28.5 John – Doubts

What a blessing Thomas is to the church, to all believers and to all who will become believers.  In some area of our life, we are all Thomas.

God, I know you are in charge, but please show me.  God, I know you are sovereign but things seem pretty messed up from my perspective.  God, I know you will not give me more than I can stand up under, but I’m past my limit.

Thomas did not deny Jesus.  He didn’t even deny the other disciples.  He just said, I need to see it.  And, on the first day of the next week, Jesus appears and lets him see.  Now, think about this, Jesus was under no obligation to show Thomas.  He was under no obligation to treat this man differently than any other man of any other time.  He didn’t owe Thomas.  But, He loved Thomas.  He knew Thomas and He wanted Thomas to believe.

Jesus knows us.  Jesus loves us.  Jesus wants us, too, to believe.  This story is so moving to us because we all can related to Thomas.  As the father said to Jesus in Mark 9:4, “Lord, I believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”.  We all have areas of doubt.  These aren’t even over Jesus or heaven, but doubts about how God can love us in the midst of our sin, how He can love His church in the midst of its brokenness, how He can use someone like me to witness to others much less to lead or teach.  We have doubts that don’t begin with who He is but begin with who we are.  So did Thomas.  I need to see.  I need to touch.  Then I will believe.

And, just like Thomas, Jesus comes to each of us as well.  Jesus is not the truth because we believe.  We believe because He is the truth.

What are the doubts that create shadows in your life?  The things that you hold back from God or putting fully in His hands?  The things that you want to trust, but you seem to not be able to let go.  The wrongs that have been done to you but you haven’t been able to forgive?

When you let go of you doubts, notice that isn’t overcome them, but let go of them and entrust them to Jesus, then your belief is made stronger and then you find peace.  Not only that but you receive a special blessing from Jesus.  Blessed are those who have not seen yet still believe.

A pastor once said he felt sorrow for the members of his church who did not attend service.  It wasn’t because of the songs and definitely not for the sermon, but to him, it was because they closed every service with a benediction, a blessing.  Blessings are really big deals in the bible.  Why would anyone purposefully miss out on receiving a blessing?  Don’t miss out on the one from Jesus because you want to hold on to doubt instead.

My Answers:

S: Dedicated to Jesus (willing to die for Him) – W: very tied to the physical world, focus on life/death, physically knowing the way Jesus was going to the Father, need to see, hear and touch to believe.

I often don’t see the spiritual implications because of a focus on the physical

Jesus knew what he had said and showed up to him (personally but with others present behind locked doors), told him to put your finger here, see my hands… stop doubting and believe – Thomas responded “My Lord and my God”

Caused me to ask, what do I not believe?  How does doubt hinder my belief.  “help me overcome my unbelief.” Mark 9:4


28.4 John – Peace and Power

When Jesus arrives to the disciples on the first evening He presents them with two gifts and commands:  Peace and Power.

Let’s look at power first. The power, or authority, that He gave to them was to forgive sins.  Specifically, He said, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  I think we miss just how big of a deal this is.  Looking back to Mark 5:17-26 we see Jesus’ first major confrontation with the Pharisees.  The point of conflict was over a paralyzed man.  Jesus was was teaching in a house, surrounded by a number of people including the Pharisees and teachers and “the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.”  Some men brought the paralyzed man and, finding no other way to get him to Jesus, lowered him on his mat through the tiles on the roof.  When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralyzed man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”  This immediately caused a divide with the Pharisees.  As they read Isaiah 43, this was blasphemy.  Only God can forgive sins.  Fast forward to this first night of the resurrection and we see Jesus empower the disciples with this exact same authority.

But are they, or better question, am I, prepared for the responsibility of forgiving sins or not forgiving sins?  Who am I to judge?  How can a sinner forgive another sinner?  How can a forgiver not forgive another sinner?  The very prayer that Jesus taught the disciples to pray says, forgive us as we forgive others.  I am not capable of this level of responsibility.

