The Miracles and Parables of Jesus, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus 2019’      

© May 19, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 19, 2019

Based on a Message Shared with BLCF on October 15, 2017

BLCF Bulletin October 15, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                   

Opening Hymn #182: Marvelous Message We Bring; Choruses

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings     

Responsive Reading #624: The Great Commission (Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, Mark 16)               

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF and our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service, and our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus’.

 The disciples recorded that throughout his ministry the Lord frequently performed miracles and made use of the parable. In our lesson today we will examine why Jesus used the miracle and the parable. While a miracle is doing something that is beyond the laws of nature, a parable is a metaphor used to teach a spiritual lesson.

An example of a metaphor would be: suppose I ask sisters Jillian and Olivia to come forward and stand by the pillar to my right. If I refer to my two sisters in Christ as being “pillars of the Church” – we know that I do not mean that they are the same as the alabaster pillar beside them which is holding up the roof, which the literal meaning of the description. The expression is a metaphorical statement that these ladies are key members of our congregation, which is part of the greater bodies of believers who are Christ’s Church.

But for today’s lesson, let us begin by looking first at the miracles that Jesus performed. The Bible records over forty miracles attributed to Jesus, during his ministry:

The Miracles of Jesus

  1. Miracles of Jesus: Born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38)
  2. Miracles of Jesus: Changing water into wine (John 2:1-11)
  3. Healing of the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54)
  4. Healing of a man possessed by a demon in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:33-37)
  5. Healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-39)
  6. Healing the sick during the evening (Matt 8:16, Mark 1:32, Luke 4:40)
  7. Catching a large number of fish (Luke 5:3-10)
  8. Healing a leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15)
  9. Healing a centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10)
  10. Healing a paralyzed man (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:18-26)
  11. Healing a withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-10)
  12. Raising a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17)
  13. Calming the stormy sea (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25)
  14. Healing the Gerasene demon-possessed man (Matthew 8:28-32, Mark 5:1-13, Luke 8:26-33)
  15. Healing a woman with internal bleeding (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48)
  16. Raising Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-25; Mark 5:22-24, 35-43; Luke 8:41-42, 49-56)
  17. Healing two blind men (Matthew 9:27-31)
  18. Healing a mute man possessed by a demon (Matthew 9:32-33)
  19. Healing a man who was crippled for 38 years (John 5:1-17)
  20. Feeding 5000 men and their families (Matthew 14:16-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-14)
  21. Jesus walks on water (Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21)
  22. Healing of many in Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56)
  23. Healing a demon-possessed girl (Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30)
  24. Healing a deaf man with a speech impediment (Mark 7:31-37)
  25. Feeding the 4000 men and their families (Matthew 15:29-39, Mark 8:1-10)
  26. Healing a blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26)
  27. Healing a man born blind (John 9:1-41)
  28. Healing a boy possessed by a demon (Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:17-29, Luke 9:37-43)
  29. Catching a fish with a coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:24-27)
  30. Healing a blind and mute man who was possessed by a demon (Matthew 12:22-23, Luke 11:14)
  31. Healing a woman with an 18 year infirmity (Luke 13:10-13)
  32. Healing a man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-6)
  33. Healing 10 men suffering from leprosy (Luke 17:11-19)
  34. Bringing Lazarus back to life (John 11:1-44)
  35. Healing Bartimaeus of blindness (Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43)
  36. The withering fig tree that produced no fruit (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-25)
  37. Restoring a severed ear (Luke 22:45-54)
  38. The resurrection of Jesus Christ ( 1 Corinthians 15, Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20 )
  39. Catching of the 153 fish (John 21:4-11)
  40. The ascension of Jesus Christ ( Acts 1:1-11 )

https://www.quora.com/How-many-miracles-did-Jesus-perform-in-his-lifetime-What-are-the-Bible-verses-in-the-Gospel-of-John

Scholars have attributed a wide assortment of often conflicting reasons for these miracles. These reasons range from the miracle being just an illustrative talking point in the teachings of Jesus to the miracle itself being dismissed as a parable of something more mundane.

It seems that many of these authors seem to have neglected one of the most compelling and authoritative sources in researching their writings on the miracles of Christ, the Bible.

Let us see what the Scriptures say about the subject. I would like to direct you to the account of the disciple Thomas, who was absent from the Upper Room when, Jesus first appeared to the other disciples as the Resurrected Christ, John 20:24-31 (ESV):

Jesus and Thomas

 

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Footnotes: a. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

We see that when the Lord returns to the Upper Room, eight days after his first appearance so that Thomas would believe in the miracle of the resurrection.

However, it is the next two verses of John’s Gospel that signify the intent of purpose to the inclusion of the signs of miracles of Jesus in his gospel, as well as the other inspired Scriptures of the New Testament:

The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John acknowledges that there were many other signs or miracles not included in his gospel, but those that he did include, we do so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing this, we too may have life in his name.

In the times of Jesus and the disciples, the Scriptures give us many accounts of false prophets of God, who used so-called magic sleight of hand to either challenge His authority or as a demonstration that they have been called as a disciple of God. Both are false.

God performed miracles to change the heart of Pharaoh so that the ruler would release His people from their captivity, as we read in Exodus 7:8-12 (ESV):

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

We also have in Acts 8:9-24, the account of Simon the Magician, who failed when he sought to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit from the disciples as we read specifically in verses 18-22:

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 

Simon the Magician did not have an understanding receiving the power of God’s Holy Spirit is the reward to faith in Him, that the God’s Holy Spirit cannot be purchased nor subject commands of any person, and most importantly the Spirit is intended to facilitate God’s plan for humanity, not vice-versa.

Today, we see many false prophets who desire to elevate themselves not to praise God. Like Simon the Magician, they may have been baptized, they know all the right phrases used by believers, they seek only to elevate themselves above God and above others. It is the sin of the Garden of Eden all over again.

God used miracles to change the heart of Pharaoh and Simon the Magician could not receive the power of the Holy Spirit because his heart was not right with the Lord when he sought to buy the Spirit from the disciples.

But like Pharaoh and Simon the Magician, people whose hearts are not right with God still seek a miracle, not out of their own faith, but from twisted desire to prove their own authority over the one true God, as we see in Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV):

The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”So he left them and departed.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Footnotes: a, Matthew 16:2 Some manuscripts omit the following words to the end of verse 3

The other key part of the ministry of Jesus was the use of the parable, to help bring an understanding of God’s purpose to both his disciples and others]

An explanation of this method of teaching is found in Matthew 13:10-16 (ESV):

The Purpose of the Parables

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Sadly, there are those who will never believe the truth found in the miracles and parables of the Lord, as their lack of faith is a stumbling block to understanding the wisdom and power of God in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) :

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Many Christians struggle with the symbolism Jesus used in his teachings, and we find on the back of today’s bulletin a good method of how to differentiate passages of Scriptures intended to be taken literally from those intended to teach us symbolically, as we see in this answer from the Web Page, gotquestions.com:                                                                                                       

Question: “How can I recognize and understand biblical symbolism?”

Answer: The language of the Bible is rich with metaphor. The biblical writers used familiar, everyday objects to symbolize spiritual truth. Symbols are quite common in the poetic and prophetic portions of the Bible. By its very nature, poetry relies heavily on figurative language; when Solomon calls his bride “a lily among thorns” (Song of Solomon 2:2), he is using symbols to declare the desirability and uniqueness of the Shulamite. Prophecy, too, contains much figurative imagery. Isaiah often used trees and forests as symbols of strength (e.g., Isaiah 10:18-1932:19). Daniel saw “a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes” who “came from the west . . . without touching the ground” (Daniel 8:5), and we interpret this as a kingdom (Greece) and its king (Alexander the Great) who speedily conquered the world.

Jesus’ teaching was full of symbolism. He presented Himself as a Shepherd, a Sower, a Bridegroom, a Door, a Cornerstone, a Vine, Light, Bread, and Water. He likened the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast, a seed, a tree, a field, a net, a pearl, and yeast. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other symbols in the Bible.

Note that a literal interpretation of the Bible allows for figurative language. Here’s a simple rule: if the literal meaning of a passage of Scripture leads to obvious absurdity, but a figurative meaning yields clarity, then the passage is probably using symbols. For example, in Exodus 19:4, God tells Israel, “I carried you on eagles’ wings.” A literal reading of this statement would lead to absurdity—God did not use real eagles to airlift His people out of Egypt. The statement is obviously symbolic; God is emphasizing the speed and strength with which He delivered Israel. This leads to another rule of biblical interpretation: a symbol will have a non-symbolic meaning. In other words, there is something real (a real person, a real historical event, a real trait) behind every figure of speech.

https://www.gotquestions.org/biblical-symbolism.html

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7):

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

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The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’

© January 14, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on October 26, 2014

BLCF Bulletin January 14, 2018

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer     

Opening Hymn # 248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain; Choruses

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Lover – from John 3 and 1 John 4);

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’

 

Bloor Lansdowne - BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Praise and Worship service today at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where our lesson for today is entitled: ‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’. And before we delve into the lesson, I would like to share our own miracle of the cross here at BLCF.

It was at a BLCF picnic in the back of the church at St. Helens several years ago, that the congregation decided to invite the Bloor Lansdowne Community to a simple barbeque/picnic, featuring hot dogs and corn on the cob.

