Friday 25 April 2014

John 20, v19/31
The Gospel passage for this Sunday comes from John’s gospel in Chapter 20, and is the story of Jesus appearance to His Apostles in the Upper Room on the evening of the first Easter Sunday. John begins this passage by stressing the events taking place there occurred on the same day as the resurrection of Jesus.

The Apostles were in the Upper Room, terrified in fear for their lives. This was because rumours had been spread around Jerusalem that Jesus had been seen, and they feared the authorities might take action against them. The doors were firmly shut yet Jesus appeared in the room to the amazement, but also joy of the men. This suggests that His body was a supernatural body, and so if we are to be like Him in heaven our future bodies will also be supernatural also.

Jesus greeted them with the traditional Jewish words ‘peace be with you’, and then showed them His hands and side to prove that it was the same Jesus they had known when they were with Him, the One who had been crucified on the Cross.

Then Jesus gave them the commission, just as God had sent Him He was now sending them out to preach the gospel in His name. This is essentially and fundamentally what the Church should and must be doing, preaching the gospel that He left us.

Jesus also blew on them and symbolising the gift of the Holy Spirit in which they could forgive people’s sins, or if necessary to refuse to do so. It is from these that the Church can claim authority to pronounce absolution. This in turn leads to dispute amongst some Christians as to whether that justifies the belief that a Priest or Minister is necessary, but a similar commission was given by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel when it was to be upon those acting under Apostolic office.

Every Christian can seek forgiveness from God directly, but if we are considering wanting to make a confession of sins and seeking assurance, then for good order and discipline one could reasonably state a priest is the person to approach rather than just any member of the Church. I have known instances where people have met for study groups and during the meeting been invited and encouraged to speak out on personal troubles, which is quite seriously unwise as there is no moral demands on friends to keep confidentiality. There is no doubt that by talking out a worrying matter, it can ease one’s mind, but a priest (or ordained minister) is the one who should be approached.

At this first meeting of Jesus with the Apostles, Thomas was not present but he was told by the other Apostles what had taken place, and Thomas being known for his scepticism refused to believe them. He wanted to see and touch the evidence, their word was not good enough for him.

A week later however he is back with them in the Upper Room when Jesus again appears and Thomas realises his lack of faith and makes the confession with the deeply committed words, ‘my Lord and my God’.
Thomas received such level of faith only after seeing but for Jsus this was not good enough. To all who would follow Hi, Jesus blesses those who would believe without proof. Faith which results from seeing is good, but the faith which comes from hearing is better.

We must not criticise Thomas, he was bereft at the death of Jesus, it must have been hard to believe that someone so cruelly put to death should appear alive, it was a unique act in all history and people do have imaginary visions. How many times have you heard people telling of having seen tears fall from a statue, or of people being touched on the forehead and then falling to the floor in convulsions at some charismatic meeting?

Initially Thomas had separated himself from the others and we too can lose out when we are missing from Church. We may be tempted to thin no one will miss us but God will and we will have lost the happiness of being with our Christian brothers and sisters.

Thomas also had integrity, he would not say he believed something if he didn’t actually do so. There are Christians who will say things in Church which they do not truly believe. This is dishonest and it would be far better to remain silent. When Thomas did accept the situation he gave full commitment, and if all Christians did so, how much stronger the Church would be.

Jesus wanted to show the Apostles, and by extension to Christians through the ages, that His was a tangible bodily resurrection, and there was much evidence to prove so. Of course the liberal lobby in the Church today would prefer to go with the doubters and suggest it was a theoretical and spiritual resurrection rather than a physical one.

Far too many preachers submit to the universal belief that all will go to heaven so we don’t need to believe Jesus died just to save those who accept Him as Saviour. God however allows us all free choice but we will have to live with the choice we make, and one day those who doubt that a personal commitment to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour is necessary, will have a consequence too awful to contemplate.

When you receive Communion this Sunday you are part of a tradition which has been passed down from that Upper Room. Many people have tried, and are now trying harder than ever to take Christianity out of public life, but while empires have come and gone, the Christian Church has survived, and millions and millions of people have found their lives enriched by their faith, and the words of Jesus are still relevant, ‘the gates of hell will not prevail against it’

The passage ends with John stating the story the gospel contains only part of the many things Jesus did and said, it was in fact largely a resume of His life. It could not be expected that all of our Lord’s teaching and acts over His ministry could be recorded in such limited chapters. When people try to call on Jesus to support their assertions, they inevitably say ‘well Jesus did not say anything about ?? which clearly means nothing; it merely leaves the view of Jesus unknown. However one can often reason what Jesus thoughts might have been from His other teaching.

God bless you and be at Church on Sunday

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