Jesus has a few things to teach us here that will help prepare us for the task of proclaiming the gospel. Firstly; look at v 1-8.
God doesn't want us to labour in vain.
Obviously we don't know the full chronology of the events from the resurrection on that first Easter Morning, to Jesus' ascension 40 days later, but John tells us v 14, this was the third time Jesus had appeared to His disciples. No longer are they in Jerusalem, now they're back in Galilee, where for many of these men they're calling to serve Jesus began.
If we weren't in a lockdown, I'm sure in the normal hurly burly of life today we could make a good case for getting away to a quiet place for some R & R, and maybe this was Jesus plan for these seven disciples. But in truth we don't know.
But it wasn't so long ago Jesus had said to the disciples "as the Father has sent me, I'm sending you." I'm sure it wasn't sending them back to being fishermen? Although Luke 5, Jesus did say they would be "fishers of men." But notice here, it's Peter, the natural leader, he's the one who suggests they go fishing v 3. "But that night," John says, "they caught nothing."
It's been my experience as a Christian, that we can fall into the trap of labouring and toiling in the church, working hard with all integrity: but, like these fishermen all our efforts seem in vain, there's little or no visible result, and we become demoralised, tired. Which of course is just what the devil wants. So what's the solution, is there a solution? Look at v 4-6.
Now I'm not a fisherman as these guys were, who made their living from fishing. So imagine you've been out all night, caught nothing, then out of the early morning gloom, someone shouts, "throw your net on the right side of the boat and you'll find some." I'm sure as a professional, your first thought would be. "Who does he think he is to tell me what to do. " Well what's that other than our PRIDE getting in the way of taking advice that's been offered. And this is where I believe as Christians many of us come unstuck in trying to serve the Lord. Our pride gets in the way of our obedience to what Jesus is saying to us through His word. Proverbs 11 v 2 "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, with humility comes wisdom."
Maybe, three years of being with Jesus had rubbed off on these men, and they've wised up, because there's no suggestion of them debating with Jesus as they'd done before. Now; in complete humility and obedience, they cast their nets on the right side of the boat, and what a catch, 153 whoppers!
Today, we have an amazing amount of resources to help us proclaim the gospel, but without coming in humility to the Lord, and listening to Him, being obedient to what he says, then all the resources in the world won't make us effective evangelists.
The first call on us as God's people, as we saw last week, is Jesus' challenge "that if anyone come after Him, they must take up their cross daily." That means, us being prepared to surrender our all to Jesus, especially our stubborn hearts and wills, that are governed by pride. Surrendering them to God so that He can bring them in line with His will for us. Because God doesn’' want us to labour in vain and wear ourselves out and achieve very little.
Secondly; v 9-11. We're to be partners with Jesus in ministry.
John 15, in that great passage of the vine, where Jesus tells us this, "Apart, from me, you can do nothing." In other words, if Jesus isn't the one guiding and helping us, our work will be in vain.
John tells us here that the figure on the shore in the early light of dawn was none other than the Lord Himself which prompted Peter to wrap his outer garment round himself and jump into the water.
Well although we might argue the point, in truth, as Almighty God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, Jesus doesn't need us to fulfil the great commission, but He chooses to use us.
But I wonder how often we get ourselves into the mind-set of thinking the onus is on us. That we're God's arms and legs in the world today, which to some extent we are! But who's taking the initiative? Us, or God? If it's us, then our Pride is likely to get in the way of God working through us, and us failing to see Him being at work. Look at v 9. I'm sure cynics today would come up with answers to where the bread and fish came from, and the charcoal to cook the fish on. But; we need to remember, this is the same God we know from the scriptures, who fed His nation during their wanderings in the desert with Manna and Quail.
Then later, Jesus pointing to who He is, fed over 5k people with two small fish, and five barley loaves. Now on the shore, cooking breakfast, was this same God, who has full authority over all things, and over all men. The Apostle Paul says this of Jesus in a letter to the Colossians.
"For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him, and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
This is the same Lord, who in humility, demonstrated the full extent of His love for us on that first Good Friday, when He willingly went to the cross for us. In perfect obedience He surrendered His will to the Father, and put His trust in God.
The question for us today is this. Have we surrendered our will to the same Lord Jesus today, and in doing so put our trust in Him? Are we demonstrating lives that reveal the same level of humility and obedience that Jesus showed throughout His earthly life?
So; in the early dawn Jesus' disciples were not only physically fed by Almighty God, but we're taught valuable lessons, of the necessity for them, and us, to submit ALL to Jesus. Something, that they would need to put into practice, if they were going out as sheep among wolves with the gospel.
