Saturday, April 30, 2016

Forgiveness! - John 21:15-25

Forgiveness! - John 21:15-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 1, 2016

My father asked us what we should tell our mother when had not come home right away when she called. I grew up in a day and age when mothers would stand outside of their front doors and holler down the street for their children to "come home, it's dinner!" The only phones we had were the rotary dial kind and most children actually played outside and walked home by themselves! We both automatically responded, "Sorry." My Dad remarked, "Being sorry is not good enough, you need to apologize to your mother." Saying your "sorry" is totally different than being remorseful or repentant. The first is more of a response in order to deflect any consequences for our wrong doing or ungodly behavior, while repentance comes from being inwardly broken and open confession. Forgiveness cannot happen without repentance.

Impulsive Peter had vehemently said he would never deny Jesus and of course he did, three times. Afterwards he was remorseful and saddened by his cowardly actions, but he had not asked Jesus' forgiveness for his betrayal. We may wonder why the other disciples, who had ran away and deserted Jesus during his greatest need, did not have to ask for his forgiveness like Peter. Do not forget Peter's insistence he would never betray Jesus even if everyone else fell away and his impulsive nature that needed to be calmed. Let's take a fresh look at what forgiveness is…

READ: John 21:15-25

I have heard all kinds of excuses for not accepting Jesus: "When I get older." "I'm not good enough." "I do not know the Bible well." But the one that often is the real reason why folks are unwilling to accept Jesus is that they misunderstand what Jesus is all about. He is not about accusing them of one of their shortcomings, their lack of knowledge, nor is he concerned about their age. What they need to do is to come to the truth like Peter did, namely that…

I. Forgiveness accepts Jesus' love! (Vv. 15-19)

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

  1. The disciples had headed to Galilee; they had fished together, experienced another of Jesus' miracles, and eaten together. "When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'" Peter like the rest of us innately understood that Jesus loves him, but he failed to understand what that means! When Jesus asked Peter if he truly loved him "more than these", he was referring to the disciples. Peter needed to understand what repentance was all about, it was more than feeling sorry. His willingness to follow Jesus would strain all of his worldly relationships. Peter had declared, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." (Matthew 26:33 NIV) He was placing himself about his friends and was he truly willing to do that? "'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'"  But Jesus does not stop there, he continues. John relates, "Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me?' He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.' The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep.'" In Jesus' three questions of love (agapas, agapas, and phileis) and Jesus' three commands of duty (boske, “tend”; poimaine, “herd, lead to pasture”; boske) various Greek synonyms are used. Jesus was not only reminding Peter of the three times he had denied him, but Jesus was also teaching Peter about forgiveness. It is not about how we feel, our emotional state, nor our physical condition; Jesus' forgiveness is all about his love for us! "'I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, Follow me!'" When we grow old we often lose the abilities we once enjoyed when we were younger. John wrote his gospel way before Peter's martyrdom in Rome where he was crucified upside down. John had no way of knowing how Peter would die, but Jesus did. Peter needed to understand the extent of following Jesus. Forgiveness accepts Jesus' love!

   EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes in Our Daily Bread that "A meaningful apology can be the first step toward forgiveness. Colleen O’Connor writes in The Denver Post: “The successful apology dissolves anger and humiliation. It shows respect, builds trust, and helps prevent further misunderstanding. A sincere apology makes it much easier to forgive. And author Barbara Engel says that a true apology depends on the three Rs: regret, responsibility, and remedy… As Christians, we have a responsibility to repent and sincerely say 'I'm sorry' whenever we wrong another person. In a spirit of humility and love, we can help those who need to forgive us by offering a genuine apology." Peter needed to fully understand the depth of Jesus' forgiveness. Forgiveness accepts Jesus' love!

John's gospel tells us over and over again of Jesus' love. John understood this and Peter needed to firmly understand as well. We learn that…

