Do Right

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

We need to back up to 1 John 2:18-19 to get the issue that John is concerned with. Keep in mind that John is writing in his old age, probably in the same decade as his writing of the Gospel and Revelation. He is also writing to people he knew years ago, but we do not know what congregation this was intended for. He may have intended for it to be circulated because many congregations were dealing with the same issues.

Children, this is the Last Hour. You have heard that an Anti-Messiah is coming; and in fact, many anti-Messiahs have arisen now — which is how we know that this is the Last Hour. They went out from us, but they weren’t part of us; for had they been part of us, they would have remained with usCJB

In the closing years of the First Century, congregations were battling against Gnosticism and other heresies. They talk about the Messiah, but they don’t know the Messiah. They teach that Jesus was not a real human; that his teachings can only be understood by joining a secret society and experiencing their mystical ceremonies.

John says, ‘don’t fall for that snake oil.’ They say turn right, or left, or something else that is wrong.

If you know Jesus, Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we arePhillips

In case you missed it the first time, Beloved, we are God’s children nowESV But what John writes next you need to read carefully. We don’t know what we shall become in the future. We only know that, if reality were to break through, we should reflect his likeness, for we should see him as he really is! Phillips For reality, read, when Christ appearsNIV

What John is saying is that those of us who believe in him and strive to follow in his steps will recognize him while non-believers will not know who he is. Becoming a part of the body of the Messiah means that we will also rise up from the grave. Death cannot hold us.

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pureNIV John is not saying that we can become pure by our own efforts. He is only saying that we daily strive to drive away sins so that we can feebly reflect his pure light into the world. We must accept that we are mirrors covered in dirt, with cracks and broken edges, but we work to keep ourselves as clean as possible.

Everyone who commits sin breaks God’s law, for that is what sin is, by definition—a breaking of God’s lawPhillips John now looks at the opposite position. Followers of Jesus seek to obey God’s Law. People who reject Jesus—and God—live in sin. (Paul has a lengthy argument in his letter to the church in Rome explaining why Jews who don’t believe in Jesus are still within the Covenant if they do not reject God.)

Children, don’t let anyone deceive you — it is the person that keeps on doing what is right who is righteous, just as God is righteousCJB John’s final words in today’s reading.  

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

We Declare What We Have Seen and Heard

Image by Treharris from Pixabay 

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

Remember last week that Matthew records Mary and Mary seeing and speaking with Jesus on the morning of the resurrection.

Mark records Mary, Mary, and Salome seeing angels, but not telling anyone else about it. (Twelve verses were added to Mark decades later which contradicts what was recorded earlier about the three women.)

Luke records more women seeing the tomb and reporting to the eleven. Only Peter goes to see the tomb. Luke further records two men walking to Emmaus who talk with and finally recognize Jesus and closes his account with Jesus appearing among the eleven to convince them he was alive before ascending into heaven.

John’s account is somewhat longer. He describes Peter and John going to the tomb that morning, and then jumps to the evening.

In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples had met together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood right in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and his side, and when they saw the Lord the disciples were overjoyed.Jesus said to them again, “Yes, peace be with you! Just as the Father sent me, so I am now going to send you.”And then he breathed upon them and said, “Receive holy spirit. If you forgive any men’s sins, they are forgiven, and if you hold them unforgiven, they are unforgiven.” Phillips

When Christians talk about Jesus appearing after the resurrection, John’s account plus Luke’s Emmaus story are what we talk about. But think about the other accounts. Why are they so brief? And why to they disagree on so many points? Where is the truth?

We must always remember that the first three were written within a decade of one another and John was written as much as 30 years later. It is likely that in the decade of the sixties Christians accepted the resurrection without question. Since it was a non-issue, the three authors cut it short.

By the end of the First Century heresies and Gnosticism were gaining traction among the believers. Many were now saying that Jesus was only God, was never human. Some even said that Jesus was some dupe taken over by the Spirit of God and made to do His bidding and then sent to the cross. To counter this threat, John wrote a more detailed description of the aftermath, so to speak. When we read his account, we can sense that he personally witnessed what he describes.

Peter and John ran to the grave in the morning, but by evening all eleven were a locked in—as if that would stop Roman soldiers. In an instant, Jesus stood among them. He did not walk through doors or walls. He just was.

Two important details appear next. Jesus gives them a commission and he gives them the Holy Spirit of God. You may be asking yourself, “didn’t that happen at Pentecost?” Yes, but it also happened here, according to John.

Read the comments of Gregory of Nazianzus (end 4th Century). Christ’s disciples were able to receive the Spirit on three occasions: before he was glorified by the passion, after he was glorified by the resurrection and after his ascensionACCS

It is especially important to recognize the importance of the Apostles seeing and touching Jesus’ hands and side. Thomas was not there that night but received the same experience later. He acknowledged Jesus to which Jesus said; Is it because you have seen me that you believe?” Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!” Phillips

To bolster his argument, John appears to have written the letter we know as 1 John shortly after he wrote the Gospel. His opening is powerful.

Something which has existed since the beginning,

which we have heard,

which we have seen with our own eyes,

which we have watched

and touched with our own hands,

the Word of life—

this is our theme.

That life was made visible;

we saw it and are giving our testimony,

declaring to you the eternal life,

which was present to the Father

and had been revealed to us.

We are declaring to you

what we have seen and heard,

so that you too may share our life.

Our life is shared with the Father

and with his Son Jesus ChristNJB

As the Second Century began, all the men and women who walked and talked with Jesus were gone, replaced with good people who learned the Truth directly from those first saints and who courageously stood toe to toe with the heretics and let them know the real Jesus, both before and after death.  Saints over the centuries since have carried on the struggle. Jesus was born of Mary; became a teacher and preacher, healer and miracle worker; died and conquered death so that anyone who believes in him can also conquer death.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence