Tuesday 11 April 2023

     JOHN 20 v 19-end

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. 

 The Apostles were in the Upper Room, terrified in fear for their lives.  This was because rumours had been spread around Jerusalem that they must have stolen the body, and they feared the authorities might take action against them.  The doors were firmly shut, yet Jesus appeared in the room to their amazement, but also joy.  

 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.   Jesus was giving a demonstration in confirmation He was alive.   This was no animation of a corpse; it was Jesus in a new form of being which could pass through doors.

You can imagine the reaction of the Apostles, who must have thought they were hallucinating, for most people do at some time have visions, especially if you are longing for someone whom you never expected to see.  The Apostles were delighted to see the Lord however.

Jesus greeted them with the traditional Jewish greeting Shalom, words which mean not only ‘peace be with you’, but every kind of blessing.  He then showed them His hands and side, to prove that it was the same Jesus they had known when they were with Him, but by showing His wounds, it verified that this was the Jesus who had been on the Cross and was now an alive person

At His baptism the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus, and He now tells the Apostles as God had given Him the Holy Spirit, He (Jesus) was giving them the power of the Holy Spirit, to go out and tell the world about His offer of eternal salvation, for all who accepted and believed in Him.  If anyone did not, they were condemned eternally; they could forgive people’s sins, or if necessary to refuse to do so. 

 It is from this passage that the Churches of Catholic persuasion, Roman or Anglican, claim authority to pronounce absolution.  This is contrary to Scripture, which teaches that only God can give forgiveness, and there is nothing in the Bible that I can find which supports priestly absolution.

The Church should, and must obey the Lord’s command, preaching the gospel that He left us, so that when people hear that message from us, they are indirectly hearing the words of our Lord, abandoning all the modern fancy ideas aimed at pleasing society. 

 We don’t go out saying the Bible says…,but, I’ve got a better idea, we go in His name saying what  He said.  God wants us to be out into the world, doing what Jesus did. Jesus is sending us out in the power of the Holy Spirit to be His hands and feet and voice

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, bound as he is not to reveal any confidence. 

The Church has to a large degree lost its purpose for being; we are here to preach the gospel, but there is a greater desire in many places to be more busy in social activities as well as political.  Bishops were very active in advising how to vote in the Brexit referendum, if they were as active in advising how to fill the Churches, which are emptying at an alarming rate, they would be fulfilling their proper day job.

A principal stated function of the Parish Church Council is to promote mission in the parish.  Without a fixed spiritual leader this is a difficult task, but we hope it will soon be resolved and the function can be exercised.

One essential for every Church I have always believed, is to emulate business.  Firms spend millions on advertising their product; we are in the Lord’s business, and have what no other business can uniquely offer, but the Church generally does not offer well or imaginatively enough, much is banal or appealing only to its own people (customers)

 For 17 years I edited my Church magazine, so I have always been interested to look and read other Church magazines, as distinguished from village magazines with a Church contribution.  In so many they were containing only Church gossip with reports of what had happened.

For an (exclusive) Church magazine, that serves no useful purpose.  There is a need to explain what WILL be going on; relating Bible stories, quoting from sermons, and Church news from a wide area.

As many Churches are village or local suburban, pointing out how fortunate residents are to live in nice areas, lovely houses, no persistent anti-social behaviour to contend with, so perhaps as an expression of appreciation for such blessings to the Almighty would be in o.

 Most people cherish the village Church so quintessencely English, as long as they are not required to attend.  There is a little limerick, each time I pass my parish Church, I think I’ll pay a visit, so when at last I’m taken in, the Lord won’t ask who is it?

People need to be reminded there is a cost in keeping a Church, which often has resulted in them being sold for a bingo hall, social housing or a Mosque.  

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 stated he would never believe they had seen Jesus, unless he placed his hand and finger in the wounds.

Thomas was just and ordinary bloke who didn’t know the full story and wanted proof. 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’.  AND he never did put his hand or finger near Jesus’ wounds.

Jesus then said words which resonate powerfully today.  ‘Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.’ . 

We must not criticise Thomas, it must have been hard to believe, that someone so cruelly put to death, should appear alive. It was a unique act inall 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? 

 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.  The resurrection has been attested to by witnesses both inside and out of the Church.  It has never been doubted there was an empty tomb, so where did the body go.  Would men risk their lives without confidence and personal experience?

We are so lucky in having such wonderful technology, which few of us can explain how it works, but we believe because we see it.  Why challenge the God who made the earth, as being incapable of anything just because you don’t understand how he did it.  This is what separates true believers from fake; faith is believing what you can’t see or explain.     

 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.  The Bible, God’s divinely given Word, is sadly challenged too often.  Is God not to be trusted?

 This chapter will not be fully explained in some Churches today as there will be a problem, namely that there are clergy who do not believe in the physical resurrection. A man, who had challenged the resurrection was some years ago, being consecrated into his Office as a Bishop in York Minster.

 Later the same night a bolt of lightning struck, and blew out the rose window of the Cathedral..  When this was suggested to be God venting His anger, that was mocked and ridiculed by the liberal establishment, yet there was no such experience in any other part of the city.

Sixteen meteorologists studied maps, and found no   lightning at any part of the County that night. They all unanimously declared ‘it must have been an act of God.

 It does make one wonder how some people think of God; of course it was He who vented His anger, that a man of the Church should be made a Bishop rather than be rebuked for challenging such a sacred event as the resurrection In a mocking tone

 Far too many 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. 

 John ends his chapter, telling there were so many other stories he could have told about Jesus and His life and works, but he has obviously selected those with the greatest spiritual significance, and for the prime purpose that all who read his gospel may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.

 When you receive Communion this Sunday you are part of a tradition which has been passed down from that Upper Room.  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 His Church


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