II. Forgiveness follows Jesus!  (Vv. 20-25)

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

   1. John wanted his readers to know that he was there and that he saw and heard everything he was writing about. He tells us that "Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, 'Lord, who is going to betray you?') When Peter saw him, he asked, 'Lord, what about him?' Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'" It was none of Peter's concern what happened to John, he needed to follow Jesus. Jesus' admonishment is in the form of a command. Evidently John was personally hurt by Peter's remark because it caused the rest of the disciples to speculate about John, "Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?'" John wanted folks to understand fully what Jesus meant. And Jesus did not mean John would stay alive until Jesus' second coming, but rather that it wasn't Peter's concern. John's account is full of little personal items that even the other gospel narratives do not contain; this is why it is often one of the favorites of most people. John makes it very plain that he is indeed the one who witnessed and wrote about what he had seen and heard. "This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down", he writes. And then continues by relating, "We know that his testimony is true." The idea of "know" here is one of experiential knowledge. John was certain and gave testimony, as in a courtroom, of what he experienced himself. This was no secondhand knowledge but a personal witness! And John did not lie about what he experienced and witnessed concerning Jesus! John ends his gospel, his testimony, concerning Jesus with this caveat: "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." What were these things? Who knows, however, what we do know is the fact that forgiveness follows Jesus!

   EXAMPLE: Haddon Robertson reminds us that, "God is highly dangerous. We are sinful and He is holy. Sin can no more exist in the presence of God than darkness can exist in the presence of light. To stand before Him in self-righteousness would be to invite our destruction. The psalmist wrote, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3). In a cemetery not far from New York City is a headstone engraved with a single word: Forgiven. The message is simple and unembellished. There is no date of birth, no date of death, no epitaph. There is only a name and the solitary word forgiven. But that is the greatest word that could ever be applied to any man or woman, or that could be written on any gravestone… God is honored and worshiped because He alone can clear our record. If God could not forgive us, we could only flee from Him in terror. Yet the God whose holiness threatens us is the God who through Christ redeems us. This dangerous God offers forgiveness for all our sins. We only need to ask Him. Are you forgiven?" Forgiveness follows Jesus!

Conclusion:

Forgiveness accepts Jesus' love! Forgiveness follows Jesus!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The fishing trip! - John 21:1-14

The fishing trip! - John 21:1-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 24, 2016

There are a few things I really like to do that I do not get the time I would like in order to be able to do them. I like to shoot, draw, take photographs, hike, and I love to fish. Fishing is extremely relaxing for me, and whether I catch anything or not, it does not matter because I like the art of it and the ability to forget about everything else and just fish. Two guys can fish for hours and not say anything. I just love to fish.

For most of the disciples fishing was a way of life. It was not just a way to earn money but it was a way to feed their families as well. Fishing was a matter of life or death and these men knew how to fish. As we finish out John's Gospel we discover that the disciples had returned to Galilee and while waiting for Jesus there they decide to go fishing. Let's take a look at the fishing trip.

READ: John 21:1-14

There is a story told of an old Irish gentleman who was fishing in the rain in a puddle outside of a local pub. A passerby took pity on him and offered to buy him a drink inside so he could warm up and dry off. As they were sitting inside the man asked the elderly Irishman, "How many fish did you catch in that puddle outside?" He smiled and looked at him and replied, "You make the fourth one today!" In fishing, I have learned that…

I. You can't catch fish until you cast your net! (Vv. 1-6)

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

  1. After Jesus had confronted Thomas and he had believed and after they followed his instruction to go to Galilee where he would meet them, "Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias." For John it is a matter of fact and he is relating these things that he experienced to his readers. The Sea of Tiberias was another name for the Sea of Galilee or Lake of Gennesaret. John explains, "It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together." Jesus brought the disciples together for specific reasons and here we discover that not all of them were evidently there at this time; only about seven of them including John the narrator. Is this important for us to speculate on? Probably not, however, Peter being impulsive and probably bored waiting for Jesus to come tells the others, "I'm going out to fish." Peter knew how to fish he was after all a fisherman and had been one before Jesus had called him to be his disciple. The others, having nothing better to do, readily reply, "We'll go with you." Guys hate to be left out of a good fishing trip! "So they went out and got into the boat". It turned out to be not very fruitful. This is interesting because both Peter and the Sons of Zebedee had been fishermen with their own boats. They knew the Lake well, when and where to fish on it. Their lives had depended upon knowing the best conditions to fish, "but that night they caught nothing." It was not unusual for them to fish at night with lanterns to attract the fish. Yet, "Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus." Busy about their task they did not realize who stood on shore. "He called out to them, 'Friends, haven't you any fish?' 'No,' they answered. He said, 'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.'" This is Jesus. I can imagine him smiling as he makes his suggestion to these longtime fishermen. Perhaps they thought that since they hadn't caught any fish yet, any suggestion was good as another or maybe the stranger on shore saw something they did not. However, "When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish!" You can't catch fish until you cast your net!

