Understanding Jesus – Raised from the dead

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.

John 20:25

This morning we come to our last reflection on understanding Jesus.

As we consider Jesus resurrection, we are presented with yet another example of God’s grace. We might well have thought that Jesus would have expected instant belief and trust from his disciples. After all he’d just been through it would have been the least he deserved. Yet here we have Thomas being told the other 10 disciples had seen Jesus risen from the dead – and he refused to believe. ‘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.’

Jesus comes to us through the fog of our doubt to help us believe

Jesus response was to say, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ The good news of the gospel is that Jesus helps us in our unbelief, he comes to us and he helps us to believe. It isn’t just Thomas who Jesus helps to believe. Listen to what Jesus said about you and me who have not the opportunity to put our hands into his wounds. ‘Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

The wonder of the resurrection is that Jesus still comes to us, reaching out scarred hands and feet helping us to believe in him. To understand Jesus is to understand that he has done everything possible that we would have forgiveness of sins and eternal life in the presence of God. He came to us, lived among us, he died for us and then when he was raised from the dead still, he comes to us helping us to believe. All he asks of us is that we would answer as Thomas answered. ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28)

Have we understood Jesus? If we have there can only be the one response. Let us join Thomas as we confess, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Prayer Lord Jesus, my Lord, and my God. So often I find it hard to believe. I have so many questions, so many doubts. I am tossed from one thing to another like a boat tossed on the sea. Thank you for how you come to me, reaching out, helping, doing everything possible that I would believe. Lord I believe, help my unbelief. Amen

Understanding Jesus – The Crucifixion

You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!

Matthew 27:40

If we are to understand Jesus, then we must understand the cross. While Jesus was suffering and dying on the cross, he was faced with insults. If you are the Son of God, save yourself. If you are the Son of God. This phrase should sound familiar to us because it is the same phrase the devil used while tempting Jesus in the wilderness. ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’ (Matthew 4:3)

It seems that throughout Jesus life he was being asked to do things for himself to prove who he was. Ironic when we consider the whole purpose of Jesus life. ‘…and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21) If Jesus had of proven his credentials by coming of that cross, he would not have been saviour. Jesus willingness to remain on the cross, to suffer and die is the proof that he is saviour.

Understanding Jesus is to understand he died to save us from our sin. We need to come to terms with the fact that we need to be saved from sin and Jesus death on the cross is the only way in which we can be saved. This leaves us with one question, how? In Acts 2:37 after Peter had preached his sermon at Pentecost the crowds asked, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ The answer Peter gave was, ‘Repent and be baptised, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 2:38)

To understand Jesus crucifixion is to understand that he alone is the path to forgiveness and salvation.

Repentance is quite simply the turning away from a life of obedience to sin. By that we mean a life where our desires and wants take central stage to a life where God is central. We seek to be obedient to him. Of course, this does not undo the fact that we have been and are sinful. Trying to change how we live going forward in no-way makes up for what has already happened.

Something more then is required. Trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross. To understand Jesus is to understand that it is only his sacrifice on the cross atones for sin, it is only his sacrifice on the cross that proves he alone is saviour.

The question then is how we will react to Jesus crucifixion. Will we mock totally misunderstanding why Jesus came to earth, or will we accept the wonderful gift of a saviour dying to deal with our sin?

Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, you are my crucified Saviour. Thank you. I confess that I am a sinner in need of your sacrifice. I confess it is only because of you that I can be forgiven. Forgive me please. I repent, I turn away from a life of selfishness and self-centredness. Lord Jesus be at the centre of my life and help me to live for you. Amen

Understanding Jesus – Praying for you

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.

John 17:20

In John 17 we have one of the most powerful parts of scripture as Jesus prepares his disciples for his arrest and death which is only hours away. When we think of the context of this prayer it is amazing. The weight of the world quite literally is on Jesus shoulders. He is aware of what is about to happen. Throughout John’s gospel Jesus repeatedly says the hour has not yet come.

Each time John presents Jesus in a situation where his life appears threatened or that the crowds might take him and make him king by force, we read the hour has not yet come. A reference to Jesus crucifixion. In John 12: 23, just before Jesus celebrates the Passover with his disciples, the eve of his arrest, we read him saying, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’ In John 17:1 Jesus prayed, ‘Father the hour has come.

Jesus knows he is about to be taken, falsely accused, mocked, beaten, and killed. Yet he takes the time to pray for his disciples. ‘I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.’ (John 17:9) It is not only his disciples Jesus prays for, he looks beyond them into the whole of time and in John 17:20 prays, ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.

The Albert Memorial is a reminder of the love between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Jesus prayers are a living memorial of his love for his people.

Do you struggle in your faith? Do you struggle with life and wonder how you will cope? Do you question how people can say it will be OK? Here is the answer, regardless of what we are facing; difficulties at home; struggles with one sin or temptation; sadness; ridicule; persecution; doubt; Jesus has prayed and is praying for you.

This was not a one of prayer, Paul writing to the Romans said this in 8:34, ‘Who then is the one who condemns? No-one, Christ Jesus who died – and more than that, who raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

To understand Jesus is to understand that he does not look at un in despair, or from a distance, he looks at us and prays. He strengthens us because his prayers are in the perfect will of the Father. Whatever your experience of life, church, prayer – know this. To understand Jesus is to understand that he is praying for you.

