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EASTER SUNDAY SERVICE – RAISED TO NEW LIFE
Resurrection sermon for Easter Sunday 2020
What does the Resurrection of Jesus mean to you Today?
From home 12 April 2020. Presented by Gordon Green
“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life”
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ…Don’t think of things on earth 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is our life….”
(John 20; Romans 6:4; Colossians 3:1-4).
Resurrection Sunday is the most important day in the year–the day the followers of Jesus went to his tomb early in the morning and found it empty, for he had risen from the dead.
What does Easter mean to you? What does Easter have to do with you and me today? How does it change your life?
When many Christians think of Easter they think about the empty tomb, the resurrection of Jesus, the women at the tomb etc. And beyond this evil, wicked, corrupt world we have the hope that one day we will be with God – face to face. – and we shall be reunited with our loved ones. The resurrection gives us tremendous hope. Hope beyond the grave. We have an amazing future. But what about today? What does Easter mean for us today? What role does a belief in life beyond the grave play within the larger issues that face us in our daily lives?
Did you know that the resurrection stories in the gospels aren’t about going to heaven when you die? In fact there is very little – almost nothing – about going to heaven after death in the whole New Testament. That should make us think. The Bible is a very deep book. There are many dimensions and levels to the truth. There is much more to the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is an astounding, astonishing, stupendous act moment – comparable only to the original creation of the universe. God’s new world has begun. The world has been redeemed. Jesus is risen and now everything is different. A new era began then and extends to us today. This is not always obvious because we live in “the time between the times”. The “already but the not yet”. Although we are in God’s Kingdom now it will not reach its full expression until sometime in the future. He is making everything new. His life now overflows from him into us. Did you know that Easter is all about a four letter word – life. Throughout the gospels Jesus kept on speaking about this life – the highest life – God life. Easter is about life – new life, abundant life, redeemed life, resurrected life. Jesus final words on the cross were “It is finished” but on Easter morning something new happened. On Easter the words “it is finished” becomes “now it begins”
He is doing something now and he is inviting us to be in what he is doing. On the night before his death, Jesus repeatedly spoke about something that would happen as the result of his death, resurrection and ascension. John 14:1-3.
“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
This verse is about something so incredible, so awe inspiring, so staggering that it just doesn’t seem possible.
- “I am in my Father”
Jesus shares and participates in an extraordinary, unique, intimate relationship with his Father in the Spirit. John 1:18 – Jesus is “at the Father’s side….” Some bibles translate it: “in the bosom of the father.” One scholar writes; “to be in or on the bosom of someone means to be in his embrace, to be cherished by him as the object of intimate care and dearest affection, or as we say in English, to be a bosom friend.” That’s where Jesus is.
- “You are in me”
Jesus “lives” in a real and joyous fellowship with his Father in the Spirit. But now he says we are in Jesus. Just like a branch is in a vine we are in Jesus (John 15:1-8). United, connected, alive with him. We are in this same relationship that Jesus Christ has with his Father. We’re not on the outside looking in trying to work out how to be in this amazing relationship – we are included in it!
- “I am in you”
Your life is much more than you ever imagined! Not only are we in Jesus but he is in us. He has taken up residence inside of us. He is in our lives, hearts, thoughts and relationships and his life is being formed in us (Galatians 4:19). That is our destiny. When you go through a difficult time Jesus is experiencing it in you and with you. He is the strength to meet that trouble. In the uniqueness, weakness and fragility of each of us, he delights to express himself in us by showing his strength, compassion, joy, patience and forgiveness through us. Paul said “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). That’s true for you too. He is your life. Abandon yourself to him. Trust him to be who he is in you.
We are in him and he is in us – there is not a part of our lives that is not in him We are sharing all that he is; he is living inside of us sharing all of he is. Do you see? We have been included in their relationship, and given us a place in their shared life and fellowship and joy.
It was all part of the plan. Before creation in eternity God wanted to impart his life and make it visible through us – his Church. God wanted to share the triune life with us. His coming and his death are the expression of the unwavering, relentless, determined passion and single-minded devotion of the Father to his dreams for our adoption to have us as his beloved children.
The message of Easter is that Jesus Christ has drawn us into himself. Easter is our annual reminder and celebration of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. But this is not only Jesus’ story – it’s our story too. Because he is our representative and substitute you were buried with him and on the third day, you arose with him – full of resurrection life. We are the body he is the head. Where the head goes the body goes. When he rose from the tomb to new, glorified life, we all rose with him to newness of life (Romans 6:3-14). Now the essence of who you are is him. We have become a partaker of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4). Paul wrote, “for me to live is Christ.” That’s true for you too. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. He is your life. Trust him to be who he is in you and the divine plan will unfold.
Today is the most important day of the year. This is when we celebrate the central truth of the Christian faith. Jesus is alive but what about us? We are alive in him and he is alive in us! You could say that Jesus’ intense, astonishing words in John 14:20 summarise the whole of the Christian life. It is also a description of our union with Jesus and a summary of what Jesus accomplished in his coming.
Prayer: Father, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that, through your Holy Spirit, Jesus offered his life for us, died and was raised from the dead for us, with us and as us so that we might live a new life in him. Please open our spiritual eyes so we may see this in a way we never have before. Enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we may know the hope to which you have called us and that we will understand the incredible greatness of your power for us – the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.
