New Life

By April 16, 2017 No Comments
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April 16, 2017 ()

Bible Text: John 20 |

Series:

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SERMON MANUSCRIPT

Promises

I don't know if you've ever been on the receiving end of a big promise or a guarantee that simply didn't come true.

I know I've certainly been on the giving end of some guarantees that I didn't follow through with.

A couple of years ago, my wife, Nicky was going away for a conference in Melbourne one early Friday morning. We weren't married at this stage - but being the dutiful boyfriend, I offered to take her to the airport. [I'm sure you can see where this is going!]

I set a whole lot of alarms to wake up at 6:30; 6:35; 6:40 - confident I'd follow through.

But the next thing I remember was a wake up call from Nicky at 10 to 8 asking where I was! I'd slept through every single alarm.

In the end she was forced to call a taxi, arrive at the airport only to miss her flight and had to catch another one 2 hours later.

As you can imagine - she wasn't impressed. And I felt like a complete idiot.

It was a broken promise!

But I'm not alone. politicians are renown for promising one thing but doing the complete opposite just to be elected; marriages undone because of promises ignored.

Or for you it might be a product that never lived up to it's promise. How many of you started out with Netflix satisfied in the promise of endless entertainment. But 12 months later there's nothing to watch on a Saturday night.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of some big promises that simply didn't come true?

Decaying Promises?

Today - Easter Sunday we are remembering some enormous promises!

Over the last couple of months, we here at MPC have been working our way though the Gospel of John - an eye witness account of Jesus' life. And we've seen the way John's been setting the whole story up as a trial of Jesus. With witnesses called to give testimony. They testified about who he is. They testify about where he's come from.

And as we've followed Jesus we've seen him do some amazing things and heard him make some big promises; make some massive claims.

Here are just a few of them: He's the only one who can give true and lasting freedom and hope; he's the only one who can give life; he's the only one who can give a direct line to God; he's the only one who has power over death - he's the resurrection and the life.

Which is all well and good - but you've gotta follow through; you've gotta back promises up with actions.

On Friday, as we read from John chapter 19 we saw the politicians; the religious leaders and the crowd bring their own judgement against Jesus.

They're not buying the promises.

And so in one of the greatest miscarriages of justice - an innocent man is judged guilty; sentenced to death; and left to die on a cross.

By the end of the day Jesus' lifeless body is taken down, wrapped, and buried.

Another victim of death; more decaying promises forgotten.

Move forward three days. The promises are all but forgotten.

And Jesus' closest friends come to pay their respect.

And as the approach the grave all they're expecting are the beginnings of a bad smell - and a very dead body.

But what greets them is something far more unexpected!

We saw it at the start of John 20 - there's no stench of decay; no dead body; in fact there's no sign of Jesus anywhere except for a few strips of cloth!

Now this is no Disney film, where you expect the impossible to happen! The guy gets the girl; good always prevails; and the dead come back to life!

When you're dead, you're dead!

And so unlike the Disney movie - when they can't find the body and rumours start emerging that Jesus is alive, you get a whole lot of confusion; and you get a whole lot of doubt.

Doubt

Which is exactly what we see at the end of our reading.

Which is somewhat assuring right? Makes it feel very real!

Because when you think about it - Thomas' reaction to the news is as real as you're going to get.

If you're here this morning as a visitor; if you've been invited or even dragged along by family members or friends; you're probably thinking in the back of your mind that this whole idea of Jesus being humanly dead on Friday and Saturday, and alive again on Sunday - it's wishful thinking; just another Disney production.

Even if you're a long time Christian here this morning - you might have doubts too. You might be hoping it's true, but it cuts against everything you've experienced.

Which is reasonable! Let's face it - we live in a culture that's conditioned not to believe anything supernatural at all. If you can't scientifically test it, put it in a test tube and repeat it - it can't be trusted or true!

It's very reasonable to believe the dead remain dead!

And that's exactly how this guy Thomas responds to the news.

When the other disciples want to tell him Jesus is back from the dead, he reacts like any reasonable person would: "Don't be ridiculous! I was there at the funeral three days ago; I saw his lifeless body - you can't possibly be serious!"

Just put yourself in Thomas' shoes - or sandals - for a moment.

Only three days earlier you saw your friend nailed to a cross. And then three days later things start getting weird.

Firstly, Mary Magdalene claims Jesus' tomb is empty. She comes in and says 'they've stolen his body'. And so Peter and John run down to the cemetery to check it out for themselves and they report the same thing - the body's not there - it's gone!

And then Mary comes back a little later and says she has seen Jesus in the garden.

But it was kinda dark - early hours of the morning; and you know how grief can play tricks on people. But she's insistent it was him.

Well Thomas isn't convinced.

