Sunday 8th April, 2018 [Communion Service]
1 John 1:1-4
Hymn of meditation: PH 322
To you Lord I come, my Father,
At your Throne, I bow, O God.
Tears and pleadings of Your children,
I present to You, O Christ.
Grant me audience, let me find You,
Flesh and blood, though I am Lord.
Yesterday is gone, another day has come
Do something new in my life
Do something new in my life
Fellow believers in Christ, the theme for our reflection today is “Meet the Risen Christ”, a follow up on last Sunday’s Easter Sunday message “He is Risen”. Today is a new day and I believe we will meet the risen Christ.
There is a need for us individually to meet the risen Lord in our lives so we can confidently say together with the Apostle Paul: “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” 2 Timothy 1:12. People of God, one thing I kept on asking myself as I was preparing for this message is that “what if Jesus Christ never revealed Himself to His disciples or anyone after His resurrection? Consequently, our faith would have been in shamble; but thanks to God that our risen Christ revealed Himself to His disciples and a large group of about 500 people within 40 days of His resurrection.
The notion takes us to the third reading in John 20:19-31. Here we see a record of how the risen Christ revealed Himself to the disciples on two different occasions. On the first instance, Thomas was not present so he missed. The others told him in John 20:25 “…We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” On the second occasion, Thomas was with the rest of the disciples when Jesus came. The second revelation was to solve the doubting problem of Thomas. Whatever Thomas demanded for him to believe that Christ had indeed risen was exactly what Christ fulfilled on that occasion. The big question mark of Thomas ended with an exclamation mark when he met the risen Christ, and he said: “…My Lord and my God!” John 20:28. John’s gospel reaches a climax in Thomas’ confession faith. He believed everything so much so that he exclaimed “My Lord and my God!” his confession further confirms the sovereignty and deity of Jesus. “My Lord” portrays Jesus’ rule and dominion; “My God” signifies the deity, divinity of Jesus.
According to Philippians 2:9-11, “…God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that, at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. Therefore, whenever Christians worship Jesus as Lord and God, it simply glorifies God the Father Almighty. We worship God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son.
Beloved in Christ, despite the fact that Thomas was sceptical, he stands as a perfect example to anyone who may be doubting the risen Christ. Do not mistaken doubting for a good thing; but what I want to put across is that, if the other side of the Thomas story had not occurred, the risen Christ would also not have made certain statement so crucial to the Christian faith. After Thomas’ confession, hear what Christ said: “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29. I don’t know which one person here has ever seen the risen Christ for himself, neither have I also seen Him but you know what? I do believe in Him. I’m sure you also believe in the risen Christ. The joyous thing Jesus wants to put across here is that, if you have not seen Him yet believe in Him, you are blessed. So you receive a blessing which under normal circumstance, Thomas would not have received because he demanded evidence.
Not only have I got to see Him, but I have also identified with Him with my hands into the nail-scarred hands. According to Hebrews 11:1: “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. According to the scripture, if you ever desire to see something before believing it, it is not faith. You should believe it for the fact that it is true before you later get the chance to see it: this is the basis of our Christian faith. So there are certain elements of faith which when eliminated, renders faith useless.
Furthermore, Thomas was a perfect example of faith because after that encounter with the risen Christ, he became the pioneer of the Christian faith in India. He went all the way to India as a missionary and preached the risen Christ there and planted a church (according to Church history). After an encounter with the risen Christ, people of God, we must not sit down; we need to go out there and witness, we need to speak about the risen Christ. John and the other gospel writers portrayed the risen Christ as a person with a glorified body, a supernatural body that can cut across any physical barrier, reaching out to His disciples even when doors were shut to quench their feeling of fear and to establish peace in their hearts. He could appear and disappear anywhere just like on the road to Emmaus, joined the travellers and after the breaking of bread, disappeared from their sight. The interesting thing is that, we shall one day receive that glorified body on the day of resurrection when Jesus shall appear in His glory. Our lowly state of this body will be transformed into a dignified and glorified, supernatural one.
I don’t know what you must be facing today but this risen Christ can reach out to you, calm your fears and establish peace in your hearts. The devil takes great delight in seeing Christians in difficult situations and troubles; he and his agents then have a cause to rejoice and make a mockery of you, but thanks to God that we are serving a living God who will never give us over to the will of the enemy. In case you are in any sort of trouble, just be reassured that our risen Christ is able deliver you and set you high so as to put the enemy to shame. Whatever burden you may be carrying now, our risen Christ is able make you free of all.
On both occasions that the risen Christ met His disciples, he greeted them by saying “peace be with you”, a term now adopted as greeting by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. Though it was a greeting by Christ, it was more than a mere statement; the Lord Jesus truly offered His disciples peace that the world could never offer, yet peace that goes with responsibilities. They were to be witnesses of the risen Christ, and since no one can effectively witness for Him without the Holy Spirit Jesus breathed on them and graphically portraying the gifts of the Holy Spirit imparted unto them also with responsibilities: “If you forgive the sin of someone it will be forgiven, if you retain the sin it will be retained”. The forgiveness of sin is God’s prerogative; only God can forgive sins. What Jesus meant here was that, forgive the sins that God has forgiven and retain the sins of people that God has retained. One of the sins that God does not forgive is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, therefore the explanation of Jesus statement again is that, any sin that God will forgive, you also must forgive and any sin that He will retain, retain also. If you hear a born-again Christian praying in tongues, and you describe him as mad for praying such prayers that no man can understand, bear in mind that you may be blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, however, is ever ready to empower us to witness about the risen Christ and share our faith with others. You may be wondering: “what at all can I do in this area of evangelism”. All you need to do is make yourself available and you will be amazed at what the Lord will use you to accomplish in these end times.
In conclusion, the passage from John’s gospel is very crucial because the verse 30 and 31 states the entire purpose of the Gospel: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name”. Jesus did many things that have not been recorded but these few ones have been recorded just to bring us to His saving knowledge. So if you are here today and not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, this is the time to do so to inherit the promise of eternal life. Jesus is alive! He is risen indeed and can transform your life. Surrender your life to Him and you will never remain the same again.