God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room

Believe!

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:          

‘God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room’

© April 21, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 21, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 20, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin April 20, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn: #163: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

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

Responsive Reading #623: The Risen Lord (– Matthew 28 and John 20)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                            ‘God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room’  

  

 Let us pray…

‘He is risen!’ 

Congregation’s reply: ‘He is risen, indeed!’

Today is the day we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from his death upon the cross at Golgotha. The world is full of many religions, many false gods, and worship a variety of idols. But only Christ, the Son of the one true God, performed the miraculous and supernatural act of returning from the dead.

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared neither on just a single occasion nor only to the eleven apostles.

For today’s lesson, we will study four events, where the Resurrected Christ came to those who loved and believed their Saviour, which occurred in three places: in a tomb; on a road; and in a room.

Let us look at these meetings with the Lord in their proper chronology and begin with the account in John’s gospel, Chapter 20, verses 1-18, which give the account of Mary Magdalene, who arrived at the tomb of Jesus on the first day of the week, only to find the gravestone rolled away and the tomb empty.

John 20:1-18 (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.

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his b.John 20:16 Or Hebrew

The Scriptures indicate that Mary ran to report her discovery to Peter and to another, referred in this passage as the ‘other disciple.’

You may ask what is the identity of the ‘other disciple’ mentioned in this account?

Most scholars agree that the ‘other disciple’ is John. This also makes sense, in that referring to himself as the ‘other disciple’, in the third person, John not only demonstrate humility, but avoids a narrative that uses the personal pronouns I and me, which could cause the reader to stray from the focus of the passage, the Lord’s victory over death.

And Mary Magdalene, the first to find the tomb empty, became the first to meet Jesus after his resurrection. We see that Mary, while weeping at the tomb, first encounters two angels inside the tomb, where the head and feet of Christ’s body had lain.

You may recall in Exodus 3:2, when Moses first approached God’s Presence within the Burning Bush on Mount Horeb, he encountered an angel of God.

 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.

We read in Exodus 25:18-21, that two angels adorned the Ark of the Covenant, positioned in much the same manner as the two Mary Magdalene encountered in the tomb of Christ:

18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you.

In contrast to the angels on the Ark of the Covenant, the angels encountered by Mary Magdalene in Christ’s tomb do not face inwards, but outwards. By Christ’s sacrifice, the judgment seat of God has been removed and God’s presence is no longer contained in the Ark of the Covenant, as all believers now contain God’s presence, as we become Arks of God’s New Covenant. And so the angels look outward.

As believers in Christ, who took our judgment upon himself, we are saved from the eternal death judgment for sin, and like the Lord, we will be resurrected from the grave, when Christ returns. This is God’s covenant.

The next encounter with the Resurrected Christ occurs with two Disciples of Christ on the Road to Emmaus, described in Luke 24:13-35.

Luke 24:13-35 (ESV): On the Road to Emmaus

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Footnotes: a. Luke 24:13 Greek sixty stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters

In the Emmaus account, which gives the name of one of the two disciples as Cleopas, we have the pair telling the Lord how they had hoped before his crucifixion; they had hoped that Israel had been delivered. To which the Lord chides them, saying (in verses 25-25):

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

It is only after breaking of the bread, does Christ reveal himself.

It is important to note that these two disciples did not initially recognize this stranger as Christ, which is similar to Mary Magdalene’s mistaking the Lord as a gardener or groundkeeper at the cemetery.

Our next encounter with the Resurrected Christ comes from John 20:19-29, where our Lord appears before the disciples. This occurs on the evening of the same day after he had met Mary Magdalene in the morning and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. This time Jesus meets the disciples in the same Upper Room where he shared the Passover Supper before his crucifixion, as described in John 20:19-23 (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.”

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

In this encounter, Jesus announces his presence by saying:

“Peace be with you.” And after showing them his hands and side, the Lord gives the eleven the assignment or commission to share his Gospel, “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.”

Having received the Holy Spirit and been instructed that the Lord is sending them, as he was sent by the Father, the disciples no longer are disciples or students of the Lord but become his Apostles. Wikipedia defines an apostle as:

The word “apostle” derives from the Ancient Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstólos), meaning “messenger” or “envoy” that was formed from the prefix ἀπό- (apó-, “from”) and root στέλλω (stéllō, “I send”, “I depart”).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle_(Christian)

However, in spite of the testimonies of Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on Emmaus Road, and to his fellow disciples, now apostles, the disciple Thomas refuses to believe in the resurrection of Jesus without visible proof, as we read in John 20:24-29 (ESV):

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.”