  EXAMPLE: Believe me there is nothing more sacred than fishing for a guy. And there is nothing worse than someone trying to tell someone else who knows how to fish, how to fish! But if you know the water you are fishing and have fished it many times, then you can impart some personal knowledge to the novice in the boat with you. And if they are wise they will at least listen to your advice even if they do not use it. The problem with far to many believers in our day and age is that they have not only never attempted to fish, but they refuse to take any advice from those who know the waters and have done so. Of course I am speaking of witnessing. If you have not caught any fish, unbelievers, as a Christian, perhaps you need to take some simple advice: You can't catch fish until you cast your net!

"This is how you cast your line" my father told me for the hundredth time. At least that's what it seemed like. I complained, "Papa, you've told me over and over how to cast my line! Why do you keep telling me how to do it?" He replied, "Yes, and the fish are still waiting. Keep practicing." In fishing, I have learned that…

II. Jesus already has fish prepared for you! (Vv. 7-9)

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

  1. An impulsive nature can either be enduring or tiring depending on one is being affected by it. Peter was sometimes tiring and sometimes enduring. Here he is more enduring than tiring. John relates a typical Peter moment: "Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, 'It is the Lord,' he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water." Perhaps Peter had learned that the unexpected was what one was to expect where Jesus is concerned. Kind of like a child who hears the word ice cream truck, Peter hears that it is indeed Jesus! His reaction is just as impulsive but here it is more to the way Jesus desires all of his followers respond to his presence; immediately and without hesitation. When we do we will discover all the things God already has for us. Interestingly, "The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards." Here we discover the others were left to do the heavy lifting however Jesus already had enough fish cooking for them to eat! Where did he get the fish, how did he get the fish, and when did he get the fish are not really important as the fact that Jesus had fish! John relates that "When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread." Perhaps the disciples had to learn that the things of God only come when one is willing to go out and prepare them for service. They had spent the night fishing, then they were told where they could find fish, and finally they got more than they imagined! Yet what I believe is the final teaching here is the fact that Jesus already knows where and when you can fish but also that he has already prepared them for you! Jesus already has fish prepared for you!

  EXAMPLE: As we looked out on the big lake and the dark green smooth water it seemed as if we were the only ones fishing. And I wondered just how many fish were out there for me to catch. Of course there are always fish out there but they are not always caught. It can depend on the weather, the water, the bait, the fisherman, and the contrary nature of the fish. However there is one other important thing concerning fishing, the right equipment. I have learned over the decades that if you use cheap hooks, lousy line, or a poor pole your chances of consistently landing a fish are greatly reduced. In fishing for men using the Gospel we already have the best message, the greatest means, and the right equipment. Sometimes, rather often really, we need to rely on the fact that Jesus already has fish prepared for you!

I was surprised at first and then delighted to learn that you had to kill the fish, clean the fish, and then cook the fish after you caught them. In fishing, I have learned that…

III. You have to share what is caught! (Vv. 10-14)

Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

  1. Here we see again John's adherence to detail which helps us understand that this is truly an eyewitness account. After coming to shore, "Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish you have just caught.'" John is there and knows what Jesus said, but for us today it is important because the Lord tells us the very same thing. Here's what I mean: We are to bring the fish, the unsaved, we have caught by the message of the Gospel to him. We are his fishermen and women. We are to be about catching fish and bringing them to Jesus. Now it is important for us to understand what this truly means. I used to think and was often taught that it was our job to be evangelical and annoying witnesses wherever we went. This is simply not true. Notice how John describes the fish that were caught that day. And yes, I know they were real fish and not men, but John describes them as "large fish" and that there were "153" of them. He was concerned for each one because fishermen in those days would bring their catch in and everyone on the boat got an equal share of the catch. So numbers were important. And numbers are important to Jesus as we bring the fish we have caught to him. I am not talking about the many false and phony baptisms and conversions I have seen in my day that some are willing to do. I am talking about the actual fish themselves; the actual people who one has shared the good news with. And notice what Jesus does with those fish, he offers them as sustenance. We are to offer the ones we bring to Jesus as a sweet aroma to the Lord. A sacrifice of our time, our busy lives, our willingness to take a moment along the way and share the good news with another we bring to Jesus. "Come and have breakfast" he tells them. It is in this sweet fellowship of sharing that the disciples enjoy Jesus' company. John relates, "None of the disciples dared ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead." You have to share what is caught!

