Echoes

The Jesus who appeared to his disciples after his death was the same Jesus who died

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Read: John 21

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” (John 21:10)

Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. (John 21:13)

Again Jesus said, “Simon, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16)

Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:19b)

Reflect:

This final chapter of John’s gospel reads like a series of echoes of the events of Jesus’ ministry. It describes a third appearance of Jesus to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. The disciples didn’t at first recognise Jesus, but the sequence of events on this occasion must have reminded them of all that had gone before.

Jesus met them on the shore after a long night of fishing. I wonder if they recalled the day Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19)

Jesus took bread and fish and gave it to them to eat. I suppose they must have remembered the day Jesus fed 5000 men and their families and later declared, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” (John 6:35)

Jesus told Simon to feed and take care of his sheep. Simon must have thought of the day Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd… I lay down my life for my sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

Jesus told Peter to follow him, and he must have remembered that day just a short time ago when Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Crux:

The Jesus who appeared to his disciples after his death was the same Jesus who died – and his message was the same good news message.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the same yesterday, today and into tomorrow. You are the Alpha and the Omega; the First and the Last; who was, who is and who is to come. Holy, holy, holy are you, my LORD God Almighty.

Jesus, you are IT. You are the crux of all creation, the true centre of the universe. And the message you came to teach is the same message that changed all and changes all.

You call me out of my old life, making me new. May I leave that life far behind.

You feed, sustain and nourish me. May I eat and be satisfied.

You call forth my love for you and command me to love your “sheep”. May I love well and dearly.

You are the One Way to the Father, and you call me to follow you. May I follow in your steps all the days of this eternal life you have granted to me.

Amen.

Father

God the Father is now my Father

Read: John 20

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” (John 20:17)

Reflect:

In this gospel, God the Father is mentioned about 100 times. Always, up to this point, Jesus has spoken of him as “the Father” or, more intimately, as “my Father”. In his prayer (John 17), Jesus addressed God as “Father… Holy Father… Righteous Father.” As narrator, John the evangelist uses the words “the Father” or “his Father” to refer to God.

But here – and only here – Jesus refers to God not only as “my Father” but also as “your Father.” Jesus’ death on a cross and his resurrection from the tomb have changed the very fabric of the universe. No longer is God removed from his people: he is their Father, our Father, my Father, your Father.

Jesus accomplished the adoption of an entire kingdom, bringing me and millions of others into the family of God, so we may cry to God with the Spirit’s help, “Abba Father! Dearest Dad!”

I am no longer separated from God by the expanse my sin created and kept between us. Now, Jesus Christ is my brother and I am his sister. God the Father is my Father and I am his daughter. And just as Jesus ascended to be with his Father, so, one day, shall I.

Crux:

God the Father is now my Father!

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are Jesus’ Father and you are my Father. This is immeasurably precious to me.

Abba, Dad, you have chosen me and called me to follow; you have adopted me and appointed me to belong. You set your heart of loving-kindness, grace, mercy and compassion upon me. You sought me and fought for me and bought me with Christ’s blood.

Now I am yours, your child, your daughter, forever more. I belong to you and can never be taken from your family. There will be no other family for me ever.

I belong to your family:
You, holy and righteous Father, are my Father.
You, dead and risen Son, are my brother.
You, wise and true Spirit, dwell within my spirit.

Thank you for wanting me. Thank you for winning me. Thank you for welcoming me into your family, the very family of God.

May I always live as a true daughter who cherishes her Father’s love and lives to love him.

Amen.

King

Jesus is King and his throne is a Cross

Read: John 19

It was the day of Preparation for Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:14-16)

Reflect:

Every single time I read this true story, I am shocked anew at the boldness of the Jewish chief priests in declaring, “We have no king but Caesar!”

The Jews did have a king: the LORD, the Almighty God was their king. But in this instant, it seemed to them that they would achieve their own ends faster and better if they denied God their heavenly king and proclaimed someone else, the Roman caesar, to be their king. What blasphemy!

Even if you take into account that these Jews did not believe Jesus was sent by God to be their king, it was still total hypocrisy to condemn one man to death for “claim[ing] to be king of the Jews” (John 19:21) while proclaiming another mere human man to be their only king.

I call it shocking, but I shouldn’t be shocked. I, too, often seek to enthrone someone other than Jesus as king over my life. All too often, I want to establish myself as my own king. This is my sin.

This is why Jesus died: He was king, not only of the Jews, but of me, of all people. And the throne upon which he was crowned was a Roman cross.

Christ on the Cross
Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

Crux:

Jesus is King and his throne is a Cross.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I declare Jesus of Nazareth is King – not just King of the Jews, as Pilate listed on his crucifixion notice. Jesus of Nazareth is King of all the universe, and Jesus of Nazareth is King of me. May it ever be so!

May I always, in every moment of my everyday ordinary Christian life, humbly submit to my sovereign king: Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus your Anointed One, Jesus of Nazareth who died on a cross for me.

May I be a willing and obedient citizen of Jesus’ kingdom. May I never seek to subvert Jesus’ rule or overthrow his reign in my life. May I submit and find joy and satisfaction in Jesus my king.

LORD, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Please help me to submit to Jesus, through the voice and work of your Holy Spirit in my heart. Please help me to exalt you as King in my life.

Help me to submit in a righteous and holy way to those human authorities you have set over me: my pastor-husband Jeff, our church elders Dawson and David, my bosses at work, my nation’s elected government and its officials.

Amen.

Willing

Knowing he was going to his death, Jesus went willingly

Read: John 18

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) (John 18:4-5)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)

Reflect:

Jesus knew what was going to happen to him and faced it resolutely and even willingly. He was determined to obey his Father all the way to death.

When I think of how disobedient I was to my (human) parents, how disobedient my children can be at times, it seems particularly remarkable to me how obedient Jesus was to his Father’s command. Of course, Jesus’ obedience is founded on the essential unity of the Trinity, the oneness of the Godhead. This is the same oneness that Jesus prayed would be a distinguishing feature of his followers.

What a pale imitation I am, we are! Yet glimmers of glory do shine through. Sometimes I obey my heavenly Father willingly and freely. Sadly, not nearly enough. This is why I need Jesus so much.

First Easter 1-1

Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

Crux:

Knowing he was going to his death, Jesus went willingly.

Reflect:

LORD God Almighty,

Please forgive my disobedience to you. Please show me my sin and lead me to repentance. Please forgive me and lead me to righteousness.

May I always walk in the Light of your Son, on the narrow way that leads to life. May I enter through your Son, the Gate, and come to your presence and be nourished as a sheep in fresh pasture.

May I find my joy and satisfaction in you and in obedience to you. May I remember that disobedience leads to death.

I honour you, Jesus, for your full and complete obedience to our Father. You are holy and righteous, blameless and pure. You are everything I am not. I desperately need and rely upon your righteousness imputed to me for my justification. Thank you for willingly facing the cross for my sake.

Amen.

One

We are one in Christ so that others may be won by Christ

Read: John 17

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they [the disciples] are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

Reflect:

Jesus prayed for his disciples and he prayed for me. He prayed aloud, so his disciples could overhear and witness his prayer. Jesus prayed for me and for all the Christians through the ages to today. He prayed for all who believe that Jesus was sent by God the Father, for all who believe this because Jesus’ disciples were faithful in their witness to speak about Jesus and write about him so we might know these things to be true (John 20:31 and 21:24).

In his prayer to his Father, Jesus made the same request for his disciples as he made for later Christians, including me: Jesus asked that we may be one, in the same way the Father and the Son are one. Jesus asked that we be united together.

Then, our unity in the Church, in Christ, will be a witness to others that Jesus was indeed sent by God.

People will ask, “How can you possibly get along with him?” They will say, “How can you put up with her?” They will want to know, “Why do you spend time with them?”

The answer is: “Because Jesus has made us one.”

We are one body, the body of Christ. We are one family, the sons and daughters of God the Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus the Son. We are one in spirit, because we have the One Spirit in us.

Christians are one because we have been won by our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and so that others may be drawn to faith in Christ also.

Crux:

We are one in Christ so that others may be won by Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Holy Father, the Righteous Father, perfect and pure as you reign in heaven.

You are my Father, my Father in heaven, gloriously gracious as you sent your Son to earth.

Thank you for sending Jesus to redeem me from my past life of meaninglessness and wandering. Thank you for setting my feet upon the Rock.

Thank you for giving me a new family, my church family, that we might be one in love for you and for each other. Thank you for my dear friends in the church, friends that I would never have met if it had not been for your desire to win each of us for your kingdom. Thank you for our fellowship together, whereby we love each other, edify and encourage each other, offer mercy and grace to each other, and minister to each others’ needs.

May we be truly one, demonstrating your unity in the Trinity to the world through our love for one another. May others see our unity and be amazed and moved by your Spirit to seek out the source of this unity in Jesus, the one whom you sent.

May our church be especially and particularly united as they meet for their quarterly business meeting tonight. May our church members be loving to one another, putting each other’s needs before their own, considering each other more worthy than themselves. May we magnify your glory by our unity as the locally gathered church.

Amen.

Loved

God’s love for me grows in response to my growing love for Jesus

Read: John 16

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)

“In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27)

Reflect:

Jesus is talking here about the immediate future: what will happen after the Last Supper sermon is ended. “Now” is their time of grief because Jesus is about to die by crucifixion, an ugly painful death during which the disciples will be scattered and leave Jesus alone while he bears their sins in his body on the cross. But the disciples “will” rejoice and “will” ask “in that day”, once Jesus has been raised again to life. The disciples will rejoice because Jesus has won their forgiveness and granted them righteousness, admitting them to the family of God, indwelling them by God’s Spirit.