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 fourth and final encounter with the Resurrected Lord takes place in the same Upper Room that he appeared before other disciples, some eight days later. This time Thomas is present and the Lord instructs him to touch the wounds on his hands and side, and telling the disciple, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Though Jesus did not initially reveal himself to the two disciples encountered on the Emmaus Road, he was not recognized by Mary Magdalene at the tomb where he was buried. Mary mistook our Lord at first as a gardener or groundskeeper, until he spoke her name.

After being informed by Mary Magdalene of the empty tomb, the disciples Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. While John 20 indicates that the disciples believed, it also indicates that they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.

When Christ first appeared to the eleven disciples, in the Upper Room, he showed them his hands and side, revealing the wounds from the crucifixion. Jesus returned again to the twelve disciples in the Upper Room, this time to show Thomas the same wounds he had shown to the other disciples some eight days previous.

The question arises: Why did the disciples not believe the reports that Christ was alive and risen from the dead? And why was it necessary for Jesus to show them tangible evidence, such as the wounds from the cross, to convince the disciples? After all, the disciples were part of Jesus’ inner circle for over three years. They had seen Christ’s miracles and had heard his gospel, and still, they had to see tangible evidence of the miracle of the Lord’s resurrection! That is why the Lord breathed God’s Holy Spirit into the disciples in order to equip them for their new Commission as Apostles of Christ’s Gospel.

Before Jesus died, because of sin, people practiced a religion filled with good works in order to worship God. They had to make sacrifices to God for their transgressions and communicated with God through such intermediaries as holy prophets or high priests. Worship involved performing visible, tangible actions to honor God.

Through Jesus, God reveals His new Paradigm for His relationship with His people. The term “paradigm” was a popular buzzword that was perhaps overused throughout the 1990s. For those unfamiliar with it, let us consult dictionary.com:

par·a·digm /ˈpærəˌdaɪm, -dɪm/ Show Spelled [par-uh-dahym, -dim] Show IPA noun  

an example serving as a model; pattern. Synonyms: mold, standard; ideal, paragon, touchstone.

 such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group: the company’s business paradigm.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paradigm

Jesus implemented the new paradigm for humanity’s relationship with God, by removing the stigma for the sin of humanity by taking upon himself both the judgment and punishment for sin. At his first appearance in the Upper Room, we see in John 20, that he commissioned the disciples, sending them to go forth, as the Father in heaven had sent him. And knowing that he was soon to ascend to heaven, Jesus breathed upon them the Holy Spirit of God, which was the first Pentecost. Some forty days after his ascension to heaven, Christ sent God’s Holy Spirit to the rest of the believers gathered in the same Upper Room. After that, the Spirit, which is God’s presence, came upon those believers, who accepted Christ as savior; confessed their sins; and have chosen to follow the Way of the Lord.

At this point, the disciples were no longer students of the Lord, but having received the Spirit, become Apostles or messengers of his gospel of forgiveness, sanctification, and following the Day of Pentecost. As Apostles, believers are vessels of God’s Holy Spirit or Arks of God’s New Covenant. God’s new Paradigm is His New Covenant, which not only includes salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit but the promise of our own resurrection. And like the twelve Apostles, we are commissioned as messengers of Christ’s gospel.

The most important part of this passage, which all Christians who did not live in the time when Christ walked before his crucifixion should note, are the words that were spoken by Jesus to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Though after his ascension, Jesus did appear to Stephen, Saul or Paul and John, most Christians have made a faith conversion base upon what they believe, not what they have seen.  This is God’s new Paradigm for humanity. Since the Day of Pentecost, all believers in the unseen receive by faith, the Holy Spirit of God to become Apostles of Christ. As Apostles, we are charged to share his gospel of salvation and God’s New Covenant, which is eternal life.

So let us close today’s message with the same exclamation that awaits the believers reply, “He is risen!”

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain                                                      

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24):                                                                                 

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

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Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit’        

 © October 13, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 14, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 6, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 4, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior; Choruses                 

Responsive Reading #601 (Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27)

Message by Steve Mickelson: Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, on this Communion Sunday.

In past lessons, on previous Sundays, we have looked at how sin can cause fear, guilt, and shame, which in turn result in a separation from God. Our examples have included: how both Adam and Eve, being aware of their nakedness, felt shame; Cain experienced the guilt of killing his brother, Abel; and Jesus’ disciples had hidden in fear in the Upper Room, after Christ’s crucifixion.

Adam and Eve, having eaten the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge” became aware of their nakedness and hid their bodies in guilt. Their sin was disobeying God.

Cain, in a fit of jealousy, killed his brother and denied knowing Abel’s whereabouts. His sin was murdering another.

Having seen their Lord die on the cross, the disciples hid in the Upper Room, fearful of their own safety. When Peter denied knowing Jesus and his allowing him to go to die the cross for sin’s he did not commit, produced in him and the other disciples a guilt so great, that they locked themselves in a room.

We see three accounts of how sin pushes people from God, as each felt that the sin could not be undone. And all three reactions to sin could be viewed not only as introspective and self-serving, perhaps even selfish in nature.

Which brings us to David, who authored today’s first Scripture verse, which is taken from Psalm 27, Verse 1.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV): The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation

Of David.

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

Footnotes: a. Psalm 27:1 Or refuge

The Psalmist expresses no guilt, shame or fear, even though he had committed the sin of adultery. The difference was that he had been forgiven by the Lord for his transgression. This brings us to today’s second Scripture passage, Acts 4:1-22.

Acts 4:1-22 (ESV): Peter and John before the Council

4 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus[a] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[b] 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[c] by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

Footnotes: a. Acts 4:11 Greek This one b. Acts 4:11 Greek the head of the corner c. Acts 4:12 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women

The boldness of Peter and John, who were filled by the Holy Spirit by their resurrected Lord after he had given them his Commission, (John 20:21), was so powerful that the temple priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducee released the apostles from their custody. Besides, it is rather difficult to deny the man who was healed from a lifelong affliction, standing before them.

John 20:19-23 (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.”

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

Though Peter and John were released with the warning not to continue to preach in the name of Jesus, this did not happen, as the two apostles prayed to God for strength from the Spirit, to continue to be bold in their ministry.

These were the same men who had hid in fear for their own safety, now boldly ministering to those who they feared. Remember, Christ had breathed into them the Holy Spirit to become messengers of his Gospel. The Spirit gave the apostles courage to boldly go forth on Christ’s Commission. For Christ had died on the cross for their sins, and our sins. Jesus had paid the penalty for all sin, so it was no longer necessary to carry sin’s burdens of guilt, shame, and fear. The apostles had both faith and the gift of the Spirit which gave them confidence not only to spread the Gospel message but to heal a crippled man, through the grace and power of the Spirit. They had now changed their focus from worrying only about themselves to caring about the salvation of others, including the very same group responsible for the death of Jesus and sought to persecute them: the temple priest, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees.

So who were these Sadducees, who sought to suppress the apostles?

The Sadducees

Let us check our Wiki Bits reference:

The Sadducees (Hebrew: צְדוּקִיםṢĕdûqîm) were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BCE through the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole, the sect fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple. The Sadducees are often compared to other contemporaneous sects, including the Pharisees and the Essenes. Their sect is believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, but it has been speculated that the later Karaites may have had some roots or connections with old Sadducee views.

The religious responsibilities of the Sadducees included the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. Their high social status was reinforced by their priestly responsibilities, as mandated in the Torah. The Priests were responsible for performing sacrifices at the Temple, the primary method of worship in Ancient Israel. This also included presiding over sacrifices on the three festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Their religious beliefs and social status were mutually reinforcing, as the Priesthood often represented the highest class in Judean society. Sadducees and the priests were not completely synonymous. Cohen points out that “not all priests, high priests, and aristocrats were Sadducees; many were Pharisees, and many were not members of any group at all.”

The New Testament, specifically the books of Mark and Matthew, describe anecdotes that hint at hostility between the Jesus movement and the Sadduceean establishment. These disputes manifest themselves on both theological and social levels. Mark describes how the Sadducees challenged Jesus’ belief in the Resurrection of the Dead. Jesus subsequently defends his belief in resurrection against Sadduceean resistance, stating, “and as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Jesus challenges the reliability of the Sadducees’ interpretation of Biblical doctrine, the authority of which enforces the power of the Sadduceean priesthood. The Sadducees address the issue of resurrection through the lens of marriage, which “hinted at their real agenda: the protection of property rights through patriarchal marriage that perpetuated the male lineage.” Furthermore, Matthew depicts the Sadducees as a “brood of Vipers,” and a perversion of the true Israel. The New Testament thus constructs the identity of Christianity in opposition to the Sadducees.

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

The Holy Spirit that Jesus “breathed upon the disciples” transformed them from disciples or students of the Lord, who locked themselves out of fear in the Upper Room, to apostles or messengers of the Gospel, boldly witnessing in faith to the very same people who had Christ crucified! The power of the Spirit had transformed the apostles into bold witnesses of Christ’s Gospel.

But what do we mean by faith? The Apostle Paul gave us a good understanding of faith, by explaining what believers may accomplish by faith, in Hebrews 11:1-16.

Hebrews 11:1-16 (ESV): By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The first paragraph acts both as an overview and summary of the power of actions performed by walking boldly faith, with courage from the Holy Spirit:

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering

Benediction (Ephesians 3:20-21):  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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.