But keep reading because this is where it gets really unbelievable. Because now just a couple of hours later all the disciples are saying they've seen Jesus - he appeared to them all in a room.

They're saying they knew it was him because he showed them the wounds - they're ecstatic - the wake's turned into a celebration.

But Thomas ain't celebrating - because you were out, probably trying to get on with life and so you missed out on the Kool-aid everyone else seems to be drinking.

Because you know that when someone's dead, they're dead!

The Proof

How would you respond?

Have a look at how Thomas responds in verse 25:

Give me proof! "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hands into his side - I'm not going to believe you!"

I'm a reasonable guy; I'm not gullible, Thomas says.

Seeing is believing! Not even just seeing, but touching - I want to poke my finger into the holes; want to feel where the spear went through his side.

I need proof!

Of course the trouble with that idea, to think that something is impossible because it hasn't happened before or you've never experienced it before - means you're not very open to first times are you? You're not going to be open to anything unexpected; anything revolutionary.

But here we are, vs. 25, it's a week later. And the disciples are in the same house; the same room together - this time with Thomas.

Nothing's happened for a week. No sign of Jesus, dead or alive. And if you're Thomas you're probably starting to feel like you're the only sane one around.

The doors are locked, and suddenly, somehow Jesus is with them again.

This is how John puts it in verse 26:

Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you'!

And then he turns to speak to Thomas. Because somehow Jesus knows exactly what Thomas has been thinking.

Thomas is the classic I'll believe it if I see it sort of guy; and so Jesus says to him: Come here; put you finger here - verse 27 - reach out your hand and put it in my side where they thrust the spear into. I'm real - not a ghost; not a figment of the imagination - flesh and blood!

I really died and now I'm back. Stop doubting and believe!

At which point, Thomas has to do a total rethink! The evidence is standing right in front of him, literally! He has to reconsider everything he ever knew about life and death - and everything he's ever thought about Jesus.

Now, can I say to you this morning, in the midst of your own doubts, that the resurrection of Jesus has gotta push you to reconsider both of those things - to reconsider life and death; and to reconsider Jesus.

Jesus says to Thomas, stop doubting and believe - which is exactly what Thomas does!

The cynic; the doubter; the scientific mind - he's walked with Jesus for three years now. He's listened; he's seen him do incredible things and he still doesn't get it until now.

And Verse 28 - here's his final perspective on Jesus.

My Lord and my God!

Convinced by the physical evidence that that Jesus is God.

Your Verdict

At this point you might be thinking that's ok for Thomas - but I'd like to do a few medical tests on Jesus myself! I'd like to probe a little bit first hand - touch him; talk to him. And maybe then I'd believe if the evidence stacked up.

Well you'll notice in verse 29 that Jesus has a word specifically for you.

All the way through this gospel, John has been wanting you to come to your own verdict on Jesus. Jesus has made some remarkable claims all the way though John, but now it's your turn to come to your verdict on who Jesus is. Whether you'll take him at his word; and his life.

Now of course none of us can do what Thomas did. All we've got is eyewitness accounts of what they saw and touched written down for us. Jesus says to Thomas - verse 29: Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Blessed are people like you; and people like me. Who grapple with the evidence in front of us; read the accounts of others and come to a verdict.

Either we trust the words of those who saw him, or we walk away. In the end that's why John gives his account - so that even if you didn't see or experience it yourself, you can know.

Have a look at what John says in verse 31:

These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the messiah, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

And that's the bottom line. John's asking you this morning to come to your own verdict about Jesus. And it all comes down to whether you'll weigh up the evidence and judge for yourself if Jesus truly is who he says he is.

Jesus has made some massive claims; some massive promises all the way through the gospel of John, but without the resurrection, Jesus is simply a blip in history; another man making grand promises, followed by an awkward death.

But if Jesus has risen from the dead, then you need to take seriously his claims; all the promises he's made.

If you're a visiting sceptic; even if you're a regular sceptic; or just have a few doubts, can I encourage you to weigh up for yourself the claims of Jesus - read through the entire account of Jesus' life in John; assess the evidence and come to a conclusion about Jesus for yourself.

Because if Jesus has been raised from the dead then he's who he says he is - he's the one from God; he's God himself; who has power over death; and offers life right here and now to anyone who'll accept him.

And that's why Easter Sunday is a day to celebrate! Because in Jesus' resurrection we share in a new and abundant life!

That's the great promise of life Jesus offers each one of us!

It turned the world of Jesus' first followers upside down. And it's turned the lives of millions since upside down. a guaranteed new life with God!

Because of Jesus, whatever is in out past doesn't define our future - the resurrection turns our world inside out!

In a world where promises come cheap and death is a stench we can't rid ourselves of. Jesus' resurrection and promise of new life is the only real hope that can cut through the stench.

And that's worth celebrating this Easter!

 

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