The living Jesus – transforms us

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’

‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’

Acts 9:10-11

This weeks reflections have focused our minds on how the risen Jesus uses us in the work of his kingdom. We are called to let go of Jesus in order that we would take the good news to others, feeding them the bread of heaven Jesus talked about in John’s gospel.

All of this is only possible because of the transformation that Jesus brings about in our lives. (Read Acts 9:1-19)

In this well known story two lives are transformed. The obvious transformation is that of Saul. The persecutor turned believer because of his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. Evidence the risen Jesus can not only take and change the worst of sinners but use us in the work of his Kingdom. (1 Timothy 1:15)

Saul was not the only person to be transformed by the risen Lord Jesus. Ananias when he received his vision from the Lord was reluctant to go to Saul. He could only remember his reputation and what he had done to Stephen. (Acts 6:1-8:3)

Two questions this morning. If you are not currently a follower of Jesus, have you been impacted by him recently. Have you felt or heard his call on your life? Will you respond like Saul by being obedient instead of living in opposition to him. Knowing that the living Lord Jesus can and will transform any life submitted to him.

Secondly, are you a believer but have been called to a difficult task? To forgive, to take a risk, to put your head above the parapet like never before. Will you respond to the living Jesus knowing that his transformation of your life did not end at your conversion but continues in how you serve him.

Prayer Lord Jesus this morning I submit my life to you. Whether for the first time or as a believer who has been resisting your call for me to serve. Forgive me for my stubborn resistance and may I know the joy of knowing you as Lord and master. Amen

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The living Jesus – tells us to follow him

Peter turned and saw 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.’

John 21: 20-21

Yesterday we read from John 21: 15-17 and reflected on the fact that the living Jesus has brought us to this point in our lives, whatever that may be. He has brought us here that we would feed his sheep. That we would serve in the kingdom of God.

This morning in our reading, Peter, having been reinstated by Jesus, looked over his shoulder and saw his friend and fellow apostle, John, following them. Peter did what we are all good at doing. He asked, ‘What about him?‘ It was as though Peter wasn’t content with what Jesus had said to him, he wanted to know how he would compare to John.

This is the sort of thing I used to get told off for when I was small. I would be asked to do something, then look over my shoulder and ask, ‘what about my brother?’ In fairness I used to get the same short shift that Jesus gave Peter. ‘What is that to you?

It is all to easy to get distracted by other people or other places. We look longingly at another church with more modern worship, bigger youth programs or larger congregations or newer buildings. We see the work of other Christians and their apparent success. Jesus response is simple, ‘What is that to you? You must follow me!

Jesus call on our lives is not to compare ourselves to others, nor is it to judge the importance of what we are doing by success, numbers or public acclaim. We are to stay focused and follow him, to feed the sheep he has given us and let others feed the sheep he gave to them.

How have we been distracted from following sheep? Has this distraction meant that we have hungry sheep, poorly cared for sheep? Do we need to focus once more on what Jesus has said to us, on what he has asked of us, on following Jesus – not other people or churches?

Jesus said, ‘What is that to you? Follow me!

Prayer Lord Jesus forgive me for those times when I have looked at the grass on the other side of the fence. Forgive me for thinking that because it is greener, or growing in a bigger field that it is better grass. Teach me to thank you for where you have placed me, to praise you for the people in my life. Remind me that my calling is simply to follow you. Amen

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The living Jesus – gives us sheep to feed

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ 17 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.

John 21: 15-17

In yesterday’s reflection we thought about how Jesus wants us to let go of him. That our worship cannot only be our private or corporate worship of bible reading and prayer. (As important as these are and should not be neglected.) We are to let go of Jesus in order to go instead and tell others of the good news that Jesus Christ is alive.

To often the command to go instead is understood to be given to someone else. People talk about the great work missionaries are doing. They also talk about how much more important that work is or how they could never do what missionaries are doing.

At the heart of this line of thinking is the idea we are not good enough or talented enough. We use the same excuse Moses used at the burning bush, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?‘ (Exodus 3:11) Or if this is not our excuse then it is because there is something in our past or present. We feel unworthy just as Peter who had denied Jesus three times on the night of his arrest. (Mark 14: 66-72)

The living Jesus does not look on our past or our natural abilities, much less what we think of ourselves. The living Jesus is a risen Jesus who has atoned for every sin and shortcoming. This means Jesus has prepared us for service in his Kingdom. The fact that Jesus lives, having already died, means that we have no excuse not to go instead. In fact Peter discovered not only was he to go, but he was given a very specific task, to feed Jesus sheep.

