1Co 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 1Co 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1Co 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 1Co 15:6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 1Co 15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 1Co 15:8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1Co 15:11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
Mar 16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Mar 16:2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb Mar 16:3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” Mar 16:4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. Mar 16:5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. Mar 16:6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. Mar 16:7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” Mar 16:8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
MESSAGE: “AND PETER“
We mentioned on Thursday night how depressing it must have been for Jesus.
It’s hard to imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind that night. But consider this:
After the institution of the Lord’s supper, we read these words:
Luk 22:21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. Luk 22:22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.
- His disciples of course question among themselves who it could be. As if unmoved by this shock announcement, they then debate which of them was considered to be the greatest. So he has to teach them about serving again.
- And then, just to add to the pretty daunting scene, he predicts that Peter would betray him. Peter replies, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
- They go to the mount of Olives – to Gethsemane, where Jesus prays. And of course, they fall asleep.
It’s interesting that Jesus in Gethsemane was so troubled. Mark tells us: “he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. Mar 14:34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,”
Someone said that he was troubled because he knew what was coming. We on the other hand get anxious because we don’t know what’s coming.
What must have been really troubling was how these disciples would cope.
Especially Peter – who would still have to lead the group.
Mar 14:27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ Mar 14:28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Mar 14:29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Mar 14:30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
There’s something quite nice about the message given to the women at the empty tomb:
“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. Mar 16:7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter…
And Paul, in our reading from 1 Corinthians 15 says this: 1Co 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
Peter, some suggest, might have been a Zealot. I’m not convinced about that. But he is the one who takes out his sword and cuts Malchus’ ear off in the garden.
I think what Peter didn’t understand was the idea that Jesus would suffer and die. He argued about it from the beginning – straight after his confession of faith ”you are the Christ” – rebuking Jesus.
Graham Greene in one of his later novels Monsignor Quixote, has this Spanish priest Father Quixote in debate with the communist ex-mayor of their town. I guess triggered by the mayor’s Marxist utopian ideals, the priest has a dream. In this dream, in short, Jesus doesn’t die on the cross but calls down legions of angels who get him off alive. Everyone is happy, and the whole world rejoices and bows down. There is no death, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and resurrection. When he wakes up, the priest is relieved that it didn’t happen like that. He would have been without a job.
The point is – easter would be meaningless for us if there had not been that awful day when our Lord Jesus suffered the agony of the cross.
Think of all the pagan easter symbols which are in Spring in the northern hemisphere.
- If flowers didn’t die, seeds producing new plants wouldn’t matter.
- If rabbits didn’t get old, you would need new baby bunnies.
- New life only means something because the old life dies.
- Spring following spring would not mean much either. Light is useful because of the dark.
Peter wanted it all to be successful. He had to fail to learn to grow stronger and face the greater challenges that would await him. He’s the New Testament Job in a sense. Only Luke records these important words of Jesus to Peter: 31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
Peter was never able to read Martin Luther sadly. One writer puts it like his:
Luther suggests that if all were quiet and one had the promise of peace and prosperity, then one could be sure that the devil was very near.
If on the other hand it appeared as tough all hell were breaking loose and one were likely to suffer pain and hurt, one could be very sure that God was very near.
Luther’s view was that it is the cross of Jesus that enables us to be realistic about the way things really are.
Father Quixote’s dream is a nightmare for him because his ministry would have no meaning for anyone. In fact, no one would remember who Jesus was. Another messianic dot in history.
William Lane in his commentary writes:
Were it not for his resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth might have appeared as no more than a line in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, if he were mentioned at all. The witness of the four Gospels is unequivocal that following the crucifixion Jesus’ disciples were scattered, their hopes shattered by the course of events. What halted the dissolution of the messianic movement centered in Jesus was the resurrection. It is the resurrection which creates “the good news concerning Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” – which is what Mark’s gospel starts with.
Mark’s gospel ends with these words: Mar 16:8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
- That stone, the tomb, the young man in white – mix that with the grief and torment of those three days, and you would understand their response.
- And in any case people didn’t believe women in those days. They were not accepted as witnesses in a law court.
Luke writing his historical account puts it like this:
Luk 24:9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. Luk 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. Luk 24:11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. (I preached on this in Easter 2019 – how their words seemed like rubbish. Leyros is the word. Literally a load of …. I’m sure you remember!)