But one last thing this morning. Like Peter, we sometimes let Jesus down, and are guilty of sinning against Him. I believe this breakfast was the beginning of Jesus bringing both healing and restoration to Peter. Look at v 10-14.
Come and have breakfast.
When Jesus asked the disciples to bring some of the fish they'd just caught, who went back to the boat to drag this large catch of fish ashore? It was Peter. When John said "it's the Lord," Peter was over the side of the boat in a flash. But we're not told that he actually came to Jesus, only that in reverence he put on his outer garment and jumped into the water. I guess like us, when we let Jesus down, then like Peter, we would love to be able to put the clock back, but we can't. John 13, Peter said, "I will lay down my life for you." Then in John 18, rather than laying down his life, he denied ever knowing Jesus, not just once, but three times.
I know from experience that the process of being healed from sin is painful, because for God to bring about His forgiveness, we need to be confronted with our sins. Much as King David was, when Nathan came and revealed David's adultery with Bathsheba.
Jesus invites his friends here, including Peter, to come and have breakfast. The invitation is to come. However much that may smack at our pride. But coming to Jesus is the only way we will find peace, and forgiveness when, like Peter, we're guilty of letting Jesus down.
I've found that certain places, even events, and smells, can trigger a memory. Sometimes what comes to mind has been a time when we've let God down. Peter was warming himself around a charcoal fire on the night he betrayed Jesus. Now, here's that same smell, and no-doubt its brought that fateful night back into his mind. But; such is God's love for us, that He wants to deal with our sins and failings, casting them into the sea of His forgetfulness, as Micah 7 tells us.
Through the scriptures the whole world knows that the one Jesus called the "rock in which He would build his church," stood guilty of denying ever knowing Christ. Well let's thank God, that unless our failings reach other peoples ears, then they remain between us and God. And we can take comfort from that. Because were reminded in the letter to the Hebrews that Jesus, as our great High Priest, can empathise with all our weaknesses, and all our failings. Because He knows what it's like to be tempted in every way, but without ever being guilty of sin. We know from the scriptures, that Peter did indeed become the rock on which Jesus built His Church. You and I are living proof of that.
But for Peter, and the rest of the disciples, like us, they needed to learn that God doesn't want us to labour in vain. But to listen for His guidance. When we do, then the skies the limit, the catch, as we see here, enormous! Working alongside Jesus as partners with Him, being prepared to take up our cross, to demonstrate the same humility He displayed, and by His spirit allowing Him to guide us as to where, and who we're to take the gospel to, I believe will yield a harvest. But because our Pride so often gets in the way, we fail God. Then in humility, we need to take Jesus up on His invitation to come to Him. To the only one who can set us free from sin through His death on the cross, and restore us to being the people He wants us to be. People ready to pick up the baton and fulfil God's call on us, to GO, and make disciples. Amen.
Sunday 19th April 2020
Reading: John 20 v 19-23
I wonder if we have ever been faced with a challenge that would mean us stepping out of our comfort zones?
Especially if that challenge meant someone either being saved through the gospel message we have faithfully brought. Or perhaps, them rejecting our message, and remaining unforgiven by God?
I am guessing our immediate response would be "I am not sure I can do that."
But; if we are truly born again of the spirit of God, then as Christians, that is exactly what we are each called to do. Jesus said "As the father has sent me. I am sending you."
In other words, Jesus is sending us out today to continue the work that He did exclusively in Israel. Whereas now, we are to do that same work throughout the whole world.
That is a big enough challenge for us all who live in relative freedom today. But imagine if we had been one of the 11 disciples, shut away behind locked doors for fear of the Jewish leaders. After all it is only a few days ago their leader was put to death, and now some claim to have seen Him alive!
I am sure this company of people, including the 11 would have given anything at that time for fear to be replaced by peace.
Take a look at John Ch 20 v 19-23. NIV Bible.
Peace be with you, Shalom!
Our word peace hardly does justice to the wider understanding of the word Shalom, because within shalom is a call for our wellbeing, plus it is the best of life that is ours to have under God.
When Jesus brought Shalom to the disciples on that first Easter Sunday night, He was bringing Shalom in its truest sense, because it indicated that Jesus cry from the cross, "it is finished" means that we have each been reconciled to God. That He no-longer sees us as enemies. As believers God has imparted His peace into our hearts. It is a peace as Jesus told the disciples back in John 14, "that the world cannot understand" and will not until it is reconciled to God, through Christ. That same peace, Jesus tells us in Jn 16, will also help us to overcome the tribulations we will face as believers from an unbelieving world as we continue to do the work Jesus calls us to do.