Which leads us to the second gift that Jesus gave first, the gift of peace.  Jesus didn’t just speak these words, but He breathed peace onto the assembled group in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ words to them convey a much bigger meaning.  He is saying all that I have I not only make available, but I share with you as if it is yours.  All the provision, all the strength, all the power, all the glory, all the time and love and (keep going) that I have is yours.  Let’s take it to the extreme… you even have the power to forgive sin or not forgive sin.  That is what He is saying.  With the presence and peace of the Holy Spirit, we are united as one with Jesus and the Father.  This is what He spoke of at the last supper.  This is not a deputization of the apostles or a delegation to them, it is bigger and more personal  It is Jesus saying to them, even at the extreme of forgiving sins, we are now connected in peace in the Holy Spirit and we are one, brothers, family, saints, eternal.

My Answers:

He was patient with them and allowed them to see, hear, touch and be with him

By being patient with me

showed hands and feet, talked to them, Asked for food, ate with them in their presence, with them over a period of 40 days, appeared to all of them and to over 500 others, lots of eye witnesses

They were the only ones to receive this gift directly from Jesus with His breath and His words

Only God has the authority to forgive sins, yet, He has authorized these disciples with this authority

Power comes from Peace, the words of Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Peace, as the Father sent Jesus, He sends the Disciples, receive the H/S.  Authority over the forgiveness of sin (both ways)

28.3 John – One of us so that we can be one with Him

I love that Jesus looked like a gardener to Mary Mag!  Whenever we picture seeing Jesus we tend to imagine the “blinding light”, “celestial singing”, “booming voice” encounter.  Jesus is God and those are all appropriate, but, it is not the way that He manifested Himself upon His resurrection.

I’m not contradicting that fact that God is God and we are not and that God is to be honored, revered and feared.  But, we can get so hung up on that image of God sometimes that it interferes with the relationship that God wants and expects.  We are His creation, made in His image.  Jesus came to earth and became a man, fully man, born of a woman and raised from an infant to a man.  While God is our King of King and Lord of Lords, He is, as Jesus said, also our Father.

Jesus comforted Mary and revealed Himself to her not with bolts of lightning, but by calling her by name, by being personal and real to and with her.  He didn’t tell her to go tell His servants or His subjects.  He told her to go to “my brothers.”  He spoke of His Father as “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”

Jesus did not die and rise again from the grave so that He could be God.  He was already God!  He did it so that we could be fully brothers and sisters with Him, FAMILY.

We all long for family.  Many have very broken families on earth, partly because of the longing that we have for safety and love and support and the fact that our earthly families have not always fulfilled those things.  But, we also have a family with Jesus.  He wants to be, and is, the perfect brother to us – always there, always loving, always helping and healing.  Our Father wants to be, and is, the perfect Father, seeking only our best interests in love and provision.

There are so many rich and deep analogies of the image of Jesus as the gardener.  They fact that he tends to the garden of our heart, that He removes the weeds that hinder the growth of our faith, that He not only plants good seeds but that He himself became the seed that died to spring forth in new life.  In John 19 we saw the reminder that sin entered the world in a garden (of Eden) and left the world in a garden (the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea).  In John 20 we see that the Gardener that was there from the beginning is still alive and well and very much as welcoming to His creation as He was when He walked and talked with Adam and Eve.

My Answers:

spoke her name.  I was called by name to be a follower of Jesus.  He, too, knows my name and has written in the book of life

During the time post resurrection, Jesus appears and disappears all in bodily form.  He also physically ascends to Heaven.  He may have gone back and forth to heaven to appear in the presence of His Father numerous times during this period.  (see Jacob’s ladder for physical ascent to heaven, see ascension of Jesus, see John 21, appears to them in a locked room)

Go to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

28.2 John – Race

In our verses today we see more running about than probably anywhere else in scripture short of Elijah racing the chariot or Jacob fleeing Esau.  Mary rushes to the grave site at or before the crack of dawn even without a plan for rolling back the stone.  Upon finding the tomb empty she runs to Peter and John, who, in turn, take off running to the grave.  Next thing we know, Mary is back at the grave as well.

Why all the running?  All of it starts with the assumptions in their minds.  Mary assumes “they” have taken Jesus’ body.  Peter and John assume they need to get to the scene ASAP to either confirm or repute what she has told them while the evidence is fresh.  And, yet, it is not until they stop running that any of them find what they are looking for.  John stands there and finds that he believes.  Mary stands crying and hears her name called by Jesus.