Since we had a small Hibachi grill, it was decided to cook the hot dogs outside and boil the corn inside the church kitchen. I was running the barbeque in the front driveway so as to catch the attention of passersby with a sign posted as an invitation to join the picnic posted above my station.

As I cooked the hot dogs, a group of four or five young people passed by, where one having read our sign commented: “What kind of place is this?” To which another replied: “I think it is a church.”

When I heard their comments, I realized that the church signage consisted of a front marquee sign and another on the east wall, outside of the prayer room, both mounted high above eye level, making the signs all but invisible to pedestrians walking on the sidewalk in front of the building. The church had a small cross, composed of white bricks embedded in the red brick wall located high above the front facade of the church. No wonder many people were unaware that we were a church. The lights inside the marquee sign had stopped working several years before.

Later, intrigued about the cross, I went to the roof and found an old five foot cross made of plywood with faded white paint sitting upon the roof. It looked as if the weather and wind had caused the cross to fall some years before, with the lag bolts pulling free from the peak of the front wall.

Here is where our little miracle occurred…

As I pondered whether the cross might be repaired, restored and mounted back on the roof, we received an interesting message from the daughter of one of the members of our congregation, who had passed away two years before. It seemed that a nearby church had closed and the property sold. The new owners intended to convert the building to lofts. Part of the conversion included the removal of the large twelve foot silver cross mounted on the front of the building.

It seems that the young lady noticed the cross was placed in a scrap bin. She convinced the contractor to give her the cross, indicating that she knew of a church that needed a cross. When she contacted me, she asked: “Could use a new cross?”

My reply was an emphatic ”Yes, though I was not sure how to arrange delivery of a twelve foot cross, let alone how we would mount it on the building. I did not tell her that the church at the time had funds for neither.

I was informed that in memory of her mother, she wanted to hire a contractor to deliver and mount the cross, all at her expense and that we not reveal her name.

When I received the dimensions, I measure the wall and from examining recent photos of the building, I had determined that it would fit perfectly above the front doors, between the double arches that framed the front doorway.

The contractors has asked whether we wanted the small white cross formed by white bricks embedded in the wall to be painted red so that the new cross would be the only cross above the front entrance. I told them to leave the cross as is, and asked that the small white window arch behind the new cross be painted red to match the rest of the brickwork of the front wall.

I marveled how the Lord had provided a solution to the need to replace the old cross, before I had even raised the need to him. And the solution that the Lord provided was far better than what I had imagined. The Lord was going to ensure that people in the community knew without a doubt that BLCF is a place of worship. The Lord recognized the need for a new cross. He provided both the cross, as well as the means to install it, before we had a chance to pray for it.

I wonder how many times God provides for His children, before the need is raised. And how many times does the Lord provide for a need before it is even recognized. This was not the first time God has provided in a miraculous way for need at BLCF.

By-the-way, I did manage to repair, stain, and mount the old BLCF cross and mount it on the wall behind the risers where Terry Sywanyk performs at our Community Dinner beside the “kNOw JESUS kNOw PEACE” sign.

It may surprise you to find out that the cross has not always been a symbol of the Christian Church. Let us check our Wikibits for the history of the cross:

The Christian Cross

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

A Latin cross

The Christian Cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus, is the best-known symbol of Christianity. It is related to the crucifix (a cross that includes a usually three-dimensional representation of Jesus’ body) and to the more general family of cross symbols.

In contemporary Christianity, the cross is a symbol of the atonement and reminds Christians of God’s love in sacrificing his own son for humanity. It represents Jesus’ victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through his death and resurrection he conquered death itself.

See Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.

The cross is often shown in different shapes and sizes, in many different styles. It may be used in personal jewelry, or used on top of church buildings. It is shown both empty and in crucifix form, that is, with a figure of Christ, often referred to as the corpus (Latin for “body”), affixed to it. Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran depictions of the cross are often crucifixes, in order to emphasize that it is Jesus that is important, rather than the cross in isolation. Large crucifixes are a prominent feature of some Lutheran churches, as illustrated in the article Rood. However, some other Protestant traditions depict the cross without the corpus, interpreting this form as an indication of belief in the resurrection rather than as representing the interval between the death and the resurrection of Jesus.

Crosses are a prominent feature of Christian cemeteries, either carved on gravestones or as sculpted stelas. Because of this, planting small crosses is sometimes used in countries of Christian culture to mark the site of fatal accidents, or to protest alleged deaths.

In Catholic countries, crosses are often erected on the peaks of prominent mountains, such as the Zugspitze or Mount Royal, so as to be visible over the entire surrounding area.