In Jesus name, Amen.
Maundy Thursday/Good Friday Message from GCI Durban
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Jesus, Friend of Losers
Today I want to start the sermon with a verse from Hebrews, because the passage that you have just heard describes the story of the final days of Jesus life: from the betrayal by Judas to the time when Jesus body is buried and the tomb is sealed. Throughout the story, we see someone who experiences the most painful and universal feeling of being a human: to lose. To lose—to be betrayed by your closest inner circle, to yell prayers into the empty night, to look like a complete failure.
Read: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
In this verse is one of the deepest realities that we learn about Jesus as he travels through the story.
In the world of drug rehabilitation, there is a term for people who have simply learned about drug addiction and recovery from text books and courses, as opposed to being a rehabilitated drug addict themselves:
They are called Text Book Junkies. This unflattering label implies that deep down they really know nothing of the horror of drug addiction.
Those who have recovered from addiction and are willing help others are called Sponsors. Text book Junkies and Sponsors are worlds apart. One has credibility, the other doesn’t.
Talk about credible friends
And what this verse in Hebrews tells us is that Jesus is no text book junkie.
He’s one who was tempted in every way as we are and experienced some of the worst of the human condition.
So often we can think this verse in Hebrews refers simply to Jesus being tempted too and we can limit its potential effectiveness in our lives. Not everything that we experience is temptation. What about betrayal, loss of a dream, loneliness, frustration, disappointment, anger, burnout, hurt, pain. Our life experience contains a huge range of experiences.
So let’s think about Jesus
- Born into a beleaguered minority in an occupied country
- Son of a teenage mother, and rumoured to be illegitimate
- Considered a bad influence by the upstanding taxpayers of the community
- Born in a cattle shed
- Led a movement of people who didn’t understand him and eventually fell asleep leaving him alone on the worst night of his life
Jesus understands what it means not only to be tempted like we are, but to live a life that most of us haven’t had to live. Then he died a death that none of us will ever have to endure.
We can have a romanticized view of these events in the life of Christ. We can think of him as the misunderstood hero who kept to his vision despite all odds.
But in the moment, at the time, Jesus looked like someone we’ve all been in life: a loser.
A loser with his world crashing around his ears.
A loser pleading with his friends just to stay awake with him for a little while.
A loser whose life’s work is mocked and derided by the crowd.
A loser crying out on the cross.
Let’s look through this night, the last night of Jesus’ life, to see how he embraces this loser status.
He becomes the high priest who knows not only what temptation feels like, but also loss, betrayal and perceived failure — he is no textbook junkie.
Until these very last moments, even after his resurrection, his inner circle is looking for his show of military power as he kicks Rome out of Israel at last.
But in his passion, Jesus embraces the ultimate fruit of humanity’s failure: death because of our sin.
He experiences our pain, our alienation, and weakness—his throne is an instrument of torture and his crown is made of thorns.
His highest moment is his lowest moment.
So let’s walk through the passage and see what God will show us.
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. (Matt. 26:14-16 ESV).
The betrayal of a friend.
Think of that part of the movie where we know something the main character doesn’t know—we see the enemy sneaking up or the main character’s spouse leaving to cheat.
There’s a reason that device shows up so often in movies and books—we can all identify with it.
Jesus knew what was coming, but his disciples didn’t
And his friend sold him for a pittance.
The thirty pieces of silver they counted out for Judas wasn’t as much as people thought. Not enough to change your life. I remember having a friend about 30 years ago who won R20000 for his garden layout and in those days that was a lot. But I remember hearing him say that it was nice, but not enough to “ change my life”.
Now Historians differ about the value of a piece of silver, but most estimates say the 30 pieces of silver would be worth between $200 and $3500 today. Not a lot of money to betray someone over to death.
Knowing the amount in today’s terms reframes this a bit and makes it even more pathetic. How do we feel when some gets stabbed for a cell phone? We rail over the waste of life for such a small amount.
But it looks like the established powers want this irritating character Jesus taken care of.
Maybe this isn’t the first time they’ve “gotten rid” of a political nuisance like him. They pay a weakling an insulting sum of money to make it happen.
This betrayal isn’t a dramatic moment involving epic battles and famous kings—this is a seedy, back-alley exchange that brings out the worst of the people involved.
Have you ever felt betrayed? Discarded? Dismissed? Jesus gets it.
So let’s move on.
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Matt. 26:37-38)
Have you ever been in this scenario? When you’re scared and feeling exposed and you ask a friend just to sit there with you. When you just want someone to hold your hand or put an arm around you—no words needed, just someone else’s presence.
I remember the night that I discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant again for the third time. I was 41 and scared. Very scared. All I said to Chris was hold my hand. Don’t talk, I can’t talk . And that’s what he did, held my hand and said nothing. Until I could talk.
Asking for this kind of support is pretty humbling. You have to admit that you’re scared, and that you don’t want to be alone.
We see Jesus going through this—something we can all identify with at the end of the day. Don’t leave me; just stay here with me, I don’t want to be by myself.
And guess what? They fell asleep on him. He didn’t ask for much—not military defence, not money, not great words of wisdom. He just asked for someone to be there in the night with him. And they failed him.
Jesus knows what this utterly human feeling is like.
When your spouse walked out and left you in an empty house.