Notice here v 23, Jesus again offers Shalom to the disciples, before telling them what they were to do.
I believe it is vital today, especially at this time when people are so troubled by the uncertainty of what lies ahead, that they should know the peace that only God can impart into our hearts when, by faith, we acknowledge with absolute thankfulness that the work Jesus completed on the cross, has brought us salvation, and peace with God.
I am sure we have each heard the expression, "why reinvent the wheel." When Jesus commissioned the 11, He did not give them a different work to do, they were to continue His work, and so are we. v21 "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
And Jesus knew that the most effective way of doing that would be for Him to be with them, guiding them in where to go, and what to say, vs 22-23. Jesus is with us by His Spirit today.
Fifty days after Jesus spoke to the disciples on that first Easter night, what He indicated by breathing on them, was the promise that came into being, when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.
Because at Pentecost the whole world was literally turned on its head by these same men who were in hiding, locked away, fearful of what men might do to them.
The terms breath, wind, and spirit, are each defined as one word in NT Greek. For example, if we go back into Genesis 2, we are told, "God formed a man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Without breath, we would be dead.
Just like us, the disciples were living breathing men, but when Jesus breathed on them, He was pledging that at Pentecost they would each receive Spiritual LIFE. The same Spiritual life that is available to all who turn to Christ with repentant hearts today. This is what Peter said as he addressed the crowds at Pentecost. (Read Acts 2 v 36- 39.)
So Breath and Spirit, are the facilitators of bringing spiritual Life to all who believe. But Jesus says here v 23, "If you forgive anyone their sins, their sins are forgiven, if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Needless to say, Jesus words have troubled many over the years, because as the scriptures rightly teach us, only God can forgive our sins. What Jesus is saying here, is that the message of salvation, that we are each called to proclaim. That through His death on the cross, if Jesus is received with thankfulness, will bring about in that persons life, the forgiveness of sins. Then, as it is for all born again believers, they will be born of the spirit of God.
Back in John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus that the spirit, like the wind, blows wherever it pleases. Man cannot control where the wind blows, and neither do we have control over the Holy Spirit. But the work of the Spirit will be evident in the lives of those who have respond by faith to the gospel.
Because without the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in someones life, then the message of the gospel will have had no real impact on that person. Even though they may know all that Jesus has done, have been made aware of the truth through faithful servants bringing the word. Without the spirits presence then the gospel of Gods grace and love will not impact their lives. Sadly, they will remain unregenerate, and lost in their sins.
So it is important we neither hinder, nor stifle the Holy Spirit of God being at work in His Church today.
Just a few months ago, as a Church we looked together at Pauls letter to the Thessalonian believers, and in his final instruction to the church, Paul implored them "not to quench Gods Spirit."
I believe over the years, Christians from every denomination have been guilty of doing just that, quenching Gods Spirit, which is why the great commission of the church, Jesus work of sending us out into the world with the greatest and most important message for all mankind to hear today is faltering, especially in the UK today.
At the end of the day, these disciples were ordinary men. Like us, they made mistakes, they got things wrong, no-doubt exasperated Jesus in how slow they were to understand what He was trying to convey to them about the Kingdom. But they believed, as Peter said, "I believe that you are the Christ, God's anointed son" and they put their trust in Him, and after Pentecost, by faith they carried the gospel out into this world, and as we read in Acts, many of them suffered for the sake of the gospel of Christ.
Back in Matthew 16, Jesus does not pull any punches in the challenge He lays down to all who claim to follow Him. (Read Matt 16 v 24-27.) So then finally; look at v 20.
We are to take up our cross, daily.
Our battle, Paul told the believers in Ephesus, is not against flesh and blood, per-say, but against the powers of evil in this dark world that is being manifested in all that is leading people away from the truth today.
Paul tells us in Romans 1, that we can have no excuses in not believing in God, "For since the creation of the world Gods invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what is been made, so that people are without excuse."
But the more and more the Devil is allowed to blind mens hearts to Gods love, then the more society will slide away from the truth, and into the evil we see around us today.
I believe today that mens hearts are crying out to worship. But they have swapped worshipping God, in favour of worshipping man made gods. IDOLS, that are just that: idol. Lifeless, DEAD.
Whereas the gospel message we have to proclaim is of a living God, who, if we turn to Him, and acknowledge His sovereignty, and worship Him as we should with every fibre of our being. Then this living God, the Lord Jesus Christ will truly enrich not just our lives, but through us, enrich the lives of those around us.