Patriarchal cross

Also called an archiepiscopal cross or a crux gemina. A double cross, with the two crossbars near the top. The upper one is shorter, representing the plaque nailed to Jesus’ cross. Similar to the Cross of Lorraine, though in the original version of the latter, the bottom arm is lower. The Eastern Orthodox cross adds a slanted bar near the foot.

Cross (disambiguation)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cross consists of two lines or bars, intersecting each other at a 90° angle and dividing one or both of the lines in half.

Cross or to cross may also refer to:

Religion

  • Cross necklace, a necklace worn by adherents of the Christian religion

Object

  • Cross (crown), the decoration located at the highest level of a crown
  • A cross with a human body affixed is referred to as a crucifix
  • High cross, early Medieval free-standing Christian cross made of stone and often richly decorated

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_(disambiguation)

The cross as a symbol in the Christian Church may refer to either an object or a motion with the hand or fingers did not come into practice in the Christian Church until the third or fourth century A.D.

Members of the early Christian church would often use a fish, represented by two intersecting arches as a symbol to represent Christian faith.

Some churches avoid having a cross in their place of worship, fearing that the cross may be treated not as an icon or symbol but worshiped as an idol. In the same manner, many evangelical churches avoid having statues for the same fear that they will be prayed to and worshiped as idols.

There are some denominations who feel the cross may offend church attendees as a symbol of torture and death. I think that if you sanitize what happened to Jesus on the cross you run the risk of diminishing the impact of the resurrection! The fact that our Lord, Christ Jesus instructed all disciples to remember his sacrifice by way of the Communion observance indicates that we should not hide what the cross represents, his death and sacrifice for our sins.

While the cross or crucifix does remind us that Christ suffered and died for the sins of humanity, without the resurrection Christ’s death would have only made him a martyr. It is only after Jesus was resurrected from the grave and following the Holy Spirit’s arrival on the Day of Pentecost, did the Christian Church come into being, as a proof of Christ’s Lordship with the fulfillment of the prophecy found in the Scriptures, as we read in Isaiah 53:5-6 (ESV):

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

 he was crushed for our iniquities;

 upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Is it wrong to have a symbol such as the cross as a reminder of the sacrifice of the cross? I believe that Jesus felt it was useful to have visual cues to help remind us of the price that he paid for our salvation. We find that the holes left by being nailed to the cross, and by the Centurion’s spear to his side, helped Jesus demonstrate his supernatural victory over death to the disciples, including Thomas who was absent at his first appearance but arrived eight days later, John 20:19-31 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book

Word made flesh

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

The signs of the wounds Jesus showed his disciples helped them to understand both the suffering he endured and the supernatural victory Christ achieved over death by his resurrection. Interestingly, though Jesus had the wounds from the cross, he now was able to pass through the locked door of the upper room. Having showed the disciples his wounds, Jesus breathed onto them the breath of the Holy Spirit, to help them go forth in his place, no longer disciples, but apostles of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus death on the cross had removed the debts from sin, Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV):

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

The cross is a symbol, not just of the suffering and death that Jesus experienced, but reminds us that while we are called to follow the Lord and may suffer for our faith, we have the assurance that the judgment for our sins has been born by the Lord, 1 Peter 2:20-24 (ESV):

20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Just as the cross acts as a reminder to Christians of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, our faith in the Lord is made perfect, not just because he endured the cross, but the holes in his hands and side act as a reminder to God the Father in heaven, as Jesus sits at the right hand side of the throne of God. Our faith is made perfect through Jesus, Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV):

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus revealed his hands and side to the disciples, it was not so that they would dwell upon his wounds upon the cross. The intent was to give encouragement and hope in the victory of his resurrection. And we read that is exactly what took place, John 20:19-20 (ESV):

 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  

The disciples were glad when they saw the marks of the crucifixion. Let us , therefore view the cross not as an instrument of torture and death of Christ, but as a symbol for our own hope in his resurrection and be encouraged in the truth of his promise to all believers of their own resurrection on the day Christ returns.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn Closing Hymn # 236: On a Hill far Away

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):   May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’

© November 5, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 5, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn #288: Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me                                                   

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings               

Responsive Reading #624: The Great Commission                                                                                                   (-from Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, and Mark 16)                 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                               ‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service in the heart of Toronto, at BLCF. This Saturday is Remembrance Day, where at the 11th hour of the 11th day of 11th month we will take a moment of silence and reflection to honor the sacrifice of those men and women who fought to give us the gifts of democracy and freedom in Canada.

While the sacrifice of brave soldiers gave us a period of peace and freedom, the ‘war to end all wars’ has been followed by other wars and conflicts, demonstrating that the rewards of these battles are fleeting at best. While a war may end a conflict, the sinful nature of humanity is such we have but a brief reprieve from the next conflict we find ourselves involved in. Unfortunately, it seems that eventually in time another conflict comes along, and we are called again to defend the freedom and principles that we hold so dearly.