When you were retrenched and for the last time walked from work to your car.
When a trusted friend didn’t answer that late-night call.
Jesus understands this, he’s been there.
But his journey doesn’t end here
Have you ever wondered as a teacher or a parent or a pastor whether anyone ever listens to you?
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matt. 26:51-53)
Peter does his thing here. Peter is known for shooting first and asking questions later . John says that a “band” of soldiers came for them. Peter, out of sheer emotion, makes his move.
It’s already absurd to have a band of soldiers come down on a few guys in a garden. Then one of the guys tries to defend himself.
And this is after 3 years of teaching Peter not to use violence!! Where was the sermon on the Mount?? Didn’t he listen??
But then Jesus does what, by the world’s standards, makes him an even bigger loser. He says, stop! No more! No more violence—no more eye-for-an-eye! It ends tonight! Peter, put down your sword.
In our world, the winner is
- the most powerful,
- the most fearless,
- the one who demolishes his enemies.
Here Jesus stops this cycle, just as he’s about to stop the whole thing with his life.
He will not take up revenge—he will lay himself down.
Skip ahead in the story.
Skip ahead to see Jesus standing silent before his accusers as they lie about him again and again.
Skip ahead to the whips and the purple robe and the mocking. To where Jesus holds back when he could defend himself, when he could demolish those hurting him.
Look back through Jesus’ life for a moment and you’ll find he does most of his best work with losers. People Like you and me. Like Peter who denied him when he needed him most.
His friends are all fringe people who have been left behind by society: prostitutes, smarmy little sell-out tax collectors, terrorists and petty thieves.
He touches the lepers and defends adulterers caught in the act.
Why is Jesus not only the friend of sinners, but the friend of losers?
Because most of us have experienced being a loser
He comes first to those whose only qualification is their need.
The longest one-on-one conversation we have recorded by Jesus was with the woman at the well—a discarded person with a chequered past trying her best to hide from the world. No one was watching; she had no political connections he could leverage.
And here he is, more than any other time, joining their number. Here he is at his most powerless, giving up control, letting himself be crushed by the merciless gears of society.
The saddest moment is not his death, but just a little before.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46
And that is the final breaking. That’s when Jesus fully expresses the human experience—the feeling of being abandoned by God. There’s nothing worse, and nothing more universal.
When we see another mass shooting on TV, when a young person in perfect health dies in an accident, when a baby is born sick, when the categories of good and evil and cause and effect have exploded and there’s no logic to be found, we ask: Why have you forsaken us?
Jesus has now been to the depths of the human condition.
He’s looking at it all from down here with us.
Did Jesus fully explain how the trinity works at that moment?
How God could seemingly abandon God?
No, he didn’t—
He cried out what was on his heart. He was a Jewish man who knew these scriptures up and down. He had grown up reciting, reading and singing them throughout the year. He’d expressed joy and pain through these scriptures.
Now he expresses the deepest pain through those words: abandonment, forsaken. Where are you?! Jesus is no textbook junkie. He knows it, he’s been there. He knows the kind of pain that causes people to think, just as the Psalmist did long before, that God was ignoring them.
But Jesus saves the world by not saving himself.
Now the resurrection is coming, don’t worry. The temptation this week is to start talking about that right away. We want to feel the power of joy not the weakness of pain. But let’s pause right here.
The last line of our reading for this week says:
So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. Matthew 27:66 ESV
Maybe it’s Good Friday in your life right now.
Maybe you feel like they’ve sealed the stone and secured your tomb. Part of the message of Christ’s life is that you’re not alone in that darkness. You’re not the first one to go through it.
Maybe you feel that the only option is to leave. Run away, hide. It’s all too much. Many of us right now are experiencing a deep sense of anxiety. The future looks very insecure. We are not sure how this will all work out.
Jesus came all the way down into our darkness.
He never left the project, he never pulled out and scrapped the whole thing. Despite the hurt.
In Christ, God told us the human experiment is worth it. You and I are worth it.
Jesus, friend of losers, experienced humanity all the way through.
From the minor annoyances of friends who don’t get it, to the darkness of feeling like God had abandoned him.
Jesus wept, says the shortest verse in the English Bible.
He triumphed for us, he saved us, he wooed us, he ransomed us, but he also paused in the middle of it all and cried with us.
This is what Passion week is about.
Read the story again as you go through the week. Ask yourself, do I see how much he loves me?
Do I see how much he loves others? Do I see Jesus?
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ARE YOU SATISFIED?
CHRIS KHOURY – SERMON SUMMARY – Sunday 15 March 2020
Are you satisfied? With your life, your relationships and circumstances, with where you are in your relationship with God.
I will give you a moment to let that question sink in. It is the type of question that you need to reflect upon when you take it seriously. Are you satisfied, or are you too busy chasing the next big thing that you desire or believe will satisfy?
I am referring to a satisfaction that is not dependent upon external circumstances or relationships but rather to a satisfaction that is in the deepest centre of your heart and soul.
There is a story in the Bible about a woman that was not satisfied with the circumstances in her life, that is, until she had an encounter with Jesus. I am talking about the woman at the well. Read all of John 4:5-42
For the Jews, Samaria was a place to be avoided. The animosity between Jews and Samaritans goes back over 1000 years. During Solomon’s reign the regions of Samaria and Judea were part of a united Israel. After his death the northern kingdom rebelled and the kingdom was divided into north and south. The northern kings were unrighteous and led the people away from God and into idol worship. The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom and brought in foreigners as slave labour. (2 Kings 17) They inter-married and even had the nerve to build a temple to the True God on Mt. Gerizim to rival the one in Jerusalem.
