A KERNEL OF WHEAT
John 12:20-36 KV: 24
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Thank God that through last week’s message we could learn the heart of King David for God and the summary of the entire book of Psalms. It was a warning to keep ourselves planted near the living water at all times to grow strong in the word of God.
This week’s message is the message from Jesus to the people right before his arrest and crucifixion. It is not a rallying cry like in Braveheart but Jesus gives them a principle to live as kernels of wheat that falls to the ground and dies so that many others may live. This isn’t just Jesus’ motto but it is the parable that best exemplifies his life and the life of a Christian. Let us go into the Bible and learn from Jesus how our lives can be kernels of wheat and die to produce many seeds for the glory of God. …
OVERCOME THE WORLD IN HIS GRACE
John 9:26-41, Key verse; 38
“Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.”
Happy Memorial Day! Happy Summer Ministry! Last week we learned that it is important to hold onto one grace of God in order to grow in Jesus. The Pharisees tested the man born blind to forget God’s grace. But he did not yield to the pressure of the religious leaders. He did not forget one thing Jesus did for him but held the truth of God to the end.
Through today’s passage, we learn that Jesus opens his spiritual eyes because he holds onto one grace of Jesus to the end. As a result he receives a complete healing and becomes a member of the kingdom of God. May God bless us not only hold onto one grace of Jesus but also believe in the Son of God so that we may see the kingdom of God with our spiritual eyes.
Part I: In Jesus’ grace he overcame the world (26-34).
The man who was healed by the grace of Jesus replied in verse 25, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!'” As he spoke, his voice gained power. His statement ends with an exclamation point. The truth burning in his heart was stronger than the devil’s pressure. He didn’t know much about life but he knew clearly what Jesus did for himself. 1 John 4:4 says, “the one who is in you is greater than the one that is in the world.” When Jesus is in our hearts and we testify to his grace, we become very powerful. Actually, it is not we, but Jesus in us.
The religious leaders were shocked by the man’s courage and clear testimony. They felt powerless and simply repeated their previous question. To their surprise, the blind man only grew stronger in the face of their persecution. So they began to repeat their line of questioning, hoping that he might slip in his answers. Look at verse 26. “Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?'”
For a turn of events the man began to question them! Look at verse 27. “He answered, ‘I have already told you, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?'” After his confession of faith, he was not afraid anymore. He boldly proclaimed that he was Jesus’ disciple. He even invited the Pharisees to repent and become Jesus’ disciples, too! That was the last straw. In this way, the man was actually rebuking them because they did not dialogue with him honestly. We see a bit of ironic humor in the man’s reply as well.
At that point, they lost their tempers and became irrational. They became like street bullies who resort to violence when they cannot win an argument. Look at verses 28-29. “Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.'” The Pharisees began to abuse the man terribly. They were proud of their teacher, Moses. They claimed to be disciples of Moses and slandered Jesus, saying, “We don’t even know where he comes from.”
But the blind man didn’t back down. Look at verses 30-33. “The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable. You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.'” The logic and systematic reasoning of this man is remarkable! Perhaps some of today’s liberal scholars and theologians like Eckhart Tolle and Bart Ehrman could learn something from him.
There are many who stood up and held on to Jesus’ grace in the face of pressure. We remember in the second half of the book of Acts Paul is on trial for his belief in Jesus. One other example that comes to mind is Martin Luther. In October of 1518, Luther was told to recant his positions by the Papal Legate, Cardinal Cajetan. Martin Luther held one grace of Jesus in Romans 1:18, “…The righteous will live by faith.” Luther stated that he could not recant unless his mistakes were pointed out to him by appeals to “scripture and right reason,” he would not, in fact, could not recant.
The healed man had become a world-class debater. His secret method was not years of rigorous training, but because his point was crystal clear; ‘Jesus is from God.’ The Pharisees had no excuse. Jesus had done a miracle. It was the evidence that God was with Jesus. They had to repent and believe in Jesus. Instead, they revealed their proud minds and condemned the man because he had been born blind while they had been in Pharisee training since the age of 6. So take that!
However, they felt inferior to this man. So they tried to paint him with condemnation by using the elements of his past life. Look at verse 34. “To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.” They might have won a physical battle. But they were completely defeated by this man spiritually. Here we learn that one man with the grace of Jesus can overcome the world. This man fulfilled Jesus’ hope for him and displayed the glory of God.
Part II: “Lord, I believe” (35-41).
Jesus heard that the religious leaders had thrown him out of their community. Jesus heard that he was abandoned and helpless again. This man was rejected by men including his own parents. But Jesus did not abandon him. When the former blind man endured the test of faith, Jesus found him. Jesus always finds his sheep in their time of need. Jesus did not say, “I am really sorry for the way they treated you.”
Look at verse 35. “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?'” Now he was abandoned and cast out of his community; his situation was worse than before because he lost his job of begging. Even so, Jesus did not sympathize with his human condition. Jesus only wanted to plant in him ‘faith in the Son.’ Jesus wanted him to grow in faith. I think Jesus wants all of us to grow in faith, and not just remain here sitting on the chair waiting for someone to tell us what to do.
As we have seen, the man had struggled admirably in order to hold on to the grace of God, overcoming fierce opposition. He had won a great victory. Still, he needed to go one step further in his faith. Jesus wanted him to make a confession of faith in him as the Son of Man, or the Messiah. This confession of faith unites us with Christ as his precious children forever. Through this confession of faith, we receive eternal life and the glorious kingdom of God as our inheritance.
We learn from Jesus that faith is the victory. Faith does not seem to give him even a piece of bread. But in the end, faith in the Son would bestow on him eternal life and the crown of life in Jesus’ kingdom. Faith is the source of power to overcome the world. A blind man who was once begging on the street can be an heir of God and a co-worker with Jesus Christ and with God (Ro 8:17). Sometimes human favor is needed. But Faith in the Son is everything. We must help God’s flock with faith, not with human favor only.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” What was his answer? Look at verse 36. “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Remember this man had never seen what Jesus looked like, because previously he was blind. He really wanted to know the person who opened his born blind eyes. He really wanted to believe in Him. Jesus was moved by this man’s spiritual desire to know and to believe in Him. What was Jesus’ answer to his question? Look at verse 37. “Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
This man was amazed by Jesus who introduced himself as the Son of Man to him. “What! Then are you the Promised Messiah whom I was waiting for?” Then the man knelt down before Jesus and opened his arms toward Jesus and said in verse 38, “‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” When this man held on to one thing Jesus had done for him, he finally met the Messiah. When he confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, his soul found perfect joy and peace. He received the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He received a living hope in the kingdom of God.
In this way, he formed an unbreakable bond of love with the Holy Son of God who would carry him to the kingdom of God and eternal glory. Then he worshiped Jesus as God. He confessed his love to Jesus. He offered his new life to Jesus to be consecrated and used for his glory. He surrendered his life to Jesus as his Savior and Lord like the Samaritan woman. “Thank you, Jesus! My Savior, my Lord, my God, I will live for you from now on!”
Let us read verse 38 again. “Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.” When the blind man held on to Jesus’ words and remembered his grace, he received the great privilege to know Jesus as the Messiah and worship him in the flesh. For that privilege he was more ready to give his life than William Wallace in “Brave Heart” who was ready to die for freedom. Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah? Then, confess like this man; ‘Lord, I believe.’ Then decide to give your life to him.
Here we learn that we must thank God for his light. Most of all because we have the privilege to see and know Christ, which all the prophets and even angels longed to see, but could not. That privilege makes you pretty special and elite like Navy SEALs. Not even the great prophets Abraham and Moses knew Jesus. The Pharisees had been truly blessed by God. But they were blinded by their political minds and selfish ambition. As a result, they could not recognize the Messiah even though Jesus was in front of them. As a result, they were under God’s judgment.