Then, Jesus Christ will no longer be a physically present intermediary who will relay their requests to the Father so that the Father may display his love for Jesus by answering Jesus’ prayers (as, for example, was necessary when healing a boy suffering convulsions, Mark 9:14-29). Instead, the Father will love Jesus’ disciples directly and in a different manner to his general love for “the world” (John 3:16). God’s love will now be amplified in response to the disciples’ love for Jesus and belief in him, and their prayers will be answered generously and completely.

This is complicated, but basically what it means is this:

God’s love for us, which began in eternity past when he chose us in Jesus before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), is now expanded in response to our love for Jesus, which his Spirit enables.

God loves us, so we love Jesus. And God loves us all the more, because we love Jesus. As Christians respond to the Spirit and love the Son, the Father witnesses our love and loves us more.

Crux:

God’s love for me grows in response to my growing love for Jesus.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are love: You are the origin and source of love. You instigate love, magnify love, exemplify love, amplify love. You enable and expand my love for Jesus. You also respond and reply to my love with your own love for me. You build my love for Christ and you bless my love with your own for me.

How glorious are your ways, O God,
your paths beyond searching out!

You have chosen to bless me with full and complete joy, unending and everlasting joy, found in seeing and knowing and loving and believing in Jesus, whom you sent as a gift of love to me.

O LORD, how wonderful is your will,
your gifts above all treasures.

Please continue to bless me by building my love for Jesus. Keep my eyes focussed on Jesus and not on myself, nor my family, nor my community, nor my country. May I see Jesus and not my situation, not my suffering, not my opinions, not my preferences. May I love Jesus all the more, and may your love for me abound in response.

Thank you for your loving kindness to me. May I find my delight in you, so you may delight in me.

Amen.

Vine

Jesus commands his disciples to love each other and so glorify God

Read: John 15

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (John 15:1)

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

Reflect:

Jesus and his disciples have left the room where they ate the Last Supper, and are now probably wandering among the fruit orchards somewhere on the Mount of Olives. I can imagine Jesus running his hand carefully over a few green vine leaves, dark now in the deep of evening, using their surroundings as stimulus for another illustration of the relationships between Jesus, his Father and his followers.

Jesus = the True Vine

Jesus’ Father = the Gardener

The Disciples = Branches

John 15v1-17 1
Illustration copyright Chrissie D.
Permission to print this image is granted to families or churches for use in teaching about Jesus Christ. This image must NOT be sold or used for any commercial reason. Please do NOT copy it to your website or blog.

A vine does not exist without a gardener to plant it and tend it, growing it where and in what shape the gardener desires. A branch does not produce fruit unless it is connected strongly to the vine, else it withers and weakens, or the gardener cuts it off entirely.

Again, God the Father is shown to be greater than God the Son, and infinitely greater than the Son’s disciples.

Jesus’ disciples are told to remain in the Jesus-Vine in order to bear fruit. How do they remain in Jesus Christ and he in them? Jesus said his words will remain in them, by the power and work of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father and testifies of the Son (v26). Jesus said they will remain in his love by keeping his commands. Most notable and relevant is Jesus’ most recent command (John 13:34) for the disciples to love each other, as Jesus loved them: sacrificially, with their very lives.

Then, Jesus says, because his disciples are connected so strongly vitally to him, they may ask for what they want and will certainly receive it. Does a grape vine wish to grow figs? Does a pear tree desire to bear plums? Neither would the disciples ask to bear fruit that is not in keeping with their connection to the true vine, Jesus. So of course “it will be done”!

When the disciples ask to bear fruit, they will: the fruit of love for one another. Their love demonstrates their connectedness to their vine, their discipleship to their Rabbi. Through their love, the disciples give glory to God the Father. This is true joy!

Crux:

Jesus commands his disciples to love each other and so glorify God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are both Gardener and Vine and only in you may I have fullness of life.

Because I am joined to Jesus, his Spirit in my spirit, I am truly alive and able to bear the fruit you desire me to grow: love for others.

As I pray this I remember Jesus’ assertion that he will never lose me (John 6:39) so I don’t fear being cut off from him. I do earnestly desire to grow into a strong branch, able to bear the weight of much fruit without cracking or toppling. I confess that ofttimes I feel like I will break under the weight of loving those you have brought into my life, so please grant me your strength to continue. Keep your Holy Spirit sap flowing into me, nourishing me, LORD!

May this branch be much like the Branch of Jesse, the True Vine, Jesus Christ. May I love as Jesus loves, being willing to lay down my life for those I call “friends”, the other branches of the true vine. Whatever, whenever, however, may I show myself a true disciple of my Rabbi Jesus by loving as he loved, in my everyday ordinary life, so you may be glorified.

Amen.