By the time of Jesus, the Jews consider the Samaritans (as the people had become known) to be half-breeds. The Jews avoided them at all costs or else be bitten by temptation.
The animosity, prejudice and hatred ran deep between them. But Jesus breaks all the social norms by engaging in conversation with the woman.
In the story, John leaves out many of the details. We have to read between the lines to fill in the gaps. Only Jesus is identified by name.
Let’s meet this nameless woman, who we are told is a Samaritan. She enters the story at high noon. Midday. In the heat of the day she is coming to the well to draw water. Significantly, she is alone. Something is not quite right. Normally the woman from the town would come together to draw water and to socialise. They would do it early morning or later in the day when it was cooler. Why was she alone, coming in the heat of the day to draw water? It would seem like moral barriers had been erected between her and her community. She was an outcast. Then she meets Jesus. He meets her at the well, sharing her thirst and loneliness. Jesus is a high standing Jew. She is a Samaritan woman of questionable moral standards. They are alone!! Jesus does the unthinkable. He starts speaking to her and even asks her for a drink of water. Jesus breaks down all the social barriers between him and the woman. Gender, racial and moral.
She wants to know his intentions.
Jesus asks her to fulfil his need for a drink of water. When he refers to her husbands she now recognises him as a prophet and not a suiter. She then redirects her questions around issues of worship. She seems to be seeking her satisfaction with the external circumstances of her life. Looking for the perfect husband, seeking the correct place to worship. Jesus wants her to focus on the internal matters of her life, not the externals.
The water I will give will become a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.
John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
At the deepest centre of our being we are made for a relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. Outside of this reality all other striving ends in disappointment, and our thirst remains.
So, I will ask the question again. Are you satisfied? Or in your quest for a life of satisfaction are you chasing the externals? A husband, a job, the latest i-phone, a raise in salary…??
Can you identify with the woman? Continually searching for satisfaction but never finding it. Looking for the perfect man, for the correct place of worship… She in turn questions Jesus. Wanting to know who is his man?
So, who is Jesus? He is a man, tired and thirsty from his journey but relaxed and at peace even in the heat of the day. He reveals himself as the long-awaited Messiah. Only Jesus can satisfy. Finally, in her long journey of searching, she has joyfully found satisfaction in Jesus. How do we know this?
The woman leaves her water jar at the well with Jesus. She returns to the very community that has shunned her. She becomes a blessing to them. Leading others to Jesus and to salvation. She joins him in his mission to evangelise Samaria. She has ‘water’ welling up in her that is now overflowing to others. Her search is over, her satisfaction complete. The woman and Jesus are filled with “living water”. She becomes a blessing to her community as they accept her back and respond to her testimony. They invite Jesus to stay. He stays two days with them and we are told, many believed that Jesus really was the Saviour of the world.
Jesus is the foundation of our lives. So rather than focusing on the external facets of our life, seeking satisfaction, contentment, happiness, fulfilment, let’s rather place our trust in our relationship with Jesus. He offers us a spring of water that gushes up to eternal life. When he is the foundation of our lives, when we join Jesus in ministry, despite the external circumstances that we face we can still be satisfied. Jesus is enough!
Pray for your circumstances. Take a piece of paper. Write down what it is in your life that you are chasing (looking for satisfaction) and give it to Jesus. Ask him to fill your life with living water that overflows to others in ministry.
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SERMON: 29 MARCH 2020
JOHN 11:1-44 AND PSALM 130
Weeping and Waiting
This sermon is divided into two sections.
First: Chapter “Grieving people” by Max Lucado.
The first half of this sermon is the story in John 11 about Lazarus. Lazarus was seriously ill, so his sisters sent an urgent message to Jesus to come quickly. This week we are on the fifth Sunday of Lent. Resurrection Sunday is two weeks away. This week’s theme is Rising from the depths. In John 11 we are pointed to Jesus during our grief over great loss. We find comfort in the depths of sorrow with renewed hope in Jesus who comes to us, calling us into his raised life with the Father in the Spirit.
Second half: Psalm 130 – a beautiful Psalm about the mercy of God, God’s forgiveness, his steadfast love and his great power to redeem. To stay with the theme. Rising from the depths Psalm130 is a prayer where we can cry to God out of the depths of sin, of fear, of uncertainty while waiting on him in hope.
3 Lord, if you measured us and marked us with our sins,
who would ever have their prayers answered?
Many people – even Christians – see God as the great scorekeeper in the sky. Do you see God like that? God is marking our papers and gives us a big red F because we can’t reach his high standards. If we see God like that then we try to appease him. If I do that God will be more lenient and I’ll just scrape through. That is not true. God doesn’t wait gleefully to catch people out, to pounce on sinners in the act. No – God is forgiving by nature. He brings the sinner up from the lowest point and leads him right back to fullness of life. He is the great redeemer. Sin has consequences but his mercy is much greater than we probably ever thought.
4 But your forgiving love is what makes you so wonderful.
No wonder you are loved and worshiped!