Mark’s account makes sense. He was a disciple of Peter – so would be thinking about his mentor. And he of course ran away naked from Gethsemane. He would have been sympathetic with the terrified women.
The resurrection is first importance stuff, says Paul in the reading from 1 Corinthians we heard.
- The failure and restoration of Peter is a great help to us when we fail.
- The hope of resurrection is hugely helpful in a pandemic where people are dying in their droves.
- The promise of Easter – victory over death – is our only hope when we stare into the grave, or face our own mortality, or the challenge of aging or degenerative diseases..
- The power of the resurrection now means we live life in the light when things are dark, in spring when it is winter, and in permanent daylight saving when the night is long. We can steal Ben King’s words then: “When the night has come; And the land is dark; And the moon is the only light we’ll see; No, I won’t be afraid; Oh, I won’t be afraid; Because we know you will be there for us!” (The orignial song has: Just as long as you stand, stand by me).
He is risen indeed. Peter had to hear this. So do we.
Readings: Psalm 121:1-8; John 3:1-17
Do you have nice neighbours?
In our first home as a ministry family I decided to connect with my neighbours. The first neighbour was cautiously hospitable, but at the end of the visit mentioned that they didn’t really have much to do with neighbours.
Point taken. I didn’t persist after that.
Some people have terrible neighbours.
I sometimes muse that if we land up in a mansion in our Father’s house, what kind of neighbours will be land up with?
After all, we will be stuck with them for eternity!
Isn’t that what eternal life seems to mean?
Maybe the idea is simple terrible for you!
I mean they may be people in this building today that you might consider as potential eternal neighbours and then think “Nah!”
And if pets get to heaven what if that dog just keeps on barking for thousands of years?
When you look at the idea, eternal life is an interesting concept.
And its right there in probably the most famous verse in the Bible:
Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
So what it? What does Jesus say? John 17 in his prayer spells it out:
Joh 17:1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. Joh 17:2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Joh 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
How do we get to that point – to know God and Jesus who was sent by God?
And what is it in John’s Gospel that got people interested enough to get to know Jesus the giver of eternal life?
I’m not sure that they started with the idea that we have about eternal life as an ongoing existence forever in heaven.
If we go back to John 1 – you may remember a man we encountered called Nathaniel.
Joh 1:48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Joh 1:49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Joh 1:50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” Joh 1:51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
Th first idea we have in John about heaven is not to do with life after death, but heaven open in the present – in the life of his disciples.
If you were here when we looked at this, you may remember that we linked it to Jacob’s ladder in Genesis – where Jacob encounters God at Bethel – the name meaning house of God.
Jacob’s declaration after that dream was – surely God was in this place, and I didn’t know it.
The encounter with God is really the start of a relationship which Jesus calls “eternal life” – he says its not a future state but an experience in the present.
Now why do I start with that encounter with Nathaniel?
Well here’s my secret reason.
25 times in John Jesus introduces what he is about o say with this key statement:
In the NIV – it reads “I tell you the truth.” No it doesn’t mean he is misleading them on other occasions. It’s a bit like the Old testament prophets who when they say “Thus says the Lord” they were getting people’s attention because God was speaking through them.
Those of you who grew up with the King James bible will remember it as “Verily verily I say unto you” Or “truly truly”. Literally “Amen Amen”.
The first of those 25 times he uses the double amen – truly truly – is to Nathanael – alerting him and others to a breakthrough from heaven to earth like Jacob’s dream at Bethel.
Follow Jesus – and heaven is going to break through.
People will know God again as they were meant to. And know Jesus too because he is God.
The next three of the 25 “amen amens” appear in our reading today.
And they’re pretty important.
Here we go:
John 3:3; John 3;5; John 3:11 –
- Joh 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
- Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
- Joh 3:11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.
In the first two of these – there’s a clue you may miss.
If you’re not born again (or from above – it means both) you can’t see the kingdom of God.
If you’re not born of water and the Spirit (explaining being born again) you can’t enter the Kingdom of God.
The clue? The term “kingdom of God”. Matthew uses the other version of this – the “kingdom of heaven” – because of his Jewish readers or recipients of his gospel.