Isn’t this how our lives go, too?  We run from thing to thing, trying to do the “right thing.”  We are busy, busy, running and serving and working and leading.  We run our kids from event to event.  We run to appointments.  We run to prepare meals.  Jesus is present with us when we are running (just as he was present with the men on the road to Emmaus), but we are so busy running and hurting and running from the hurt, that we don’t see or recognize Him even when He is there.

We know we need to stop, and sit at Jesus’ feet.  We know we need to be fed to feed others, but, we fear that if we stop the guilt of stopping will catch up with us, because stopping would be for us, while running is for other people.  But, as we’ll see throughout our lessons this week, Jesus wants us to stop.  Over and over again he brings a gift and a command both in the same words:  “Peace be with you.”  The very thing that Jesus gives us, Satan works the hardest to deny us: Peace.  Satan lies to us that running and running gives us more, while we know that it does not.  Satan lies that we must constantly serve others and are not worthy of having peace ourselves, Jesus provides it as a gift.  Satan wants us rushing and unsettled and missing out, Jesus wants us to stand still, hear His voice, and have joy and belief.

Don’t “slow down” this week, but instead, take time to actually stop and be with the Lord.  He did not make Peter and John stand in the tomb for days.  He didn’t make Mary weep for hours.  You don’t have to lock yourself away for hours either.  But you do have to be willing to accept the gift and command – Have Peace!

My Answers:

Both immediately raced to the tomb.  Upon arrival, John hesitated to enter while Peter rushed right in.

I’m hesitant and retrospective.  I am more engaged when I’m doing it with a partner.

Unwrapped linens and the covering over His face.  We are not told why, but if his body had been taken, it would not have been unwrapped.

1 Cor 15:14 – And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Without the resurrection, death is not defeated.  There is punishment without forgiveness.

27.5 John – Resurrection

There were many, many events in the old testament that foretold and foreshadowed the events that we have read about this week: the suffering, death and burial of our Lord and Savior.  But, as Jesus was with His disciples the day before, breaking bread and drinking wine, he gave the “go forward” reminders as well.  He told them, whenever you eat or drink, do it in remembrance of me.  Don’t just remember me, but do it in my honor, in my memory.

Our lesson today mentioned on ritual many families observe of burying the dead.  We place the bodies of departed family members into the grave, not for some mystic ritual, but because it reminds us that our savior also went into the grave, and, like Him, we fully expect all of His followers to rise again.

But this remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus is not and should not be limited to a time of death.  When a baptism occurs, the new believer goes into the water and comes out a new person, a person who has begun eternal life.

We can do this in some many other ways that does not have to be limited to activities in a church:  sleeping and waking, bathing, going in to and emerging from a house, going in to an emerging from a building, the darkness of night replaced by the brightness of day, the cold of winter replaced by the new birth of spring.

What if you looked at each new day with the attitude that when you wake from sleep, you are awakening in the honor of our Lord’s death and resurrection.  What if your first thoughts of the day were not on your to-do list or even on how creaky your bones felt, but on remembrance and thanks to Jesus for rising in a way that, without Him, we could not?

My Answers:

He was not left to decay, but partially prepared for burial and placed in a sealed tomb
He was given a grave of a rich man who belonged to the council that demanded his murder
It was a new grave, unused, with no other bodies in it

Because the body decays and is no longer of use to us after life.  In the same way, in baptism, our old selves are buried with Jesus but we are resurrected into a new life

27.4 John – In Secret

The serpent in the garden was described as being crafty.  When we sin, we often think we, too, are very crafty in our secrets and lies.  We think our sin is secret and doesn’t impact anyone else.  We think our sin is secret and not evident to others.  We think our sin is secret and doesn’t affect our relationships, especially our relationship with God.  But secrets are never truly secret – it is all just a crafty deception by the father of all lies that leads us to believe that we are crafty deceivers too.

I thought of this as I thought about Joseph of Arimathea working secretly.  Let’s see how that went.  Pilate knew, since he had to ask.  The soldiers knew, since they would have had to lower Jesus from the cross.  The servants of J of A knew, because they would have been tasked with helping move the body.  Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council knew, since he came to help.  His servants knew, since he probably didn’t lug 75 pounds of spices by himself.  The apostles knew because some of the women followed and observed where he was being buried.  The Jewish rulers of the law knew because they requested Pilate post Roman guards at the entrance to the tomb, obviously also knowing which tomb.  The Romans also knew which tomb to stand guard.  God knew.