Look at verse 39. “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.'” Jesus’ coming revealed that even a man born blind could display the glory of God. Jesus’ coming brought eternal life to one soul who simply trusted in him and testified to his grace. But Jesus’ coming also exposed the hypocrisy and legalism of the arrogant religious leaders. Eventually, they would suffer in the eternal darkness if they did not repent.
Jesus rebuked their spiritual blindness harshly in order to help them to repent. But they were upset and asked Jesus in verse 40. “Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?'” “What? Come on Jesus! Are we blind too? I have 20/20 vision.” They did not accept Jesus’ rebuke so they could not see the Messiah. Since they were used to living in darkness, they refused to admit their blind condition. The first step to gain our spiritual sight is to acknowledge that we are blind. Then we may repent and have ‘hope’ to see the spiritual world.
Why is spiritual blindness more serious than the physical blindness? Look at verse 41. “Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.'” When we do not repent of our sins, we remain guilty of our sins and become an object of God’s wrath. But when we remember God’s grace and confess that Jesus is the Messiah and worship Him only, God gives us heavenly joy and eternal life in the kingdom of God. May God bless you to have faith in the Son and have eternal life in the kingdom of God!
Through today’s passage, we learn that we can overcome the world when we hold onto one grace of Jesus we received. St. Augustine was an intellectual playboy of the first century. But one word touched his heart in Romans 13:11, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber…” This reminded him of his spiritual slumber and changed his life and he wrote a book called “the city of God.”
Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna remembered one grace of Jesus at the crucial moment on the burning firewood. When the Romans soldiers asked him, “Hi! Polycarp, why don’t you deny Jesus just one time? If you deny Jesus once, we will save your life” Polycarp answered boldly, “Jesus! My Lord never betrayed me in my entire life. How can I deny him?” He kept his faith to the end and died for Jesus gloriously and inspired so many early believers.
I want to tell you one more story. Do you like stories? Me, too. There is a story about a tiger and an old man. One day a tiger fell into a deep hole in the ground and an old man was passing by. The old man rescued the tiger from the hole. Then the tiger forgot the grace of the old man. Since he was very hungry and ate the old man. Why do we celebrate Mother’s Day? We want to remember mother’s love. Why do people celebrate their wedding anniversary? They want to remember their first love.
We should forget our bad memories toward others. But we should not forget the grace of Jesus who has been with us when we were struggling in the darkness of sin and gave us a new life. Also, we should not forget our neighbors and our Bible teachers who served us sacrificially in this selfish generation. Do you want to be that tiger or the former blind man in this passage? Do you want to overcome the world? Then, remember Jesus’ grace.
* Conclusion: Tomorrow is “Memorial Day.” We should remember our ancestors in America who sacrificed their precious lives for our country. Most of all, we as Christians must remember the grace of Jesus which is a foundation for our spiritual growth and true happiness. We know that those who remember the grace of Jesus are happy to do anything. But those who do not remember the grace of Jesus are always complaining and cannot love others even because of their selfishness. May God bless you to overcome any difficulties in the world by remembering the grace of Jesus.
DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE?
John 21:1-25, Key Verse: 21:15
“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Yes Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.””
God blessed us to study the book of John for the last one year. Today’s passage is the completion of John’s Gospel. It is a most appropriate message for the end of the year and coming New Year. In this passage Jesus returns to his disciples and helps them restore their relationship with him through the miraculous catch of fish. In this Jesus shows his love. Jesus also comes to Peter to restore Peter’s faith and hope in Jesus. Jesus asks Peter 3 times, “Do you truly love me more than these?” Let us look at our hearts today to examine whether we love Jesus, and also understand the great love Jesus has for us. Then we can properly answer Jesus’ question, “Do you love me more than these?” and be truly moved to feed his sheep.
First – Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish (1-14).
Let us start by reading verse 1, “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened in this way:” This verse describes when this event took place. This took place after the crucifixion and after the resurrection. Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene and appeared to his disciples in the upper room. More importantly this took place after Peter denied Jesus 3 times and the disciples ran away.