The water refers to baptism in water and the spirit refers to baptism in the spirit. Both are part of entering the Christian community – water baptism symbolizes the entrance into the physical body of Christ here on earth (the organization if you like). Spirit baptism is about being incorporated into the spiritual organism of the body of Christ everywhere.
I think we get the water baptism bit. The symbol of going under and coming up out of the water represents our dying to our old life and being raised up to a new life – participating in Christ’s death and resurrection. The water has various symbolic associations including cleansing and washing.
The spiritual baptism is referred to by Paul I a Corinthians 12:12
1Co 12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 1Co 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
There are various other places where we are told that there is a spiritual life that we experience in Christ. Not the least of which is this in John 7:
Joh 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Joh 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” Joh 7:39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
So when Jesus says: Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Joh 3:6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. Joh 3:7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ Joh 3:8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
it’s not surprising that Nicodemus is still stumped. He’s already tried to think of the new birth as going back into your mother’s womb – he clearly missed that one too. This time he says:
Joh 3:9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. Joh 3:10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?
Here comes the next “Amen Amen” – which in this case is a bit of a lecture to one of the most clued up influential people of the Jewish religious establishment:
Joh 3:11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. Joh 3:12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
And just to lay it on the line even more – Jesus goes on to say:
Joh 3:13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Joh 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, Joh 3:15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
It’s not just the angels at Bethel going up and down the ladder into heaven – or Nathaniel being told that he would see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
It’s the son of Man who is he prototype – the forerunner – who has come down from heaven and will go back to heaven – he will be the first to rise from the dead and live forever in a new resurrected body – and all of this ends with us looking up – not a Moses’ snake on a pole in the desert – but on Jesus on his cross.
If you don’t know that story – it’s in Numbers 21.
Num 21:4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; Num 21:5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Num 21:6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. Num 21:7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Num 21:8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” Num 21:9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
They would have known the story.
Just as Moses lifted up that snake – a bronze one which they kept in the tabernacle as a sacred object -which Hezekiah later destroyed (2 Kings 18:4) because it became like an idol to them rather than a reminder that it was God who saved them.
Just as that snake was lifted up -says Jesus – so the Son of Man must be lifted up, Joh 3:15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (v15).
And its here that we find the famous verse 16: Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
To believe in Him you have to look to the cross – Jesus through his cross has become the new ladder opening up heavenly life to us now and keeping heaven open for us at he end. Eternal life says Jesus – is knowing God.
You can only know god through the access of Jesus on the cross. Tom Wright puts it like this:
Humankind as a whole has been smitten with a deadly disease. The only cure is to look at the son of man dying on the cross, and find life through believing in him.
The cross is at the heart of John’s amazing new picture of who God is. He is now to be known as the God who is both father and son, and the son is revealed, ‘lifted up’, when he dies under the weight of the world’s evil. The cross is the ultimate ladder set up between heaven and earth. (Wright, Tom. John for Everyone Part 1: Chapters 1-10 Pt. 1 (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 33). SPCK. Kindle Edition.)
So poor old Nicodemus in that “amen amen” saying is roundly chastised really.
Joh 3:11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. Joh 3:12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
“You people” is one way of getting people’s backs up – or taking on the whole lot of them. Its translated like his because it’s in the plural – it’s not just Nicodemus but all of his colleagues in the Jewish religious establishment that Jesus is addressing. Which is what he does again and again. If you don’t believe me look at John 8:
Joh 8:43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. Joh 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. They plot to kill him quite early on.
People always oppose things that upset their religious organisations which make things tidy, clear cut, organizing and labelling things in nice little piles.
Nicodemus represented that kind of religious world of rules and categories.
Inconveniently Jesus comes along and talks about a new kind of life – eternal life – which is an experience of a kingdom where the spirit is on the move. Like a wind or a gale (the word for spirit and wind is the same) – things can be blown over or blown away.
In a similar way the earthquake in Christchurch did that when the church buildings were destroyed. The churches had to sit down and say -well what is it really about – who are we really?
They had no buildings to sit comfortably in.
So they had to look up.
It always helps to look up. To pray and seek God’s direction.
The Psalm today reminds us that people were looking up to the hills – of course there were high places – altars to false God’s on those hills.
I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? Psa 121:2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
This is not greenie Psalm for us to go cavorting around the countryside and climbing up the hills like Maria in the Sound of Music.