  EXAMPLE: It was the biggest six inch trout I had ever seen in my life because I caught it! And imagine my frustration when I had to share it with my brother! None of my "but Dad" would sway my father's mind, I had to share what I had caught. The same is true with those we bring to the Lord. It is our duty to bring them into the fellowship of sharing them with Jesus. We do this as we bring them to church, as we bring them to Bible Study or Sunday school, and we do this as we disciple them in the teachings of Jesus! You have to share what is caught!

Conclusion:

You can't catch fish until you cast your net! Jesus already has fish prepared for you! You have to share what is caught!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Thomas the doubter! - John 20:19-31

Thomas the doubter! - John 20:19-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 17, 2016

No doubt about it there are some things that I just cannot believe in: Alien abduction, ghosts, lake monsters, or Sasquatch. Nope, sorry I just do not believe in them. Now least you think I am a total skeptic you need to know I was raised by a mother who completely believed in each of these things. In fact, she would drag us as children to haunted houses, buy hundreds of books on UFOs (which she read to us like bedtime stories), and walk the woods in hopes of finding Big Foot. None of which changed my opinion of any of it.

In John's Gospel we are introduced to the disciple some call The Doubter, but of course he was not the only one who did. From the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Chief Priests, and other disciples we have discovered over the past several months that there were many who doubted Jesus was the Messiah. Let's see what Thomas the doubter can teach us this morning…

READ: John 20:19-31

Thomas was not the only doubter, in fact right here we discover that…

I. The disciples were skeptical! (Vv. 19-23)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

  1. It is fascinating to me to find out that far from the heroes or the stalwart upstanding men the disciples are often portrayed to be, they in fact were just like us! They had problems, they had fears, and they had their doubts about Jesus. I know this to be true because we discover from John that "On the evening of that first day of the week… the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews"! It is still Sunday the evening of the resurrection and where do we find the disciples? Are they out telling everyone about the empty tomb? Do they believe Jesus has indeed risen? No way! They let their fears get to them instead of their faith! However, in the midst of their doubts and fears, "Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'" That's what God always does when we are fearful or in doubt of the outcome; he gives us his peace. And just to make sure they get the full idea and can trust what their eyes are seeing, Jesus gives them something to hold on to as well because "After he said this, he showed them his hands and side." Physical proof is what they needed at the moment and Jesus gives it to the room full of skeptics who now "were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." But Jesus is there for more than just to sooth their fears; he is there to give them a lifelong task. And so, "Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.'" He is sending them into the world. Plus Jesus is not sending them out alone and so "with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'" Jesus was sending them as his representatives and giving them the knowledge, the Spirit, they needed at that moment. This is not some priestly commission whereby Jesus mystically gives his followers the personal right as he has to forgive sins; rather it is dependent upon the Gospel's terms: If one believes in Jesus, then a Christian has the right to announce his forgiveness, if they do not believe they are not forgiven! The disciples were skeptical but now they believed!

  EXAMPLE: A skeptic is one who is inclined to doubt. If such a person is honestly seeking to know the truth, his doubting may be the first step toward finding the truth. Not all skepticism is wrong, however, there can be barriers that help create our skepticism. The Radio Bible Class relates, "The first barrier, surprisingly, isn’t an unwillingness to believe that God exists; instead some doubt that they’re important enough for God’s attention. Second, some believe they are unworthy of His forgiveness. People are often their own harshest judges. The third hurdle? They wonder why God is not communicating with them if he is out there." There can be a forth reason as well, a person's upbringing or how one is raised. The disciples were raised as pious Jews and therefore believed in God, but because of their upbringing they had a hard time God would be a man, die, and then rise from the dead. The disciples were skeptical!

We found out that the disciples had their skepticism and now we find out more about how…

II. Thomas was a doubter! (Vv. 24-29)

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

  1. There is always one in the crowd and Thomas was the one. John relates that "Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'" Not seeing the empty tomb nor being with the disciples when Jesus had first appeared to them, he still could not believe. He was the original man from Missouri the Show Me State! Hey, do not be too hard on Thomas because wouldn't you agree that chocolate chip cookies are better eaten than described! And so we find out that "A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'" Jesus is ready and able to show Thomas exactly what he needed to experience for himself! Jesus miraculously stands among his men! And lest they be frightened, like that night on the lake when he walked to them on the water, he tells them "Peace be with you!" again. In the midst of all that is happening, Jesus is there for a specific purpose and person. Jesus is there for Thomas challenges him, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." God loves doubters and is more than willing to answer their toughest questions if they will only listen and are willing to respond. Jesus had Thomas' full attention. We are not told if Thomas actually did what Jesus requested, but I tend to think he did because Thomas' response is completely changed from doubt to "My Lord and my God!" And Jesus is so totally Jesus here in this moment. This is what I mean; Jesus uses every moment to teach and tells Thomas this wonderful glorious truth: "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!" That's us folks! That's all of us who are willing to come to Jesus without being able to actually see him! Thomas was a doubter but now he too was a believer!