Our lesson today, entitled ‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’,  we will look at a different type of sacrifice made on our behalf, by Christ Jesus, to rid ourselves permanently of the death penalty, which is humanity’s judgment for sin. We will examine an example how the account of Peter’s denial of the Lord demonstrates the Lord’s promise that he will never leave or forsake us, sometimes in spite of ourselves.

Let us look at how fear and the instinct for self-preservation can cause us to act quite contrary to the way we think we would, under certain circumstances where our own health and safety are threatened, as was the case with the disciple, Peter, in Matthew 26:31-35 (ESV):

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Though Peter is quite adamant about his loyalty to the Lord, fear can displace the courage of his convictions, Matthew 26:69-75 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.”71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

It is interesting that Jesus knew that Peter, the disciple who Jesus had described as the rock upon which he would build his church, would deny Christ three times. The denials would occur immediately after Jesus had instructed the disciples in the practice of communion, an observance that was to be maintained after his crucifixion, until the day he returned from heaven. Though Peter’s denials threatened the establishment of the church with the cloud of sin, it appeared that Jesus would give the disciple an opportunity to atone and reconcile with the Lord,  at a future time.

Fortunately, the Lord knows the true nature of our hearts, and Jesus’ capacity to grant us unconditional love and forgiveness, when he died for our sins on the cross. God has a plan for us, and He will not allow our fears and doubts to dissuade us from achieving His intended goal. Though the disciples’ fear had caused them to lock themselves in the Upper Room, Jesus returned to bring them the Peace of the Spirit and hope, so that they may have the courage to undertake the Great Commission of bringing the truth of the Gospel of Christ to the world, as we see in John 20:19-29 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[b] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

It should be noted that while Peter displays fear by his denial of any knowledge of Christ, all of the disciples show a similar fear by locking themselves in the Upper Room.

While the disciples are visited by their Lord, now resurrected, and have received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, Thomas, who was absent from the Upper Room when Jesus first visited, refuses to believe the testimony of his fellow disciples. Eight days later, the Lord returns to restore Thomas with the same peace and belief in seeing his Jesus resurrected, bearing the marks of his crucifixion.

Jesus revealed that he knew of his impending death and predicted that Peter would three times deny knowing the Lord would fulfill the prophecy found in Zechariah 13:7 (ESV):

The Shepherd Struck

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
    against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the Lord of hosts.

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
    I will turn my hand against the little ones.

Jesus spoke to Peter, (in Matthew 26:31-35), of his pending betrayal, death, and resurrection, Peter wept bitterly, no doubt guilty and ashamed at his inability to stand at the side of his Lord on the evening of his arrest. By using  some table fellowship, Jesus wanted to give Peter the opportunity to confess and be forgiven of his denial of  having known Jesus, as described in John 21:4-19 (ESV):

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards[a] off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Footnotes: a. John 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

When Peter heard that Jesus had arrived to visit the disciples for a third time since his resurrection, the disciple threw himself into the sea, an indication of the disciple’s guilt and shame.

The Lord  demonstrates his love for Peter, by asking the disciple three times whether or not he has love for Jesus, one for each of the three times Peter had denied Christ. Peter responds three times to Jesus by confessing his love for the Lord. It is after hearing the third acknowledgement from Peter, that Jesus indicates all is forgiven, by telling Peter the nature of the disciple’s death, which would be to the glory of God. The Lord then instructs the disciple to follow him. Peter is now ready to resume the role of being the rock of Christ’s Church, which will come on the Day of Pentecost, along with the arrival of God’s Holy Spirit to the faithful assembled in the Upper Room.

Jesus who is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, knew Peter would deny him, but the Lord gave the disciple the prediction immediately after instructing the disciples on the significance of the observance of Communion. Not only did the Lord know Peter, who was to be the foundation rock of the Church, Jesus knew the disciple would show contrition by acknowledging his love for Jesus three times.

We see that at Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples, Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me”, once for each time Peter had denied the Lord, to which the disciple replied, “Yes”. And after the affirmations Jesus spoke, “Feed my lambs” after the first; “tend my sheep” after the second; and “feed my sheep” after my sheep” after the third, indicating that Peter was forgiven and reinstated to assume the responsibilities of rock of Christ’s church, who Jesus describes as lambs or sheep. Peter is to tend or take care of and feed with The Word, the body of believers, whereby the Lord concludes by instructing the disciple to “follow me’”

After his Resurrection, Jesus appeared three times to the disciples, each for a specific reason. The first was a proof of his resurrection and to restore peace to the ten disciples locked in the Upper Room. The second was to revisit the locked Upper Room in order to restore faith of Thomas. And the third visit was to bring forgiveness and reconciliation to Peter. Truly, Jesus will never leave of forsake us!