The help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth.
- He is a God who creates and recreates.
- And to know him is eternal life.
So when Paul says that noting separates us from the love of God – he lists all the troubles of life, spiritual powers, and of course he adds DEATH in there because it is still eternal life – we will still know God and be known by Him who knows his sheep by name.
- Have you seen the Kingdom of God?
- Entered it?
- Been born of water and the spirit?
- Received eternal life?
Readings: Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12
Key verse: Luk 24:11 “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (NIV)
“καὶ ἐφάνησαν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λῆρος τὰ ῥήματα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἠπίστουν αὐταῖς.” (GNT – TR)
“…but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (ESV)
I wonder if you’ve ever been “dissed”? It’s an interesting word. It means to be treated with disrespect. I discovered it to be a popular word when working with teenagers. It’s crept into the English language since the 1980s – through hip hop music I am told. Back in the 1920s it meant you were disconnected – like a telephone not working. Something loose in the head. Either way it isn’t a very nice thing – to be disrespected – or dismissed. Or disempowered.
An amazing thing happens in this story of the life of Jesus – through his teachings, death and especially his resurrection. The people who were usually disempowered at the time were taken seriously – lifted above their status in life. Galatians 3:28 sums it up well:
Gal 3:26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
So – there are women in the group from the beginning. They would have been “dissed” by people in those days:
- Disempowered mainly,
- Dismissed if they had an opinion.
- Discarded in divorce if a man got bored with them.
But they are there in Jesus’ team. From early on.
And on Easter Sunday in Luke’s account they are the first witnesses.
The “dissing” continues sadly. Even though there are at least three women named as witnesses.
The translators are kind to us – keeping things polite. In the NIV we read: Luk 24:11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Nonsense.
The word is LEYROS. It’s used once only in the New Testament. Here.
It’s translated as an idle tale, nonsense, foolishness, and a fairy tale. Its deeper meaning is more crass. Vulgar. “What a load of…”
And that’s the response you get today to when you tell people that a dead man got up again.
Telling the Christian story today in this generation will get you “dissed” too.
People will think you’re nuts. Loony. Weird. Strange. Daft.
But that is okay.
- Seeing the impossible.
- Believing the unlikely.
- Having hope for the hopeless.
- Courage in the face of death because you know that it’s not the last word – well let them think you’re mad.
It’s a mad but glad tale – that someone who was dead was raised up
- That he appeared in locked rooms
- That he cooked a barbeque of fish for them on the beach
- That he restored a man who denied him three times and gave him an amazing and exciting job to do
- That he showed up over 40 days to people – up to 500 at one time, meaning they weren’t all hallucinating
- That he sent them with a message of good news to the world
- That he promised never to leave them
- That they were to wait to for the gift of His Spirit – who would empower them to do the work given
Other writers help us to make sense of the story. Luke records the words of Peter in Acts 10:
Act 10:39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, Act 10:40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. Act 10:41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Act 10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. Act 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Those who dismiss this story and your testimony of your love for Christ – this risen saviour – will discover that he is judge and the end of all things.
This resurrection account is central in the story of the New testament and the Christian life through the centuries – we speak to, worship, praise, and hear from this Jesus.
Paul writing to the Corinthians prioritises it like this writing to the Corinthians: 1 Co 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
And later he says:1Co 15:42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 1Co 15:43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 1Co 15:44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
What great news is this for us.
Death is not particularly attractive. We grow cold and begin to decompose quite quickly. Like Lazarus who had been dead four days, well quoting the King James Bible, – in John 11:39, one of those words only used once – the phrase is “he stinketh”
Being raised imperishable, in glory, in power as a spiritual body sounds wonderful.
Going back to Luke 24 – where the women are dismissed, Peter seems to have some redeeming factors. Luk 24:12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
He went to look – and gave it some thought. The penny drops eventually. And Jesus appears to him with three questions about his love – as he restores his failed life – because he had dissed Jesus three times – disowned him. He does it over breakfast – that restorative chat.
Hopefully people today will investigate this amazing story as well. If you haven’t figured it out yet – I encourage you to have a closer look. You should while you can – it’s to late when you die and people will say of you if you hang around too long – “he stinketh’.