  EXAMPLE: Joanie Yoder wrote, "Many true believers in Christ are plagued with doubt about their salvation. Even though they have come in repentance and faith to Jesus as their Savior, they still wonder, 'Will I really go to heaven?'" I remember being left behind asleep on the hood of our Oldsmobile in downtown Wenatchee when I was three-years-old. I started to cry and a nearby policeman came over to comfort me. Shortly my Mom and Dad followed by my brother and sister came rushing around the corner. It had only been moments, but waking up alone, I thought I was left behind. There are those in our day and age who believe in Jesus but cling to ungodly biblical teaching thinking that God would leave them behind. He never leaves us nor forsakes us! Thomas doubted because he had not experienced the risen Lord, then he did and his doubting disappeared. Dear believer stop doubting God would ever leave you behind and learn from Thomas who was a doubter!

You know what, God does not mind if we doubt or are skeptical because of he did none of the disciples or most of us would be saved! In fact, John reminds us that…

III. The proof is in the pudding! (Vv. 30-31)

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

  1. The idea that the proof was in the pudding is a shortened version of "the proof of the pudding is in the eating." One had to eat the pudding in order to know what was in it. In olden days during some holidays they would cook a surprise in a pudding, not necessarily like the sweet pudding we are used to, but you had to eat it in order to discover what was in it! And here John ends his narrative with more proof than we as readers could handle! He tells us, "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book." Evidently John had witnessed more than he could relate to us. Rather than wonder at what we might have missed, instead we should rejoice with John concerning Jesus! And we learn that John had a very specific purpose for making sure we could read his testimony concerning Jesus, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." The proof is in the pudding!

  EXAMPLE: The Radio Bible Class relates that "The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most well-established events in history. Paul cited as irrefutable evidence the more than 500 eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after he arose. Just as certain is the fact that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross of Calvary fully paid the penalty for the sin of all mankind, so that everyone who trusts Him as Savior receives forgiveness. And it is Christ’s resurrection that guarantees this. In his book The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ; Fred John Meldau underscores the significance of Jesus’ resurrection by describing Israel’s annual Day of Atonement ritual. Meldau writes, 'If [the High Priest] offered correctly, he came forth in due time; but . . . if he failed to offer correctly, he died there behind the veil. In like manner, the coming forth of Jesus the Christ, in His resurrection, after His atonement for our sins on the cross, shows that His offering was accepted. The empty tomb is God’s 'Amen' to Christ's 'It is finished.' When Christ emerged from the tomb, our sin was completely paid for. His resurrection was proof positive!" The proof is in the pudding!

Conclusion:

The disciples were skeptical! Thomas was a doubter! The proof is in the pudding!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Mary Magdalene the witness! - John 20:10-18

Mary Magdalene the witness! - John 20:10-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 3, 2016

We may at some time in our lives be asked to "tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God", but what does this mean? It means we are to relate the truth as we have witnessed it or experienced it and therefore it can differ from another's perspective of what they saw, heard, or experienced during the same event. This is in fact why we get some minor variations from the different Gospel perspectives of the same events, including the resurrection of Jesus.

Simon Peter and John had headed home after witnessing the empty tomb for themselves and now we find Mary still there. What she sees and experiences gives us a fuller picture of what took place that Easter morning so long ago when the tomb of Jesus was found empty. Let look again at what occurred and discover for ourselves what it means for us this morning as discover more about Mary Magdalene the witness!