Let us pray…

Communion – Matthew 26:30-35 (-see Lord’s Supper, below)

Matthew 26:26-35 (ESV) Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:23-24):

Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Christ Is Risen Indeed!

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for

Easter Sunday:

‘Christ Is Risen Indeed!’

© April 16, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 16, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn #163: Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Choruses                         Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings              Responsive Reading #623: The Risen Lord (Matthew 28 and John 20)              Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Christ Is Risen Indeed!’

                                             

Let us pray…

 ‘He is Risen!’ (Reply: ‘He is Risen Indeed!’)

Good morning and an Easter Blessing to all. Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

To begin today’s lesson on the resurrection, let us read from the Scripture account, from John 20:1-29 (ESV):

 The Resurrection

 20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a]head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[c] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[d] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his b. John 20:16 Or Hebrew c. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time d. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

There is a popular expression: “seeing is believing”, as it seems to have been the case with Thomas, who did not believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead until he saw and touched the Lord’s wounds inflicted from the crucifixion.

We see that Jesus makes an observation about Thomas and all of humanity in general about the root of true faith, in 1 John 4:20 (ESV):

 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

There are some legalists, who will only believe the evidence of their own eyes, believing that this contemporary concept that originated from Missouri, as this American state is known by the moniker of ‘The Show-Me State’:

Unofficial State Nickname of Missouri

Missouri’s most well-known nickname is; “The Show-Me State.” Although the nickname has not been officially recognized by Missouri’s Legislature, it can be seen on Missouri license plates. All State Nicknames

There are several stories concerning the origin of the “Show-Me” slogan. The most widely known story gives credit to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver for coining the phrase in 1899. During a speech in Philadelphia, he said:

“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

The phrase is now used to describe the character of Missourians; not gullible, conservative, and unwilling to believe without adequate evidence.

http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/missouri/state-nickname/show-me-state

Researching more reveals an earlier origin of the expression, which is rooted in the Gospel of Christ:

Seeing is believing is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639[1] that means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing”. It is the essence of St. Thomas‘s claim to Jesus Christ, to which the latter responded that there were those who had not seen but believed. It leads to a sophistry that “seen evidence” can be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation may be difficult.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seeing_Is_Believing

We can see that the application of “eye-witness” evidence is commonly used in secular law.

Even Darwin’s evolutionary theories rely almost exclusively upon conclusions drawn from physical observations, as is described in:

Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture 

By Jonathan Smith. Cambridge University Press

Smith explores how Darwin used images to support his scientific claims as well as the cultural influence of his evolutionary explanation for beauty.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/316/5821/54

While there are those who attempt to disprove the Word of God by pitting the Theory of Evolution against Faith in God’s Creation, there are others who desire to adopt Science as a Theology, with the aim of finding eternal life by way of a religion that worships science and technology.

This godless religion seems to be a modern day example of an approach not unlike the technocrats who sought to reach heaven by way of their ‘Tower of Babel’ as described in the book, To Be a Machine, authored by Mark O’Connell and reviewed by John Gray for the online New Statesman:

 

Dead of the world, unite!” Appearing in a manifesto published in Petrograd in 1920, this arresting slogan encapsulated the philosophy of cosmism, which promoted interplanetary exploration as a path to immortality. Mixing scientific futurism with ideas derived from the 19th-century Russian Orthodox mystic Nikolai Fedorov, cosmism was summed up by the rocket engineer Konstantin ­Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) as “the perfection of man and the liquidation of all imperfect forms of life”. Liberated from the Earth, human beings would become pure ether, bodiless and undying. The belief that death could be conquered by science was embraced by a renegade section of the Bolshevik intelligentsia, including Maxim Gorky, and informed the decision to immortalise Lenin’s cadaver – first by refrigeration, in an early experiment in what would later be called “cryonic suspension”, and then by embalming when freezing failed. Cosmist thinking went on to find a home in the Soviet space programme and continues to influence Russian science to this day.

Nearly a century after the cosmist manifesto, a group of transhumanists gathered outside Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California, carrying placards reading “Immortality now!” and “Google, please, solve death”. Death could be solved, the group believed, by the development of “cyber-consciousness” – a task requiring new technologies for uploading the contents of the human brain into cyberspace, which the group called on the tech company to fund. Google was already investing substantial resources in life-extension techniques and, in 2012, the company hired Ray Kurzweil, long associated with programmes aiming to achieve immortality through cryonic suspension, artificial intelligence and mind uploading, as its director of engineering.