Today is a good day to investigate this empty tomb, and to put your faith in Christ the risen Lord. Because the witness of those women was not an idle tale, but a brand new truth to change the world. Death was defeated!
Scripture often says this: now is the hour of salvation. Put your trust in him today. It won’t only guarantee a new resurrection body in the future. It will mean a real relationship with the risen Jesus today. A friend and Saviour, a guide and provider for you to depend on.
READINGS: 1 Kings 17:17-24; Luke 7:11-17
Last week it was the faith of the centurion we looked at – his faith led to the healing of his servant.
The very next story in Luke – and there is no faith to be seen.
- It’s a funeral.
- It’s grim.
- There’s a widow and her only son has died.
The dead guy can’t have faith – and there is no expectation of faith at a funeral. Just pain and sorrow – deep grief.
The people around would have known about Elijah raising a widow’s son. Once word got out they would have joined the dots – here was another prophet empowered by God.
But put yourself in the story.
This is 5 miles away from Nazareth. 25 miles away from Capernaum where we were last week. Quite a long walk really.
The death would have been very recent. They buried their dead within 24 hours. Not like our week’s mourning at most here. Or the Swedish custom of a couple of weeks between death and the funeral.
So the grief is still raw – this is a child – an only son of a widow – it’s a disaster from an economic survival point of view.
The professional mourners would have been there. Wailing.
Don’t think that’s a bizarre custom either. They cried loudly so that the real mourners would not be the centre of attention as they genuinely wept.
It was all healthy but raw.
And along comes this prophet like Elijah. Except things are different. Elijah knew the family and he was known to them. In this account Jesus didn’t.
- A stranger who walks in.
- A crowd following him intersects with the funeral crowd.
- Imagine someone doing that at a funeral you’re at. Unusual to say the least.
He touches the funeral bier. The coffin – which would have been an open kind of frame. It certainly brought the procession to a halt.
The key line is verse 13: Luk 7:13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
What a strange thing to say. Of course she would be crying. Grief specialists would say to her: “let it out dear. It’s okay to cry!”
- It comes from compassion. In fact, a better translation is probably this:
13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” (NRSV)
- It also comes from hope – and knowledge of what was possible.
He knew he could reverse this. He knew his ultimate destiny. He knew that resurrection would ultimately change the way we see the world.
I remember Nicky Gumbel talking about how interesting a person Jesus would have been to have around.
- At a wedding.
- At a picnic.
- When out fishing.
- During a storm at sea.
- At a funeral.
The text is very matter of fact. Remember also that only Luke tells us this story. It’s not in the other gospel accounts. Listen again:
Luk 7:14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
Luk 7:15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Luk 7:16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”
Luk 7:17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
WHAT ABOUT US
What do you make of this?
At a factual and historical level, it’s Jesus showing his hand to the crowds. The word certainly would have got out, as was the case with the raising of Lazarus. In Lazarus’ case it was a nail in his own coffin as his enemies were provoked to plot his death.
There are two points to take home today really.
For us today it is a reminder of His compassion – shown in so many other gospel accounts.
- The hungry – he had compassion on them and fed them.
- The sick – he healed them.
- Blind beggars who called out to him – in compassion he healed them.
- And two great stories in the bible – the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal son – are both about compassionate people – the Samaritan and the Father in the stories.
It has to speak to us about compassion – we at least have to be like that – from deep within. The word itself – compassion – in the original New Testament Language encompassed the bowels, heart, lungs, liver or kidneys – all seen in those days as the seat of human emotion.
It gets us here (point to gut).
Are we really compassionate? the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, said this: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
Not a bad motto. To live by – not just to have on the wall or on your facebook page.
2. WOULD THAT JESUS SHOW UP IN ALL KINDS OF PLACES.
I bet no one afterwards at the funeral tea was resentful that this strange rabbi gate-crashed their ceremony.
“Who’s that bloke ‘ey stopping the procession?”
I’ve been watching too much British television I think.
Jesus is really keen to walk into the lives of our families and friends – he brings a whole new perspective on our sickness, pain, griefs and our dying. And our living!
And he really wants to walk into our mess too.
It’s ultimately about resurrection. Not about disembodied souls going to heaven. But about a whole new life at the end of it all.
And the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead – the Holy Spirit – is at work in us. (Romans 8:11).