5 This is why I wait upon you, expecting your breakthrough,
for your word brings me hope.
6 I long for you more than any watchman
would long for the morning light.
I will watch and wait for you, O God,
throughout the night.
Meditate on these words. Not only is this a vital key in dealing with our hurts, resentments or anger but this stands at the very centre of our walk with God.
7 O Israel, keep hoping, keep trusting,
and keep waiting on the Lord,
for he is tender hearted, kind, and forgiving.
Keep hoping he writes. Hope is connected to waiting. This kind of hope doesn’t mean “I hope I find a job.” Or “All we can do is hope.” That kind of hope is almost a hope-less word. No this hope means “ to expect.” It has to do with anticipation. The biblical hope is a confident hope in something that will take place. It is an expectancy – an absolute assurance that something good is going to happen.
He says I long for you or wait for you more than a watchman would long for the morning light. Like the watchman waiting to be relieved from duty at the dawning of a new day. He has been waiting for the morning and certain it will come. Confidence. Anticipation. Expectation. Perseverance. Joy – that’s what biblical waiting is about!
That’s what he’s saying here: you get the picture of a deep sense of longing, dependence and assurance. What is the key to waiting? How do we “wait for the Lord”? Know who God is. Hebrews 13:5 says God will never leave us. According to the Greek experts if this verse was translated literally into English it would read: “I will never, never, never, never, never leave you.” What an exhortation! What a promise from our loving Father! He is just. He is good.
Wait for God. And? He will deliver you. He will redeem you.
7 O Israel, keep hoping, keep trusting,
and keep waiting on the Lord,
for he is tender hearted, kind, and forgiving.
He has a thousand ways to set you free!
8 He himself will redeem you;
he will ransom you from the cruel slavery of your sins!
That’s a promise. God will handle the matter. He will make things right. He will sort it out in his own time and in his own way.
This is not about living a passive life and just waiting for God to do everything for us. We are to live responsibly. If we need to forgive then forgive. If we need to confront then confront. If we need to examine ourselves then do so. Joseph was forced to wait on the Lord, but while he waited, he got busy doing what he could. His good attitude and work ethic resulted in promotion along the way. God is not inactive when we are waiting but working behind the scenes to put all the “missing pieces” in our lives in place, before he fulfils our desires or request.
Waiting is foundational to our walk of faith. While we are waiting for God – trust him, expect from him and watch. He will come through – usually in a way you don’t expect and his activity will be in a far deeper level than you can imagine. Place your hurts, offences, grievances, uncertainties in God’s hands. Wait for the mercy of God because it is as sure as the morning.
Ask God for mercy and then wait for it – it will come. And it may come in surprising ways. God brings good out of evil. He does that by loving the sinner, by forgiving him and by offering him fellowship with himself.
I recently came across this prayer:
Lord give me a pure heart – that I may see you
A humble heart – that I may hear you
A heart of love – that I may serve you
A heart of faith – that I may abide in you.
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The theme this week is seeing by God’s light.
In our 4 scriptures for the week we see this unfolding
- In 1 Samuel 16, God tells Samuel to see with God’s eyes and vision as Samuel goes to anoint the new king – to look beyond the outward appearance of a man like Saul. 2.
- In Psalm 23, the poet talks about walking by God’s light even in the greatest darkness.
- In Ephesians 5, Paul encourages this fledgling faith community to walk in the light of Christ rather than their old darkness.
- Our sermon, Jesus and the Invisible Man, is based on John 9. Jesus brings metaphor and concrete reality together by declaring himself to be the light, then giving light to the eyes of the man born blind.
Jesus and the Invisible Man
When we are travelling along the road, we don’t notice everyone. Beggars? There are so many now that we tend to ignore them. They are kind of invisible.
We’ve all experienced “invisible” people in our lives. It’s not that we don’t care, or dislike them, but there are people we simply don’t see.
e.g. The teenage cashier at the coffee shop, the homeless man asleep on the park bench, the person in the next seat on the bus.
It’s not that we are selfish and disregarding, it’s just that we get busy and we are concentrating on the next thing we have to do. They become part of the scenery.
In Jesus’ day, people with disabilities like the man born blind in John 9 were part of this invisible category. They were completely dependent on the kindness of the society around them—there were no social services or other support systems. They would beg at the gates and the synagogue, wherever people were gathered.
The people back then were so worried about their own survival that it was difficult to help the invisible people. And it’s getting the same in South Africa. They did—in some ways better than we do—but survival for a person with a disability was brutal and meagre.
With this context in mind, our story today disturbs many emotions within us. Turn with me to John 9:1
While walking along the road, Jesus saw a man who was blind since his birth.
Jesus “saw” him. Jesus took time to LOOK. Jesus stops in his very important and increasingly dangerous journey to “see” an invisible person.
When we think about it – this man, WHO COULD NEVER SEE, was seen by the Lord.
This story tells us Soo00oo many things! We will not be reading the whole of this passage. But when we read it for ourselves, we will watch as this man slowly but surely gets reeled in by Jesus. Watch for this as you read through the scripture and see how the story unravels.
Here is an overview:
First, Jesus sees and heals the man with mud he made from his own spit. Then Jesus tells him to wash in a nearby pool and then he takes off.