Look at verse 2, “Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the Sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.” Seven disciples were gathered together. Why had these seven disciples gathered together in Galilee and what where they doing? The passage says they went out to fish. Most likely they were all from the area and this was their home town. They went back to the jobs they had before they all met Jesus.
Look at verse 3, “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go out with you.” So they got into the boat, …” After being with Jesus and witnessing his great sacrifice on the cross the passage says they ended up going out fishing. After all that Jesus taught them and the promise of the Holy Spirit to come and be their counselor they ended up back on the Lake of Galilee where they started. The disciple’s condition could be described as depressed. Their state was depressed because looking back they had great hopes to become great people on the coat tails of Jesus. But now Jesus was gone and they had nothing left to fall back on. They had no hope and nowhere to go. They had nothing to bank their lives on anymore, so they went back to their old jobs they had before they met Jesus. As disciples they had failed Jesus, they got a grade “F.” They abandoned Jesus in his time of need and ran away; they forgot all of his words to boot.
Then when they went back to their old job without the words of Jesus they continued to fail. Look at verse 3b, “…but that night they caught nothing.” Without the word of Jesus they couldn’t even catch any fish. Their life was a mess. The disciples wanted to overcome their failures by mastering something they had been good at in the past. This could bring them peace and comfort they thought. But in this case it didn’t and they knew it.
But then something great happened. Someone on the shore, in the early morning, called out to the disciples, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (5). “No,” they answered. Who on earth could this be, calling out to them “friends?” It was Jesus, but the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus on the shore. Maybe they couldn’t see him clearly because it was dark. Maybe they had forgotten the sound of his gentle and merciful voice. Maybe their hearts had grown cold and they never expected to see a living and walking Jesus again.
Jesus greeted the disciples is such a warm way. He called them “friends.” Jesus came back because he wanted to give the disciples hope in him and show his love to them. But Jesus did more than greet them. Look at verse 6, “He said, “Throw your nets on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” Jesus understood their spiritual condition. He understood their position as defeated men, physically and spiritually. They had zero hope. Jesus gave them this miraculous catch of fish so they could know Jesus’ loved them still. Jesus gave them success to show his great and merciful love for them. How great is Jesus who restored his disciples by giving them a great catch of fish? Jesus was not bitter at all but showed his love to his disciples by providing the great catch of fish to restore their confidence.
After the disciples hauled all the fish into the boat something dawned on them. Look at verse 7, “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”” The disciple John recognized first that it was Jesus on the shore, and that it was Jesus who was responsible for this miraculous catch of fish. John was very keen to recognize Jesus. He had good ears, so that he could recognize Jesus’ voice when he speaks. The way we can be good sheep is we can hear Jesus’ words and do what he says. This is how we come to recognize his voice more and more and come to know him more and more.
At hearing John’s words, what did Peter do? Did he put these words on his “to do” list? Did he forget them? Did he ignore them? No, he put on his clothes, out of respect for Jesus. He jumped into the lake and swam to the shore to meet him. Peter wanted nothing more than to meet Jesus again. Peter loved Jesus with all his heart and wanted to be with him again. Peter was excited that Jesus would visit him again, and gave him and the others a miraculous catch of fish. Now Peter swam furiously to meet Jesus again.
As the other disciples were hauling in the boat with the nets full of fish, Jesus was there making breakfast. Look at verse 9, “When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” This part reveals that Jesus really loves Peter and all the disciples. The disciples had been out on the cold lake all night, without any food. Large lakes of water don’t get very warm. Have you ever been to Lake Michigan? Even in July the water is still kind of chilly. The disciples were also out in the early morning. How many of you have to or had to go out in the early morning to catch a bus for school? The temperature is cold in the early morning. Now think about the disciples who did not eat at all and were pretty tired. When they came ashore here was their shepherd Jesus, making fish sandwiches for them for breakfast. Jesus shows his love in great ways to us. But Jesus also showed his caring shepherd heart here to his disciples by serving them greatly. The disciples knew that they had failed serving Jesus. But Jesus was there to show his warm love to them through serving them. This is the love that touched their hearts.