That resurrection life begins now – we are made alive spiritually. He still breaks through into our messy world by His Holy Spirit.
Nicky Gumble tells the great story about a man who got really carried away in a very dull staid church. He was lifting his hands and shouting “hallelujah”- whereupon the Church warden came up to him at tapped him on the shoulder saying “we don’t do that here!” The man said excitedly – “but I’ve found religion”. The warden replied – “you didn’t get it here”.
If Jesus can walk into a funeral procession and turn things around, he can surely walk into our situations and change things too – bring new life and hope.
Next week when our guests are here there will be opportunities for us to receive prayer and really hear from the Lord. I encourage you to bring a friend along.
God still shows up in our lives. He changes us to make us compassionate.
He fills us with hope too – which is an infectious and helpful force in a pretty hopeless world. In fact, hope is the basis for our witnessing. Peter writes this:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
Hopeful people are joyful! Happy! There would nothing gloomy at that moment when the dead boy was returned to his mother alive and well.
Readings: Acts 4:31-37; John 3:7-17
In the time of Jesus people lived under the tyranny of the Roman Empire. They were taxed by Rome, ruled by Rome, controlled by Rome and Roman soldiers.
It would be like having an army from another country taking over control of our lives. Imagine Australian soldiers taking over here – watching us all at every moment. Perish the thought. Especially if they could make you carry their packs for a mile at random. And if they were crucifying people outside New World Shop as a warning to us to behave.
You can imagine that someone would want to overthrow those Aussies and send them packing. And there would probably be some group who would train in the hills somewhere and plot to overthrow the oppressive occupying army. Singing “God defend New Zealand” would be banned by the oppressors, but people would sing it in secret, and honour the kiwi flag.
In Jesus’ time there were all kinds of people who took on the Romans. Lots of them were arrested and crucified. Look at Barabbas as an example.
Most of those young Jews who were regarded as Messiahs died by crucifixion. They were actually expected to wage war or terrorism against the Roman army. When they died, one of their followers would probably have taken their place, or found another messianic leader prepared for battle. Judas Iscariot was possibly a member of a group of these zealots who carried daggers. They were called dagger-men or sicarii. They carried sicae or small daggers under their cloaks and bumped people off.
Jesus is the only young Jew who was hailed as a Messiah – who was resurrected after crucifixion. The resurrection sets him apart.
If you look at the Acts reading today, the early church was a completely different community – even sharing their wealth so that everyone was looked after. They shared everything and really cared for each other.
What was their message though? Act 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
The resurrection of Jesus sets him apart from any other person claiming to be a Messiah.
And in addition, the reading from John shows us that Jesus is completely unique because of who he was:
Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus was the Son of God. There is no other who had that position. And, uniquely, he defeated the evil of the Roman tyranny with love and sacrifice. His Kingdom is completely different from the powers of this world – as they were then and as they are today. We see this especially in his conversation with Pilate when he was arrested:
Joh 18:33 Then Pilate entered again into the governor’s residence and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Joh 18:34 Jesus replied, “Do you say this from yourself, or have others said this to you about me?”
Joh 18:35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your people and the chief priests handed you over to me! What have you done?”
Joh 18:36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here.”
Joh 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, “So then you are a king!” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I have come into the world: in order that I can testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Joh 18:38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no basis for an accusation against him.
Joh 18:39 But it is your custom that I release for you one prisoner at the Passover. So do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?”
Joh 18:40 Then they shouted again, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.)
Jesus stands alone as one who was resurrected – and one who claimed to be the Son of God. He makes the most unique claims – like this spoken to doubting Thomas:
Joh 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Joh 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you know him and have seen him.”
And to Martha when Lazarus died: Joh 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live, Joh 11:26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die [forever]. Do you believe this?”
And only he speaks of eternal life. We have eternal life through him now: Joh 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
The most important thing I can tell you is this – you can know God through Jesus – you won’t perish – you will have this eternal life and relationship – you can have it!
Now. Because Jesus is raised – resurrected and lives forever. He is truth. As he says to Pilate: For this reason I was born, and for this reason I have come into the world: in order that I can testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37)
Joh 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Joh 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We too can live forever. This is the truth. He is the truth.
He is alive and is here today. And if you allow him into your life – he will be with you always!