The locals see the guy and realise he’s the one who was born blind and now he can see. They ask him over and over what happened, and he tells them. They ask him where Jesus is, and he says he doesn’t know. (this was because he had not yet seen Jesus. He did not know what he looked like…)
They bring the recently blind man to the Pharisees to make sense of it, which spurs a theological debate among them. How can someone who doesn’t follow our traditions be from God? How can someone who is not from God do stuff like this?
They demand that the exasperated and recently blind man tell them what happened, and he essentially says:
“I don’t know how it worked, I don’t even know who the guy was really, but I know I can see!!!”
They ask his parents what’s going on and they jump out of the conversation quickly, so they won’t get in trouble. They come at him again and then cast him out of the synagogue, which is basically like cutting him out of the community.
Jesus finds the man and reveals who he is to him in a one-on-one conversation.
Read this fast enough and it sounds like a slapstick comedy with characters running back and forth across the screen.
- aren’t you the blind guy?
- Who did this to you?
- I’m not sure—I don’t know!
- Is that your son? We don’t want to get involved!
- We’re confused!
- So are we!
The story of “Jesus and the Invisible Man” tells us a lot about Jesus. Not just the unsettling and amazing occurrence of a miracle, but also his heart as he interacts with one of the invisible people in society.
So, what does all this mean to us, today?
- Jesus sees us.
- Jesus draws us into his story
- Jesus finds us
Jesus sees us
We’ve talked about the amazing opening line of the story:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. (John 9:1 ESV)
All through Scripture, we see God drawn to the outsider, the ones society doesn’t see. Jesus’ birth is announced to shepherds and foreign pagan men.
The first missionaries Jesus appoints are a demon-possessed man with a mental illness and the woman at the well—a relationship addict who’s a member of a cult.
Since the very beginning, God sees those we don’t.
In Genesis 16, we see Abraham’s servant Hagar on the run in the desert, pregnant and alone. She’s visited by the angel of the Lord who comforts her and promises her a legacy. She praises God and calls Him “El Roi”—the God who sees me.
El Roi—the God who sees. The God who seeks out the banished in the desert and the forgotten by the side of the road.
2 His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?” 3 Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.
Jesus puts us into his story
Now the question the disciples ask Jesus about the “sin”, is an obvious one if you lived back then. People believed that disability was caused by the parents’ sin, and perhaps even by the baby sinning in the womb. They still believed this. So, the disciples’ question: “who caused this suffering?” was a normal question.
But Jesus simply says that this man’s suffering is somehow part of the greater story. That this invisible man is part of God’s great work in the world.
(Does that answer all our questions with respect to the problem of suffering? No, I don’t believe so).
But Jesus is saying that this man’s suffering is neither meaningless, nor is it this man’s fault. Resurrection will be found even in the darkness of this man’s life, and his story has disrupted narrow, legalistic thinking about who God is.
6 After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes 7 and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So, the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.
Here Jesus disrupts the story again confronts their understanding of the Sabbath.
- First, he makes a paste out of mud and spit, which was against the rules about working on the Sabbath.
- He also performs a healing, which was also against the rules.
In Jesus’ time, keeping the ritual was a matter of religious and ethnic identity.
What Jesus reminds them of (reminds us all) is that the incoming of the kingdom trumps keeping rituals. Healing someone, helping the vulnerable – these are more important than the details of keeping rituals. The ritual is supposed to point toward the healing, not the other way around.
Before he’s even healed, this man has become part of the big story of Jesus: pointing us to our need not for more teaching, not for more rules and rituals, but for a complete change of heart.
So, he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:7 ESV)
Now, let’s take a bird’s eye view of how all this fits into the greater story of John.
Through the first half of the book, Jesus is constantly disrupting the story and getting in trouble. He keeps showing up at symbolic occasions and in symbolic places and saying that all of it points to him.
- He cleanses the temple and then declares that he is the temple—the true place where heaven and earth meet, which will rise up three days after they destroy it.
- He goes to the sacred well of Jacob and declares that he is the living water.
- At the Passover feast time, he creates a miraculous meal for thousands and then claims to be the bread.
- At the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrating the deliverance of Israel, he claims to be the water from the rock in the desert.
Jesus is interacting with metaphors all through here, (I am …) disrupting and reforming them around himself. He keeps telling the people that the rituals they have are just a shadow of the things to come—himself.
If we take our bird back down into this story, we can see some of the details in a new way. Jesus continues his metaphor here, bringing his metaphors of water, bread and temple to a climax.
4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.” 6 After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes 7 and told him, “Go and wash you face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So, the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.
Jesus is the figurative light of the world that brought light to this man’s vision. These rituals and customs only point to the reality that is to come, and now that reality is here. Jesus brought metaphor and reality together.
The light that gave light.
The life that gave life.
The resurrection who was physically, bodily resurrected.
Jesus draws this nobody into his story. He gives sight to the invisible man and brings him into the vision (to mix metaphors a bit). In one odd encounter, Jesus brings his greater story into play, disrupting the story of unhealthy culture worship, exclusion of those with special needs, narrow theology and finally exploding the story of physical reality by healing blindness.
Jesus draws us into his transformative story of the whole world, no matter how insignificant we may think we are.
Jesus finds us
This encounter takes a strange turn. Jesus exits the stage immediately. The people are completely confused about the blind guy they probably saw every day suddenly walking around blinking in the sun. The guy’s parents get involved, and then immediately jump out of the conversation because they don’t want to get banished from the synagogue.