Look at verse 12, “…none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.” They knew that is was Jesus serving them quietly and calmly, like a mother serves her children. Jesus could have launched into a tirade against the disciples listing all their mistakes. He would have been perfectly justified. But Jesus did not rebuke them; Jesus wanted to show them his love. This undeserved love is the love that changes men’s hearts. No one deserves this great love but Jesus gives us this love by his mercy and grace.
We too should recognize Jesus from the way he calls us, “friends.” We should recognize Jesus’ love in continually serving us are restoring us to God. Even though we as a people fail Jesus many times he is there granting us miraculous victories in life so that we can be restored in faith before Jesus. This passage can be a reflection of our lives of faith. When we fail, God shows us that he never fails by sending his Son Jesus. When we become depressed and lose our hopes, Jesus is on the shore calling to us. When we come to him with nothing, he is there cooking us breakfast and loving us gently to restore us. This is the sincere love of Jesus for failed sinners. This is what we must never forget.
Second – Do you truly love me more than these? (15-25)
After they had finished eating Jesus turned his attention to Peter. Jesus asked a simple question to Peter. Look at verse 15, “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” I had a friend who heard this passage and wanted to really practice this so he though really hard about it and decided to go out and buying a lamb. Peter knew that Jesus wasn’t talking about taking care of animals, but this question caught Peter off guard. Peter would say with a laugh, “Of course Jesus, come on, it is me Peter. You know I love you.”
Jesus asked, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter answered, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Peter left off the “more than these” part. Peter thought he loved Jesus “more than these.” All the disciples thought they loved Jesus “more than these.” But loving Jesus is more than just saying so. Peter found that out the night he denied Jesus three times. After proclaiming that he would fight to the death for Jesus and getting a sword, he thought he was ready to show his love. Peter thought he loved Jesus, but he loved his life more and out of fear he denied Jesus three times. Peter actually loved his ambition, he actually loved his position more than Jesus and this is why he failed Jesus.
We fail Jesus in the same way. We think we love Jesus the most, we are ready to serve Jesus, but then something comes up and Jesus goes right out the window. See, Jesus wasn’t asking Peter if he had a place in his heart. Jesus was asking if his whole heart was dedicated to him. We all fail when we do not depend on Jesus in our lives. Through Peter’s denial Jesus wanted him to recognize his weakness and failure and lack of dependence on Jesus. Jesus was teaching Peter that so he would remember it for the rest of his life.
Jesus’ love for Peter was so great in the face of Peter’s sins. The fact is my friends, Jesus already loved Peter more than Peter could ever imagine. When Jesus says, “Do you love me more than these?” It already comes with the condition that Jesus loved Peter and us with all his life. He loved so much that he gave it on the cross. Now Jesus is showing that love to Peter and through caring for him. Jesus wanted Peter to know his unconditional love. Jesus’ love is forgiveness for sins and failures. Jesus love is also his calling for Peter as a disciple despite his failures to feed his lambs. Praise Jesus for his great redemptive love for us!
What does it mean for us to love Jesus more than these in the modern times? Loving Jesus more than these means that our dead hearts are moved by his words and commands. It means to understand the depth of the sacrifice Jesus gave for us. It means to realize that you and I can never do enough good or pay Jesus back. Love in any case means commitment. I love my wife and am committed clearly to her and no one else. The same goes for Jesus’ commands. To love Jesus “more than these” means to bring our life style in compliance with his especially in this crooked generation. Loving Jesus “more than these” means that his words will convict us and our heart’s desires will be changed to take care of others with that same love.