Prayer Lord Jesus thank you for the reality that I do not face this life alone. Thank you that you are not distant or separate from me. Thank you that you do not look on my life in despair. You look at me and pray. You pray for those things I struggle with. You pray into my hurts and fears. You pray for those things that endanger me. Lord Jesus, thank you for your prayers.

Understanding Jesus – The way

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me…’

John 14:6

If we are to understand Jesus, then we must understand there is a reason for him. We understand there is a reason for doctors. When we are sick, we go to see the doctor because it is clear the doctor is the person with the knowledge and expertise to treat whatever is wrong with us. Jesus compared himself to a doctor in Mark 2:17. Jesus after calling Levi (Matthew) as one of his disciples went on to his house to have dinner with him. Matthew was a tax-collector and so it wasn’t surprising many of his guests where also tax collectors.

Jesus said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’ Is it foolishness to ignore the way especially when it is signposted so clearly?

Jesus was criticised for eating with such people and in response he said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

In the past weeks we have thought about our own sinfulness and how we can never overcome the problem of our own sin. We need a doctor, but not a medical doctor – a spiritual doctor. The only one who is qualified to deal with our sin problem is Jesus.

Are we trying to deal with sin in another way? Are we hoping it is not that big a problem and so it will just go away? Do we think it is such a big problem that it cannot be dealt with and so we have given up and lost all hope?

Jesus said ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’ The cross is the remedy for all sin, big and small. It is the only remedy. Jesus said he was the way the truth and the life in the context of preparing a heavenly place for the disciples. (Read here) Jesus is the way to the Father and we access that way through believing in him.

We believe in Jesus by trusting he is the way to the Father and so we follow that way. There is little point going to the doctor and being told we need to take this medicine or that and then not taking it. When our condition worsens, we can hardly blame the doctor or the medicine. It is our fault for not following the way laid out for us. To trust in Jesus is to follow him, to be obedient to his teaching.

Jesus said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father expect through me.’ Will we follow that way, have our sin dealt with or will we continue our own way with a worsening condition?

Prayer Lord Jesus, this morning I commit to following your way. Your way of repentance and change, your way of trust and obedience, your way of humility and love, service and sacrifice, love, and mercy. Lord help me to hear your call to follow and give me the courage to keep on following. Amen

Understanding Jesus – believe in me

Whoever believes the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

John 3:36

If we are to understand Jesus, then we need to understand what it means to believe in him. Over and again in scripture we are told to believe. Jesus himself said in John 14:1 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.’ What does it mean to believe because James (Jesus brother) said ‘You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.’ (James 2:19)

There is a difference in believing that Jesus is real, God is real and believing in Jesus and believing in God. James is telling us that the demons believe God to be real. There is proof of that in the story of Jesus casting out the demon legion. (read here) The demon, or demons, instantly recognise Jesus and know who he is, ‘What do you want with us Son of God?’ (Matthew 8:29) they ask. The demons believe Jesus is real and that he is the Son of God.

People believed in the strength of the walls of the Tower of London. Sheltering behind them for safety.

I don’t think anyone would argue for one minute that this knowledge of Jesus was a saving knowledge. None of us are expecting to get to heaven and find a reformed demon named legion. The fate of these demons was sealed when they rushed the pigs of the steep bank, drowning in the lake below.

What then does it mean to believe in Jesus?

We find the answer in John’s account of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night (John 3:1-21). We should remember that Nicodemus was a religious man, a sincere man. He believed in God, he knew who God was and he longed to serve God. He even recognised Jesus as being from God. (John 3:2) Yet despite this Jesus famously said to him, ‘Very truly I telly you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ (John 3:3)

What on earth does this mean. The answer to this question is the answer to our question of what the difference is in believing there is a God to believing in God. It is the answer to the question of believing Jesus is the Son of God to believing in him as the Son of God. It is the difference in Nicodemus believing Jesus was sent from God, and that God was with him, to believing in Jesus as being sent from God and God being with him.

Here is the difference. Trust!

Legion, the demons that James told us believed in God, even Nicodemus at this point in his life – they all believed God to be real, but they did not trust him. The demons because they were so filled with suspicion, hate and pride couldn’t trust anyone. Nicodemus trusted in what he did, his goodness, his worthiness rather than trusting in the fact he would never be worthy and so he needed Jesus righteousness.

To believe in Jesus is to trust that only Jesus can make us right with God. It is to rest in Jesus. I like to use the picture of an armchair. We spend all day working hard and when evening comes, we sit in our favourite armchair. We pull the lever that makes it recline. Our feet are lifted off the ground, we sink into the chair and rest – trusting entirely in that chair. So, it is with Jesus – we realise our salvation can never be earned and so we stop working for it, resting secure and at peace in what Jesus has done for us. To understand Jesus is to believe in him.

Prayer Lord Jesus for so long I have simply believed you are real. I have known who you are, but I have never trusted you. Jesus I no longer want to simply believe you are, I want to believe in you. Help me to trust you. I know my own righteousness will never be enough and so I need you. I believe only you can make me right with the Father. Teach me to rely on what you have done that I may rest secure in the salvation that only you can offer. Amen