Jesus surely healed this blind man, but this miracle quickly got the man into trouble with the religious rulers who hated Jesus. The happiest day of his life also became one of the hardest days in his life, but Jesus works in the hard times too. And this part of the story shows us more about how the Lord wants to work in our lives.
Getting “thrown out of the synagogue” meant they were pushed out of the centre of community life. They would be whispered about and excluded from the cultural centre. This was devastating. They threw out followers of Jesus because it meant they were no longer under Jewish protection. The Roman powers left the Jewish community alone, at least for their religious observance, but the Christians didn’t have this protection. This left the new believing community unguarded.
So now this man is without a home. Even his own parents distanced themselves from him because of what happened. Yet over and over we hear the same thing from him: “Ummm…. I don’t know how it all worked or who exactly that was, but now I can see!” (Amazing grace) Whatever happened, it worked!
- How does faith work? Knowledge is very important, but it will only get us so far—there’s still much that’s a mystery about how the gospel works. But it does! Lives are healed, people are transformed, even though the exact details of it are way beyond our comprehension
- Another lesson is that the healed man was willing to believe in Jesus, as the Christ, saying, “Who is he, sir. That I may believe in him?” Application: Commit oneself and believe, in order that one may understand, and one’s seeing will become a way of knowing God, which is ever perfecting. Seeing is believing only if we are willing to believe first. A mistake is to seek to understand first, in order that one may believe later– doing that leads to spiritual blindness.
If we had to understand something fully before we believe it works, none of us would breathe or speak or even walk. We still only scratch the surface of understanding these things. That’s part of the message of this story—the disciples, the Pharisees, the locals all try to put WHAT THEY UNDERSTAND INTO what happened and MAKE IT MAKE SENSE, but they can’t. They can only behold it. The blind man is the only one who gets it: “Whatever happened, I can see now!”
But Jesus finds us.
This story about a blind man receiving his sight is not only a miracle story, but a description of the process of removing our blindness about who Jesus is. This “healing story” is about developing eyes that can see beneath the surface to truth. It is not about visual sight, but about insight or second sight. All of us are blind and in need of Jesus’ touch.
It is about seeing past the false rules and values of the world to the loving, inclusive, all-forgiving love of God.
These few passages establish a truth—spiritual blindness is a serious condition, a condition that leads to spiritual death.
Now, I know that this story of giving sight to the blind, like all the stories of Jesus giving sight to the blind, is about God giving spiritual sight to all of us who are spiritually blind. It’s about God showing all of us the way with new eyes, and a fresh look into the Universe that He made.
But that also means that Jesus comes to us.
And digs in the dirt.
And spits in his hand.
And slathers us with paste.
So that our new eyes may behold the Light of the World.
I can’t help thinking of God digging in the dust of the ground in Eden and giving us his breathe that we might live.
God lifted us out of the earth in the beginning, and Jesus is still in the business of lifting us up.
And opening our eyes.
And bringing us Life.
There were a lot of things that healed man did not know about Jesus. I don’t think he was even saved at that point. But he gave a testimony for Jesus Christ, and that’s what God wants us to do. He knew he had been blind and now he could see.
Please read verses 9-34 for yourselves at this point
*Notice that the blind man didn’t have a great speaking voice, or fancy clothes. He was a beggar! He didn’t have a great education. He couldn’t read. As a matter of fact, he had never seen a word in his whole life. But he did have a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christians, so have we!
*This healed man passed his testimony on to many other people, and now through the Bible, he passed his testimony on to us. (Aren’t you glad he did?) You never know how much good you will do when you speak up about our Saviour!
35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 The man answered, “Tell me who he is, sir, so that I can believe in him!” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have already seen him, and he is the one who is talking with you now.” 38 “I believe, Lord!” the man said, and knelt down before Jesus. (This was the first time the man had actually seen Jesus – he confesses his belief – until Jesus reveals himself to us we are spiritually blind)
Jesus, the one who sees him, now goes to find him. Jesus finds the invisible man – the one no one else thought of as useful, who was considered a burden. Even after the coldness of his parents who left him out on his own because they feared the cultural machine, Jesus finds him. And in this exchange, we see one of few interactions where Jesus explicitly addresses his identity and accepts worship.
Here we have one of the few converts (at least that we have record of) that are made by Jesus in person. Again, he skipped over the government officials and cultural rock stars and military heroes to choose outsiders like this.
So, this man was without a family and a home and now he’s part of the family of God, welcomed by Jesus himself.
Jesus sees you.
Jesus Includes you in his story.
Jesus finds you.
Let him find you today and make you part of the great story of redemption that started before the beginning of time. He doesn’t need you, but he wants you. You’re never invisible to Jesus.
Let us pray:
O God open our eyes to your presence in our lives. Give our lives meaning as we follow where you lead us. Let us silence the voices of spiritual arrogance and rationalization within us. We humbly ask this in Jesus’ holy name.
