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!