To Peter’s response Jesus replied, “Feed my lambs.” Peter never expected Jesus to say something like this. Peter was not thinking about Jesus’ lambs, but only about himself. Jesus wanted Peter to know that if he really loved Jesus more than these, then he would take care of his lambs. This is not a forced order. Jesus is not making a list and checking it twice like Santa Claus. But when our hearts truly love Jesus more than these things we naturally want to please Jesus. Our hearts are so full of thankfulness and joy that we want to make Jesus happy. How can we do this? He tells us, “Feed my lambs.” The way to do this is follow Jesus’ command and feed his sheep. If we try to feed his sheep out of our own personality and ingenuity eventually we get worn out and like Peter we become afraid and we begin to love something else more than Jesus’ lambs. Only out of truly receiving the great love of Jesus we can take care of his lambs.
Then Jesus asked Peter again in verse 16, “Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”” Now Peter began to worry. Was Jesus going deaf? He asked Peter the same question twice in a row. Peter answered Jesus, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus answered him with the same response, “Feed my sheep.” Loving Jesus is not a small confession and then it is over, like it is a flu vaccine. Loving Jesus is a life commitment. Jesus was helping Peter to be sure of what he was saying. A pastor once shared in his message that, “Loving Jesus more than these is like having a head on collision with a fully loaded semi-truck. There is no way you can walk away unchanged.” Loving Jesus more than these will change our lives.
Look at verse 17, “The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”” It seems here as if Jesus doesn’t trust Peter. Peter needed this though. He needed Jesus to touch his heart. The truth always wounds, but it builds us up and makes us stronger in Jesus. Peter needed to realize the fullness of his sin, and that he loved his life more than Jesus, and that is why he denied Jesus three times. Jesus called Peter to feed his sheep three times. Jesus wanted Peter to move beyond just being a cheerleader to be one who feeds others with the word of God. Through taking care of others through the word of God, I find that the scriptures open up. Jesus himself shepherded others and by feeding his lambs, we can know Jesus in a deeper way. Only then do we come to know who Jesus really is. Only then do we begin to understand the majesty and glory of Jesus and what he did for us by giving his life to save our lives. One could dare say that feeding others the word of God is necessary to know who Jesus is.
Praise Jesus who came back to restore his disciples. I have heard this message preached a few times in my life but I always focused on Peter. I always focused on what Peter had failed to do. I tended to focus this passage on how much I had failed to love God like Peter. But this time I took a deeper look. I saw that this passage is not only about Peter’s failure, but more about Jesus and Jesus’ love that restores.
Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Jesus asks me, ‘Jeremy son of Walter, do you truly love me more than these?” Jesus asks me, do you know how much I love you? Jesus came from heaven and left his throne. Jesus came and shed his blood on the cross and suffered and died. Jesus taught the Bible continually and lived as a poor man of no status so that God might be glorified. Jesus is asking me, do I love him anywhere as much as he loves me? Jesus’ love was great enough to take Peter and move him to become a fearless Bible teacher even in the heart of Jerusalem and later in Rome. Jesus’ love is great enough and wide enough to cover all the sins of the disciples who abandoned Jesus wholesale in his time of need. Jesus’ love turned them all into Apostles who were all martyred carrying the Gospel. When they loved Jesus more than the things of the world they could be used mightily. Peter even wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Peter experienced this love personally so he could write about it later.
Peter thought he loved Jesus but Peter failed because he loved himself more. I thought I loved Jesus more than anything else. I realized that I love myself more than Jesus. Like Peter I failed to recognize Jesus’ great love. In failing to recognize Jesus’ great love, I lost my direction as a shepherd. Without Jesus’ great love I became like Peter who went back to his life of fishing. I repent that I lost the great love of Jesus in my life. I failed as a bible teacher when everyone left and I went back to living an ordinary life as a worker in a computer school. I repent that just like the disciples I tried to live an ordinary life then but in that I failed too. This semester I failed out of my Ph.D. Study in school. Christians are supposed to work hard to glorify God, but I didn’t work hard at all. Like Peter my failure is very shameful. All when I loved myself more than I loved Jesus.