Each and every one of us have been called by name. That calling has brought to us to where we are today. Our jobs, our families, our friends. For many of us, because of the corona-virus regulations, we have been brought to a cross roads in our lives.

No matter our circumstances the living Jesus has given us the missional task of feeding his sheep. The sheep we have to feed are no less important, nor is their care a lesser task that anyone else’s sheep. The question we are faced with today is how seriously do we take the care of the living Jesus’ sheep which he has placed in our care?

Prayer Lord Jesus thank you for your atoning sacrifice on the cross. Thank you for how you have made me fit for service in your kingdom. Help me to understand and to be obedient to your command to feed your sheep, the sheep you have given to me. Help me to see the significance not only of the command, but the sheep, the lives you have placed in my care for your names sake. Amen.

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The living Jesus – wants us to let go

Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘

John 20:17

This morning we continue to think about Jesus appearance to Mary on that first Easter Sunday. (John 20:11-18) Yesterday we thought about how Jesus knows us by name and uses our name in order to lift our eyes off the distractions and maybe even the disasters of life and focus on him.

In some regards today’s reflection seems to contradict yesterdays. Once Mary recognised Jesus voice and realised he had been raised from the dead she fell at his feet. This was an act of worship, love and a demonstration of how overwhelmed she was. It was the same as hugging a returning relative who had been away for a while. That sense of not wanting to let go, of being delighted to get our hands on a loved one once again. Mary was hugging Jesus in the same way so many grandparents will hug grandchildren once the corona-virus restrictions are lifted.

Jesus response was interesting, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.“‘

If Mary had held on to Jesus she would have prevented him from finishing his work. Jesus resurrection could not be completed until he’d ascended to the Father. His work of salvation needed him to take his place at the Father’s side. Mary had to let go.

Notice also how Jesus gave Mary a task… ‘Go instead to my brothers and tell them…

When Jesus calls us by name lifting our eyes of our own circumstances it’s so we would worship him. Yet that worship cannot nor should not be restricted to me and Jesus on our own. True worship is not simply the relationship I or we have with Jesus. We cannot hold onto Jesus as though keeping him for ourselves. True worship involves obedience to the command ‘…Go instead…

How are we involving others in our worship? How do we incorporate the command to make known the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead? Who will we tell today?

The living Jesus knows us by name, but he also tells us to let go that we might …go instead…

Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, I am overwhelmed at the news that you are not only risen from the dead but that you call me by name. My every instinct is to take hold of you and hold on, to blot out everything else focusing only on you. Yet Lord, you have told me to go instead. May my worship today be expanded to include making known to others the good news that you are indeed risen from the dead. Amen

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The living Jesus – knows us by name

read John 20:11-18

Jesus said to her , ‘Mary.’ She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’)

John 20:16

In these next set of reflections we are thinking about the impact the risen Lord Jesus has on us. The first impact is that we are known by him.

In the reading from John 20: 11-16 we are told the story of how Mary remained at the empty tomb after Peter and John returned to where they had been staying.

It’s not hard to imagine how Mary was feeling. Grief stricken because of how she had watched Jesus die. That grief may well have turned to panic or anger when she discovered the empty tomb… the only possible explanation being that Jesus body had been stolen, or moved, or hidden. (Read verse 13 & 15)

Mary was so overcome she couldn’t see beyond her own grief, as heartfelt and genuine as it was. Even when Jesus spoke to her she didn’t see who he was, all she could think about was the fact that she couldn’t find Jesus body. Notice the personal pronouns in this conversation.

Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.

Mary’s own grief, her own feelings, her own need to fix the situation blinded her to the fact Jesus was standing before her. How many times do we find ourselves in a position where we are so intent in rescuing a situation, so consumed by something that we are blinded to the fact that Jesus is standing before us.

This is where the wonder of the resurrection impacts our lives. Jesus did not allow Mary to continue to fixate on herself. He wanted her to lift her eyes away from her own situation and see him. How he did this was incredibly gentle and personal. He called Mary by name.

When we are called by name we stop. Our name being said out loud draws our attention away form what we are doing to the one who calls us. So it was for Mary, she turned towards Jesus.

The risen Lord Jesus knows us by name, he calls us by name that we would be pulled up short, that our eyes would be lifted off those things which grab our attention, good or bad, and focused on him.

Last week Julia encouraged us to be still before God.

This morning in that stillness listen for God calling your name, lifting your eyes off the things that distract you and onto him.

Prayer Lord Jesus this morning I thank you that you know me by name. Thank you that you call my name. Lord, help me to hear that calling that my eyes would be lifted off the distractions of this world and focused on you in complete worship. Amen

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