Son

God sent his only Son because only his Son could be our Saviour

Read: 1 John 4:7-21

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. (1 John 4:13-15)

Reflect:

This Easter Sunday I rejoice once again that God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. God did this as a demonstration of his love whereby he ensured that I may live through Christ. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

I celebrate once again that I have the assurance of the Spirit within me, by which I testify, together with John, that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is divine, an inseparable member of the Trinity, God himself, Immanuel.

Jesus was not some sleight-of-hand magician, not some Vegas-Style-hypnotist, not a circus show freak. Nor was Jesus merely a man like any other. Jesus was and is and ever will be the one and only Son of God.

God sent his only Son to us because only God could open the way to eternal life. Only God would demonstrate true love on a cross. For this end, God would love us by living with us and for us, by rising again to life.

Crux:

God sent his only Son because only his Son could be our Saviour.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Holy Creator, utterly different to your sin-stained creation. Yet you sent your Son, your very own Son, your one and only Son – essence of your essence – into the world to be our Saviour, so we may live just as he was raised to life.

This is such good news, such glorious news! Thank you.

Thank you for a Saviour who is perfect in every way, who demonstrated divinity to us, dwelling among people yet not just a person.

Thank you for a Saviour who is kind, gentle, compassionate, just, wrathful, deeply grieved by sin and its effects.

Thank you for a Saviour who knows me, sees me, hears me, cares for me and reaches out for me, walks with me.

Thank you for my Saviour, Jesus Christ, your one and only Son.

Amen.

Flesh

Jesus Christ came in the flesh so his flesh could die for my sins

Read: 1 John 4:1-6

This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2)

Reflect:

This Easter Friday, it is good for me to reflect upon what it means that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” Later on, John commends the divinity of God to his readers as a crucial doctrine (4:15), but here John is emphasising Jesus’ humanity.

Jesus is not solely the Son of God, he is also a Man, enfleshed. This duality of nature is the doctrine of Two Natures. So why should believing this doctrine be a defining mark of Christians?

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: we no longer wait (as contemporary Jews still do) for a Messiah. We have one – he has come and he has died on a cross.

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: he was subject to suffering and temptations just as I am, yet he never sinned. Jesus died sinless and innocent, the perfect, blemish-free sacrifice for sins.

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: he is truly human so his death for my sins is a true one-to-one correspondence for the death I should have died for my sins. He came in flesh so he could truly take my place and carry my burden.

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: his death was a real death, not some mystical or metaphorical experience, but a real loss of life. He took his last breath, his heart stopped beating, his blood began to coagulate and separate into red blood and plasma. He was really alive with a human body, and really dead with a human corpse.

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: able to bear my sins in his body on the cross.

Crux:

Jesus Christ came in the flesh so his flesh could die for my sins.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

It’s Easter Friday and you know I was half-expecting the Bible passage I read today to providentially refer directly to Jesus’ death on the cross. I was almost surprised when it didn’t. (You know you’ve stunned me with the timeliness of my Bible reading before.) Yet I don’t feel compelled to read on right now, there’s so much meat here for me (oops, seriously, that was an unintended pun, God).

LORD, I can’t get my head around the fact that Jesus Christ, true God of true God, came in the flesh. Yet I know it is a fact. Jesus Christ was always true God; he was and now is and always will be true man as well. How this might be, I do not know, but I do know that it is true: Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. He came in the flesh to die for me and for all who believe in him.

You know this is a sticking point, a stumbling block, for my father. He doesn’t believe that One who is God could also die as a man. Please help him to accept this truth, LORD. Grant him your Spirit, the Spirit of truth, so that his spirit will acknowledge Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Please do not let him listen any more to the spirit of the antichrist, the spirit of falsehood. Save him, LORD, as you have saved me, by the death of your Son, Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh.

Amen.

Belong

I belong to the church because I know the truth about Christ

Read: 1 John 2:18-23

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:19-20)

Reflect:

The circumstance behind John’s letter-writing is evident in this section of his letter. There has been division in the church. Some people have left the church. John calls them “anti-Christs,” people who are against Christ, including among them “whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ” (v22). They are liars (v22).

In the worldwide church today, including all so-called Christian denominations, some people like this stick around rather than leave. You can talk Church History and Church governance until you’re blue in the face but I’ll never understand why Bishop Spong hasn’t been excommunicated long since. (He’s not in my denomination, thanks be to God.)

But some people do break off, and start splinter pseudo-churches. We know they are not true Christians because their teaching of Jesus is faulty and does not match with what the New Testament says; with what the apostles (like John) taught and still teach us through their written words today. They start churches like the LDS, whose founder decided to set up his own church rather than join one of several Bible-believing Christian churches in his local neighbourhood. Mormon does not equal Christian. How do I know this? Because their teachings on Jesus are not the same as those of the Scriptures.

Further Reflection:

I’ve been thinking about this passage for almost a week now. It keeps being quoted in podcasts I’m listening to, a similar topic was discussed in our Sunday sermon, and it is also popping into my mind at odd times.

At first, I was thinking about people who’ve left the church as schismatics. But 2:19 also applies to those many Christians describe as having “fallen away” from the church. 2:19 says that people who may have appeared to be Christians in the past reveal themselves as non-Christians (they’re not even “nominal Christians”) when they leave the church.

Jesus predicted that there would be people like this in his Parable of the Sower and the Soils, and in his Parable of the Weeds.

This truth explains what happened to me in my late teens and early 20s. I’d grown up attending church but, in hindsight, I realise I wasn’t really in the church because I didn’t understand or accept the grace-aspect of the gospel. So I left the church, my actions fitting my reality.

Thanks be to the Holy One, he did anoint me with his Spirit and enable me to know the truth of Jesus Christ, on Ash Wednesday 2001. Now I shall remain where I now belong.

Crux:

I belong to the Church because God’s Spirit enables me to know the truth about Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty, Holy One,

You alone are Sovereign over all things and over all people. You have put the Church under the sovereign headship of your Son, Jesus Christ. May you be glorified in Christ and in his Church.

LORD, protect your church from those people who do not really belong to us; those who grow up among us like weeds, not wheat. Make your body discerning so that we may be kept apart from those who would teach false doctrine; those who will one day go out from us. Keep us safe from their lies; keep our eyes true on Christ.

Yet LORD I also ask for you mercy and grace to be upon those wanderers who have left your church. May you call them to your Son, open their eyes to see him truly, remove the lies they have believed from their minds and make them true, faithful, knowledgeable Christians. Anoint them with your Holy Spirit, Holy One, so they may finally be justified by your grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus.

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.

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.