The weird mixture of science and religion that typifies much of contemporary culture is illustrated in questing, faintly sad figures who blend transhumanist “anti-deathism” with Buddhism, Mormonism, Wicca or the UFO cult Raëlism, whose members believe the human species was created by aliens.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2017/04/john-gray-dear-google-please-solve-death

In his review, John Gray seems to recognize humanity’s desire for immortality, but Gray argues that a bio-technological solution seems doom to fail because of its flawed dependence upon some degree of technological infrastructure that is not perfect or perpetual. In other words if science and technology could transplant the mind of a person into a machine, no machine exist that will last forever.

I would argue that such a creation would be profane and would be devoid of any soul.

Back to perfect resurrection of our Lord and the doubts of Thomas because he was absent when Christ first visited the upper room. We should recall that Mary Magdalene, Peter and John were skeptical until they had physically saw Jesus resurrected before each of them.

Let us look at an excerpt from the article, Seeing Is Believing. Really?, by Dianne Bergant, originally published on August 02, 2004 in America, The Jesuit Review:

 

The phrase “seeing is believing” is well known to us all. It suggests skepticism; it implies that we will not accept the truth of something unless we can somehow see it. While the phrase may validly express a concern for verification, it contradicts basic religious ideas. To paraphrase the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Not-seeing is believing.” In other words, we do not believe what we see; rather, we believe what we do not see. Confusing? But then so is real faith.

The author turns to Abraham as a perfect example of such faith. Without knowing exactly what he would find as he followed the inspiration of God, Abraham left his home of origin and journeyed through a foreign land. Abraham did not see, yet he believed. He clung to God’s promise of descendants, even though to him it seemed an impossibility. He did not see, yet he believed. The greatest test of his faith came when he was asked to sacrifice the very child who was to fulfill this promise of descendants. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

The instructions given by Jesus in the Gospel require the same kind of faith. But the focus there is not the seeming incredibility of the object of faith, but the need to cling to that faith even when its fulfillment is long in coming. The followers of Jesus are told not to seek security in the realities of this world, but in the treasures that belong to the reign of God.

https://www.americamagazine.org/content/the-word/seeing-believing-really

There were hundreds of faithful, who have witnessed Jesus after he was resurrected, just before he ascended and millions who believe solely on faith. Just because they were not an eye-witness to the Lord’s resurrection does not mean that it did not take place.

We know that the Gospel of Jesus assures that our faith in the resurrection of Christ gives believers the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the resurrection, and eternal life. The Apostle Paul explains this very well in 1 Corinthians 15:1-26 (ESV):

The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Footnotes: a.1 Corinthians 15:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6315058 b. 1 Corinthians 15:19 Or we have hoped

It is on that final day, when the last enemy is destroyed, death will be destroyed and eternal life will be restored to the faithful.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died For Me

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):                                                                                   To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.    

                     

Trust and Faith in the Lord: Our Keys to Hope, Joy and Peace

BLCF: faith_in_God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Trust and Faith in the Lord: Our Keys to Hope, Joy and Peace’

© May 17, 2015 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 17, 2015

BLCF: hope_joy_peace 

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #601(Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27); Prayer

Opening Hymn #235:  “What Must I Do?” Choruses

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers

Today’s Scriptures: Psalm 91:1-6, Matthew 13:53-58, John 20:19-29

BLCF: i_believe

 

Let us pray…

For our lesson today May 17, 2015, with Pentecost Sunday just one week away, I would like to discuss the disciple of Jesus who, thanks to a short passage of the Scriptures, been tagged with the unfortunate moniker of a doubter or skeptic. As you have likely guessed, I am talking about Thomas or Didymus, which means “the twin”, who we more commonly refer to as: “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas comes from the Hebrew or Aramaic root which means “the twin.” Didymus is from the Greek and also means “the twin.” It is likely that Thomas was born as a twin hence the unusual nickname.

But the skeptical response by Thomas to the his fellow disciples, as described in the following Scripture in John 20, verses 19-29, helped to earn him the unfortunate title as doubter:

John 20:19-29 (ESV) Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 BLCF: resurrected

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

BLCF: Incredulity of St Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[b] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

To be clear our terminology, I will refer to what I commonly “Wikibits.” So what is meant by the term “skeptic,” often applied to Thomas?

Dictionary.com: skeptic – noun

  1. A person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
  2. A person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
  3. A person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.

 

Both the secular and Christian community, make frequent use of the term “Doubting Thomas,” in reference to Jesus’ disciple. Another idiom associated with Thomas, is “Seeing is believing.”

 

Wikibits: Seeing is Believing

BLCF: Augustine-Of-Hippo-faith-reward

Seeing is believing is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639 that means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing”. It is the essence of St. Thomas‘s claim to Jesus Christ, to which the latter responded that there were those who had not seen but believed. It leads to a sophistry that “seen evidence” can be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation may be difficult.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seeing_Is_Believing

The Scripture Verses, featured in today’s lesson and printed in this morning’s bulletin, talk about how important belief, trust and faith are, in our faith walk, as believers in the Resurrected Christ.