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What Only God Can Do
Jesus and Nicodemus – John 3:1-17
Redhill. 8 March 2020. Presented by Gordon Green
In the season of Lent we see people encountering Jesus. Today we meet Nicodemus – a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. Pharisees believed that to be right with God you must keep the law. After dark one evening, he met with Jesus. Jesus got straight to the point. “Listen very carefully, this is so important. I tell you the truth, unless you are born again (born from above is better), you cannot see (experience, perceive) the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. One of the things Jesus did was to challenge the conventional thinking of His day, He tried to get people to go to a deeper level of thought concerning life.
When we hear the phrase “born again,” we may think of dramatic conversion stories of drug addicts and criminals. Or someone immoral, living in dysfunction and chaos finally finding Jesus. Or radically secular people coming to believe. Nicodemus fits none of those notions! Nicodemus was a good man, a highly respected religious leader and teacher of the law. He was one of the most moral, religious, upstanding, intellectual, tax-paying citizens you’ll ever meet. But Jesus tells him he needs to be born again. 5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” This is the source of spirituality. This is not something humans can do. The Holy Spirit does it. Jesus continued; 7 “So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’” Jesus was saying “If you don’t change your ideas you’ll never be able to participate in what God is doing in bringing his kingdom into the world. To get a new perspective about who God is and who you are you must be born again. If you want a heavenly perspective and see life through the eyes of God you must be born again.
Jesus challenged Nicodemus to re-evaluate and rethink everything he believed and had learned. “He was getting a deconstruction of his faith system and experiencing a paradigm shift.” Being born again means to start from the beginning. Think of this: God made everything you have – legs, eyes hands. You made nothing. He was the one who made everything new the first time and he is the one who makes everything new the second time (2Cor 5:17). At our new birth God gives us what we need. New eyes so we can see by faith, a new mind so we can have the mind of Christ. A new vision so we won’t give up. A new heart that has been cleansed by Christ. We are united to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The first birth was for earthly birth the second for eternal life. There is something else – we were not active in our birth. We were passive. You were not born because of what you did. Someone else did all the work and felt all the pain. Your mother did the pushing and the struggling. Your birth was due to someone else’s efforts. The same is true of our spiritual birth. It is through God’s pain that we were born. It’s not our struggle, but God’s. It’s not our blood shed, but His. Born again implies becoming a new person – starting over.
The answer is not within you, it comes from outside. Yes, this is difficult to understand. It is a mystery. 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” We can’t explain how it all happens. It is a supernatural experience.
“Being born again of the Spirit is an unmistakable work of God; it’s as mysterious as the wind, as surprising as God Himself. Being born again from above is a perennial, perpetual and eternal beginning — a freshness all the time in thinking, and in talking, and in living. It is the continual surprise of the life of God.” -Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest
It is a mystery. We mustn’t feel we have all the answers. We’re all different. There is no formula. He was pointing in a new direction but gave Nicodemus a choice. He was challenging him to take a leap of faith. Jesus even refers to a story (3:14-15) whose central action is looking up. In Numbers there is a strange story of poisonous snakes biting the Israelites. Moses made a bronze serpent, put it on a pole and everyone who looked up at it was healed. The poisoned people had to look up, outside of themselves. Just as the connection between healing and looking at a piece of metal on a pole was mysterious, so our healing that comes through the cross is mysterious. And yet it’s what we need. The poison of sin is too powerful, and it’s nothing we can heal on our own. Nicodemus would see Jesus lifted up on the cross.
Nicodemus had never heard anything like this. Then Jesus says: 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” No rules were given. No system. No code. No formula. Could God be so generous? These words rang in his head – everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 Not everyone who achieves, succeeds, agrees but everyone who believes will experience eternal life – not just a reference to life after death but life now. But Nicodemus was a changed man. Later he publicly stood up for Jesus in the council. Everyone else was condemning him. He was brave to do that. There was already a plot to get rid of Jesus. There was the fear that he was about to start a revolution. And then:
39 With Joseph came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment…. they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. 41 The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb…. they laid Jesus there.
Joseph and Nicodemus dressed the body of Jesus. This was the work of women and slaves—not men and definitely not men of influence. We see a new Nicodemus. We see his commitment. He feels free of his religious and cultural baggage. He was saying I believe this man is the Messiah. His identity is in Christ, even though he doesn’t understand everything he’s beginning to see.
Imagine how Nicodemus felt when he saw Jesus lifted upon the cross. It was God’s love on full display for all to see. He must have been overwhelmed by the love of God and moved to action. Originally he came at night in secret but now he was out in the open in front of everyone. The last time we see him is publicly doing the work of those considered the lowest in that society.
Do you feel in the dark right now? There doesn’t seem to be any light in this dark world. World events, Coronavirus, personal worries, illnesses. Perhaps your faith is being tested now – even beyond measure. Perhaps you have some questions or doubts. Perhaps you are even wondering if God exists. Did all these things about Jesus really happen. Are they true? Can I trust the Bible?
Read Ps 27 especially verse 13. “I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.”
We need to be honest. There are things that are mysteries to us. We don’t understand. We don’t have the answers. Paul said for we know in part. We often we feel in the dark but Jesus is the light in the dark place, the light in a dark world. Some things will remain in the darkness but Jesus is the light of the world. It’s all centered in Jesus. Center, anchor your life on Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
“My faith is a small boat in a vast ocean of mystery.” Be okay about that. We have questions. That’s good. But even though your boat is small, hold onto to Jesus Christ in the troubled sea because he is in that troubled sea saying “do not fear it is I.”