Matthew 10, Jesus sent out the 12 with authority over unclean spirits, and to heal every disease and affliction. But they were instructed to go nowhere other than to the lost sheep of Israel. Through what they said and did they did enrich the lives of many. The lame walked, the blind again had sight, lepers were cleansed, unclean spirits cast out of people. But; Jesus also warned them that in doing these things, in other words, restoring someone, they would face persecusion, even be hated.
Something Jesus knew first hand in His work of ministry. That same work is what He is sending us out into the world to do today, against opposition that wants nothing more than to stop us in our tracks. The marks of the nails in Jesus hands, and the mark of the spear in His side, are the scars of battle. The battle that will continue until that wonderful day, when Jesus comes again in Glory.
Only then will the great commission that we have each been called to do, be complete. "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
So; are we ready to take up our cross today? For God to send us out, not in our own strength, or, on our own, but in the power of His Spirit at work in us, in order that we might bring Gods Shalom, the peace He imparts into all who by faith receive the Lord Jesus Christ into their hearts and lives today, through the glorious gospel of Christ. Amen.
The Resurrection Luke 24 v 1-12
On this Easter Sunday Morning may I welcome you all in the time honoured way, with a greeting that is at the very foundation of our faith as Christians. "He is risen." The response from all who by faith know this to be true, and who have put their trust in the risen Lord Jesus, is to respond by saying, "He is risen indeed."
Having thought just a few days ago about the events of that first Good Friday, to Jesus death on the cross. For many people, death just signals the end. Whereas the great victory Jesus won for us on the cross in defeating sin, and the outcome of sin, would not be the great victory it is, if Jesus had not risen on that first Easter Sunday. If Jesus had not overcome death Himself.
And for all who believe, for all who have put their trust in the cross of Christ, and in His resurrection, we now have that wonderful assurance of a New Life NOW, and when these bodies do finally wear out, then the promise of an even more amazing and better life will come about.
That is why Easter is such an important time, because amid all the uncertainty that the world is experiencing today, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, is GOOD NEWS, because it offers hope to us all, whoever we are, and wherever we are.
We are looking this morning at Lukes account of the resurrection. Dr Luke to be precise, who tells us right at the beginning of his gospel that he had drawn up an orderly account from among the numerous people who over a period of 40 days from the resurrection to His ascension, met with, spoke with, and ate with the risen Lord Jesus. Look firstly at Luke 24 v 1-8 NIV
On Easter Sunday Morning, many Christians get together and hold a sunrise service. Very likely as Luke tells us here, because it was very early, on the first day of the week that the women took spices that they had already prepared and went to the tomb.
The Bible tells us when God did His work of creation it was over a period of 6 days. On the 7th He rested, calling it a Sabbath. Following that pattern, on the 6th day, Good Friday, Jesus work of redeeming us from sin was accomplished. So on this first day of the week, a new era began, a new creation.
The Apostle Paul tells us, "if anyone is in Christ, the New creation has come, the old has gone, the new is here."
As Christians we have put to death in Christ body on the cross, our old sinful selves, God now sees us as New creations. Set free from sin, hence the symbolism at Easter of Eggs and Chicks breaking out of their shells.
Picture the scene, these women who had followed Jesus throughout His 3 year ministry, probably even supported Him financially, absolutely besides themselves with grief that Jesus is dead. Unable at that time to comprehend the reason for Him going to the cross, and now, according to their custom just wanting to go and anoint His body with spices. But v 2-3. The stone covering the tomb has been rolled away, and when they entered the tomb, it was empty. Jesus was not there.
We often hear people say that when a loved one dies, perhaps if the circumstances of their death means there is no body to bury, they say they cannot begin to grieve, they cannot find closure.
For this group of women who had come to the tomb, with all that has taken place, and for Jesus body to be missing, it must have been the last straw. We cannot begin to imagine what must have been going through their minds, as Luke tells us in v 4. "While they were wondering about this."
Sometimes, grief can cause our minds to go round and round in circles as we look for reasons why a tragedy may have occurred, and it has been my experience as a Christian, that either by coming to Gods word, the bible, or to Him in prayer then through the power of the Holy Spirit God both comforts, and often times helps us to better understand why something may have occurred.
God reminds us in Isa 58, that "His ways are not our ways." Where we only tend to see the immediate, God in His wisdom sees the bigger picture.
The Angels, or these messengers of God, as terrifying as they must have been, what they said, probably began to change the hearts of these downcast, grieving women.
v 5, "Why do you look for the living among the dead. Then v6, He is not here; He has risen!" In the scriptures Messengers, Angels, are just that, they bring Gods word, not independently of God, but the very word of God.