The first Scripture, taken from Psalm 91, verses 1-6, we see that trust and faithfulness used interchangeably, describing a mutual regard between a believer and God. Just as we are faithful to God, He is faithful to us:

Psalm 91:1-6 (ESV) My Refuge and My Fortress

BLCF: Psalm_91_1-6

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High     

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,     

my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler     

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his pinions,     

and under his wings you will find refuge;     

his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,     

nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,     

nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

The next Scripture passage in the bulletin is Matthew 13, verses 53-58, describes how our Lord was rejected, in spite of his wisdom and miracles, because of the “unbelief” among many of the people in his hometown of Nazareth:

Matthew 13:53-58 (ESV) Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

BLCF: Jesus-preaching-at-synagogue-at-nazareth

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

While John 20:19-29 does describe the doubts of Thomas, who was absent when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples in the Upper room on the day of his resurrection, the Lord did show the disciples the very same wounds that Thomas asked to see, as well as breathing the Spirit into the disciples, to help them understand the significance of what they were witnessing.

While Thomas was skeptical of the Lord, when he first encountered Jesus, he was by no means the only disciple to have doubts on that day. Let us look at a passage of Scripture, not found in some of the earlier manuscript’s:

Mark 16:9-20 (ESV) Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.][a]

BLCF: Jesus_appears_to_Mary_Magdalene

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples

BLCF: road_to_Emmaus

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

The Great Commission

The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]

Footnotes: a. Mark 16:9 Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8. At least one manuscript inserts additional material after verse 14; some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. These manuscripts then continue with verses 9–20

In Mark 16, verses 9-20, the remaining eleven disciples demonstrated the same level of doubt and skepticism towards Mary and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, when they had reported seeing Jesus on the day of his resurrection. And like, Thomas, the eleven were rebuked for their unbelief.

Our previous Upper Room account of the Resurrected Jesus appearing before the Eleven Disciples in John 20:19-29 does not give a reason why Thomas was absent. The diciples had cloistered themselves in the Upper Room because they feared that the angry mob would crucify them as they had the Lord. Whatever the reason for Thomas’ absence, whether it was to get food for the disciples or to attend to the needs of others, it was important enough for him to risk his own personal safety while the other disciples chose to stay behind a bolted door. We do know that the reason Thomas left the the safety of the Upper Room, it was not for doing something nefarious, as was the case of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The Mark 16 account has the Lord returning specifically for the assurance of Thomas, so that the disciple would believe. In the John 20 account Jesus gave a mini-Pentecost, breathing upon the eleven the Holy Spirit which gave them the power of the Spirit and to understand the Lord’s purpose.Thomas being absent did not receive the Spirit at that time. The Lord’s prerequisite to receive the Holy Spirit is that a convert demonstrates faith in the Jesus, which Christ ensured by his returning to the Upper room to reveal himself to Thomas. This was an act of both compassion and faith by the Lord, and shows us that he would not leave any of his sheep behind.

Unfortunately, Thomas bears the brunt of the blame for his skepticism towards the others’ news of the Lord’s resurrection, which overshadows the ministry that Thomas performed in spreading the Gospel of Christ, which is the “The Great Commission” given by Jesus to all the disciples. In the sharing of the Gospel, the disciples became apostles or messengers of Christ. Here is a brief summary of work of the Apostle Thomas, which is really germane to his work:

BLCF: St_Thomas_Apostle

Thomas the Apostle (called Didymus which means “the twin”) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament. He is informally called doubting Thomas because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told, (in the Gospel of John), followed later by his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”, on seeing Jesus’ wounded body.

Traditionally, he is said to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as India.[2][5][6][7] According to tradition, the Apostle reached Muziris, India in AD 52 and baptized several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis. After his death, the reputed relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far as Mesopotamia in the 3rd century, and later moved to various places.[citation needed] In 1258, some of the relics were brought to Abruzzo in Ortona, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle.[8] He is often regarded as the Patron Saint of India,[9][10] and the name Thoma remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Apostle

I feel that by focusing on an account which describes Thomas as having some doubts, which were no more severe than that exhibited by the other disciples, instead of his service in spreading the Gospel as far east as India, we do the apostle a disservice.

The New Testament is full of accounts describing the disciples as having doubts or lapses of faith, particularly before receiving the Holy Spirit. But the work that the disciples, now as apostles or messengers of the Gospel, was accomplished by them, even to the point of their own deaths, is far more significant to the Christian Church of believers, The Apostle Thomas is included as an important contributor to the Great Commission  given to all believers in Jesus, as Lord and Savior.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF: believe-without-seeing