READ: John 20:10-18

When someone who is very close to you dies it seems as if your world comes crashing in on you. And if you watched them die a tragic death it can be traumatizing to say the least. Here we find Mary alone at the tomb and as we follow what occurred we discover that…

I. Along with Mary we hear the message of heaven! (Vv. 10-14)

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 20:10-14 NIV)

  1. When John writes back in verse 8 that he saw and believed, did he mean he saw the empty tomb and believed Mary that Jesus' body was gone or that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Folks have speculated about this because we learned from verse 9 that evidently the disciples did not yet understand from Scripture Jesus' resurrection. Perhaps John had not yet told Mary that he suspected Jesus' resurrection or that he too was shocked and still puzzled over the empty tomb. Whatever the reason, we learn that the disciples "went back to their homes" while "Mary stood outside the tomb crying." However, Mary was soon to be the witness and participant of something extraordinary. "As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot." Where once there was just an empty sepulcher now there were heavenly visitors! While in visions angels may appear as multi-winged creatures with lots of eyes all over their bodies, but when they appear before men here on earth they often take on human form. No halos or wings ever. How did John know these were heavenly beings? He is writing after the fact and the word for angel (angelos) literally means messenger. So John relates that there were two heavenly messengers who ask Mary, "Woman, why are you crying?" Mary's grief causes her spiritual blindness and sets the stage for perhaps one of the greatest reveals in all of history. She responds thinking the body is still stolen, "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him." And here is one of history's poignant moments because sensing perhaps someone else was in the tomb as well "she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus." The message of the angels is to set the stage for the Messiah. With tear-stained eyes and blurred vision Mary does not at first recognize Jesus and so it is here in this moment that along with Mary we hear the message of heaven!

  EXAMPLE: There have been times in history where important messages have been misunderstood. Robert Frost wrote a now famous line in one of his poems: "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." It's not about being brave and taking the road less traveled! Far from it in fact and Frost himself admitted that he was actually mocking the idea that single decisions would change your life, and specifically making fun of a friend of his who had a tendency to over-think things that really weren’t that big a deal. Or the song "Every Breath You Take" by the Police seems like a wonderfully sweet love song. However, Sting wrote the song about his bitter divorce, and the lyrics explain how the experience made him obsessive and controlling! From text and Tweeter messages to Facebook posts others can misunderstand what we are trying to convey. And here in John's Gospel we find the same thing happening, yet, if we allow ourselves to we can experience what she did and along with Mary we can hear the message of heaven!

What occurred to Mary she never ever expected it to happen in her entire life. How could she? As we are involved with this grief-stricken lady we discover that…

II. Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord! (Vv. 15-18)

"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:15-18 NIV)

  1. As she talks with her Master Mary does not realize at first who she is speaking with. Some suggest Jesus kept this from her as he did with the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:16) or that Jesus' appearance had changed or it was her grief that kept her from recognizing Jesus. Far too often in our own self-centered world we do not recognize our Master's voice either nor do we see him actively working in our lives. Yet he is always speaking to us and at work. John writes that Jesus' conversation is the same question as that of the angels, "Woman, why are you crying?" Yet Jesus goes further than mere sympathy he pushes her to face her grief by immediately by asking, "Who is it you are looking for?" Jesus is literally asking Mary, "Who do you truly desire?" or "Who do you really worship?" Did she want her grief over a dead person or did she desire a living Jesus! It is the question we must ask today. Who do you truly desire, Jesus or yourself? Mary's grief still blinds her, "Thinking he was the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.'" What is blinding you this morning in accepting the risen Lord? God is merciful and kind, "Jesus said to her, 'Mary.'" He uses her personal name and in this she recognizes her Master's voice. "She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!'" (teacher). As the Good Shepherd he calls his sheep by name and they recognize his voice. (John 10:3-4) She may have hugged him or grabbed a hold of him in her enthusiasm however Jesus tells her, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" The "touch me not" of the KJV is way too harsh of a translation and the NIV actually got it right. Jesus was not untouchable in any way; rather the idea is that she should not hold on to him physically because there is now a new relationship. He would always be with her through the church and the presence of the Holy Spirit. And to Mary's credit her reaction is to go "to the disciples with the news: 'I have seen the Lord!' And she told them that he had said these things to her." Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!

  EXAMPLE: What you experience and what I experience during the same event might differ greatly depending upon what we think we see, hear, or even our likes and dislikes. A birthday party might have been the greatest thing in the world for you, but not for me. I was raised very poor, often shared birthdays with my brother who was two years older and only a week apart from my birthday. Birthdays became no big deal. Yet here in John's gospel we discover that the witness of Mary is so genuine and real because it places us right there with her in her grief. And I cannot help myself because when Mary finally realizes who it is speaking to her, I am experiencing it right there with her. Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!

Conclusion:

Along with Mary we hear the message of heaven! Along with Mary we experience the risen Lord!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.