At this point, I’m not quite sure who wasn’t in on this secret!

Just a point to keep in mind when you look at the “secret things” in your own life.

My Answers:

Joe, member of the council, good and upright (see description of Job: blameless and upright), from Arimathea, Judean town, waiting for the kingdom of God, had a grave.  Nick, Pharisee, member of Jewish ruling council, came to Jesus at night, asked q’s about being born again, J3:16 spoken to him.  Tried to get Jesus a more fair trial, but shouted down.  Neither man confessed following Jesus because of fear – “they loved human praise more than praise from God.”

They lost the ability to interact with Jesus.  They could not sit at his feet and learn, instead they had to hide in the shadows.  They were not a witness to others but sided with those who murdered Jesus.  They gained guilt by association.  They gained membership into the leadership council, but without any true voice in the council.  They gained status and praise of men.

They risked being chastised and shunned by the religious leaders.  They risked being outed to them by others.  They risked being identified with Jesus followers.  They gained a place in history for their kindness (after the fact).  They gained the ability to repent of their part in Jesus’ murder and make minor restitution.  We don’t know their future

fear of censure or ridicule by others.  Fear of being labeled with a lie.  Fear of mis-acting or mis-speaking. Prayerfully and boldly.

27.3 John – Dead or Alive

It makes sense to us, but it is a fact worth stating: to raise from the dead you must first truly be dead.  Our lesson this week does a nice job of looking at the evidence of this fact.

First is the fact that someone died on the cross.  For the Roman soldiers, this execution was not their first rodeo.  They knew a lot about crucifixion, execution and death.  The new the signs of life and of death having experienced it over and over again.  They not only pronounced him dead by observation, but initiated a more thorough bodily exam by piercing his side with a spear while he still hung on the cross.  The direction of the spear into someone suspended above the soldier would have pierced into his diaphragm, lungs and possibly even to his heart.  If he was still alive, air would have gasped through the wound from the lungs, blood would have pulsed out through the cut arteries, the man would have cried out, moaned, or at least reflexed from the incision.

Second, the body was taken down from the cross and buried.  But, before he was placed in a tomb alone for three days he was wrapped and packed in spices by two individuals who had permission from Pilate and who cared about the murdered man.  If he was still alive, they would have seen evidence and would not have placed him enshrouded in a sealed tomb by himself.  They would have whisked the body away to provide medical treatment, not left it in a tomb.

Third, now that it is established that someone died and was buried, could it have been someone other than Jesus.  Now this gets into a great conspiracy theory.  But when and how could the switch have been made.  When he was arrested Judas clearly knew who Jesus was and gave no indication by his subsequent suicide that he pointed to a counterfeit.  Peter’s response to the arrest is not in keeping with them masquerading someone else as Jesus, nor do the actions of the Apostles following the arrest.  Jesus, once in custody, does not leave the hands of the soldiers, so there is a consistent chain of custody.  Even in Pilate’s quarters, he is still surrounded by the guards who torture and mock him.  When he is on the cross he speaks to His mother and John who recognize Him and His voice.  Other women are present.  The Jewish Leaders, who have observed Jesus repeatedly and who watched Him ride in triumphantly less than a week before, recognize Him and believe He is Jesus of Nazareth.  Furthermore, even after He has died, all believe He is the one in the tomb, the Romans who post guards, the Jews who request the guards, the women who go the day after Passover to finalize preparations of His body, the Apostles who run to the empty tomb.

The fact that Jesus lived is cross referenced in many different writings, biblical and other historic documents and all attest to His life and death without dispute.

I think the evidence would support the fact that Jesus died on the cross.  We’ll discuss the evidence of what happens next another day.

My Answers:

1. Roman soldiers knew about death on a cross.  2. His side was pierced and blood and water flowed out.  Depending on how deeply they pierced it may have pierced his lungs or heart as well.

To rise from the dead he had to be dead

No broken bones, not left until morning, pierced for our transgressions

Pierced for our transgressions, crushed for iniquities, our punishment was on him.  The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (scapegoat but He is the High Priest) – They will look on the one they have pierced and mourn, a fountain will be opened to the house of David to cleanse them from sin and impurity