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.”