Well let me ask you today. "How are you at remembering something you may have been told some time ago?" Now I am not great with technology, but my son is, and in general, so are his generation. Well when for the umpteenth time I ask him the same question the frustrated reply often comes, "I have already told you!"
But remembering; is not always easy is it? Sometimes we just need a little jog to help us, and this is what these Angels did. They helped jog the memories of these women who had been with Jesus, along with the disciples. They helped them remember what Jesus had said during His ministry in Galilee, something they had clearly forgotten, just as were apt to forget what Jesus says to us through His word today.
What had they forgotten? v7 tells us "The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again." Luke tells us, "then they remembered Jesus words."
I wonder how often in life we suffer Spiritual amnesia ourselves? Forget the great words of comfort and truth contained in the pages of scripture. Perhaps the fact that we do not remember them, is because we do not spend enough time in Gods word, getting to know the God who loves and cares for us far beyond both our expectations, and our understanding.
Psalm 1, the psalmist said of Gods word, "His delight is in the law of the Lord, He meditates on it night and day." For this man, as he meditated on Gods law, he came to put his trust fully in the Lord, and was able to call upon Him when trouble came. But also through knowing God personally, he was also able to be a blessing to others. Something that as Christians Jesus calls each of us to be. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Well it is one thing to have been told something ourselves, but then to pass that on with absolute conviction, can often be a challenge, and that is what we see here. Look at v 9-12. v9, the woman made their way back from the tomb, where they told the eleven, all that they had witnessed and heard.
I am sure there have been times when we have each been told things, that later have been proven to be true, but at that moment in time, we might have met what we had heard with scepticism, thinking it nonsense.
That is the reaction the women received from the disciples. But as Johns account of the resurrection better tells us, Peter ran to the tomb, but did not go in. But what the gospel writers confirm is that Jesus grave clothes, were lying in their place.
In order to supress the truth Matthews gospel tells us that the chief priest concocted a plan, that said the disciples came in the night and stolen Jesus body. Well grave robbing may well have been common in 1st Century Palestine, but the fact the disciples did not believe what the women said, dispels any human intervention.
The resurrection was a work of God. That same power that at just His word of command, brought all of creation into being.
That same power seen in the OT was also at work during Jesus 3 yrs of ministry, witnessed by many. Jesus healing the sick, restoring the sight of the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, raising the dead, calming a raging sea, feeding 5 thousand with just five loaves and two fish. That same power, raised Jesus to life.
That same power, can also be seen at work in all who at one time were themselves spiritually dead. People like us. Until God brought about a supernatural work in us. Because at one time, like these early disciples, we probably thought it was nonsense that Jesus was alive. But listen to what Peter said after the Holy Spirit came on him at Pentecost. Read Acts 22-24.
Such is the power of the resurrection at work in those who believe, those who have put their trust in the risen Lord Jesus, who have witnessed for themselves lives that have been transformed by the risen Jesus.
That same power of the resurrection prompted many to bring about reforms across society. In education, medicine, care, the abolition of slavery. In fact, much has been documented over the years as to how the resurrection has transformed peoples lives.
The question for us on this Easter Sunday is this, has Christs death and the power of His resurrection transformed our lives?
Or do we still think it nonsense, that the one who was dead, should now be alive?
It is clear when we look at our society today, that many do think it nonsense, and because of that, what we see is a society that has lost its way. The Angel said to the women. "Remember how He told you."
Gods word tells us much. God does not use His word to wag a judging finger at us, but it does help us to live lives that are in line with His Good and pleasing will for us. But over recent years we have consistently chosen to dismiss what God says, and instead chosen to live outside of His will for us.
It saddens me as a Christian, that God is no-longer welcome in many of our schools, colleges and universities today. In Council meetings. It saddens me that the precious right to life of the unborn is consistently being challenged today. The desire by a powerful few in society to silence Gods word, an issue that affects every Christians in a society that professes free speech. And, even among many who do profess faith in Christ today, many have chosen to ignore what God says through His word.
2 Tim 4 v 3. "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their evil desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
As a world, as individuals we have turned our backs on God, Paul said this in Romans 1 v 25 "We have exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things, rather than the creator."
But we can take heart because the message of Easter is all about hope. The sure hope we have as Christians, in Christ. Because although we do not deserve Gods love, He has chosen to save us. Chosen to set us free from sin, something we should remember with thankfulness daily.
The proof that Jesus has triumphed over sin and death is what we are celebrating today. Easter Sunday, because make no mistake, Jesus is alive. So let us rejoice in that great truth today, and live it out in our lives by faith.