But Jesus is there on the shore. Jesus knows my sins. Jesus comes to me in order to change me to love God more than my life. He corrects me and gently guides me out of my sin because he paid the price for my sins. He asks me do I love him more than these? Jesus loved me already in advance. Praise Jesus whose love saves me. I remember when I first understood Jesus’ love, the depth of it and the way it changed me and changed my priorities. I remember when I loved Jesus more than anything else. I would tell all people at IIT about Jesus and tell my life testimony to the workers and the foreign students; even those of Jewish descent. All because Jesus’ love moved my heart to feed these people that didn’t know Jesus. Through this passage I learned of Jesus’ great love in my life.
My self loving sin is great but the love of Jesus and his forgiveness is greater. Real joy doesn’t come from things of this world; it comes from knowing this great restoring love of Jesus. Accepting the love of Jesus can restore my desire to tell everyone about Jesus. The love of Jesus rebukes me for being selfish, to the point of losing my calling. Only Jesus’ love can restore me and use me to feed Jesus’ lambs. God restored Peter and he can restore me. Thank you Jesus that I can realize this greater love of Jesus for a sinner like me. Lord, help me to have a burning passion for you in this New Year and remember your love always. With this love I can joyfully feed your sheep.
As a shepherd people will follow me not because of my love for them or my integrity, they will follow because they see and feel Jesus’ love, just like Jesus loved Peter and the disciples in this passage. Jesus’ sheep will find Jesus’ love in my lifestyle and meet God because they see Jesus through me. I realize now that I cannot feed Jesus’ lambs at College of Dupage and IIT because of my goodness but only through Jesus’ love. Peter failed because he trusted himself. But when he realized Jesus true love for him Peter was changed into a shepherd of God’s flock in Jerusalem and for the whole world. When Peter realized Jesus’ great love for him, he could fed all of Jesus’ lambs all over the world.
Conclusion * – Jesus came to the disciples on the shore of the sea and gave them the great catch of fish in order to restore their hope in Jesus. Jesus came to Peter and showed his great love for him in order to restore his heart. Jesus reminds me of his great love for me in this passage and forgives my sin of loving myself more than him. Lord, please help us to remember Jesus’ great love for us which is greater than all our sins in this New Year. Lord, please help us to love Jesus more than anything else, and out of our joy we may be shepherds for God’s flock and feed his lambs at COD and IIT in the New Year. Amen.
2009 Easter Bible School Lesson 4
MY LORD AND MY GOD
John 20:19-31, Key Verse: 27, 28
“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put you finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!'”
Today’s passage is a story between the Risen Jesus and the fearful disciples, especially doubting Thomas. May God bless each one of us to open our eyes to see the presence of the Risen Christ in life through this message. Amen.
I. Fearful Disciples (19-23).
In the previous passage, Jesus was crucified on the cross three days ago and risen from the dead. On Resurrection Morning, the Risen Jesus met Mary Magdalene and told her to share the news, telling the disciples that Jesus was returning to his Father and their father, to his God and their God. But the disciples would not believe her at all. They should have asked her, “Really! That is what Jesus told us before his death. Halellujah!! Praised the Lord!!” But they did not respond to her testimony. Maybe they said, “Oh, yeah. That is awesome… Sure…” Why they would not believe Mary’s testimony? Look at verse 19a. “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews…” The disciples were gripped with fear. Fear makes a man blind and strange. Fear also made them not to listen to Mary who testified that Jesus is risen from the dead. They forgot about the promise of Jesus that he will rise from the dead on the third day. They only remembered the horrible death of Jesus. Jesus was whipped, tortured, ashamed, and finally crucified to death. Even one solider made sure that Jesus was dead by piercing his side which brought a flow of blood splashing all over. That terrifying event was so vivid and real that Jesus was totally dead. The disciples were next in line. They might have nightmares that the religious policemen were chasing after them, singing, “Whacha gonna do when they come for you?” When they woke up, cold sweat broke out on their back. They locked their doors with not only with electric bolts but also with boards and nails for the fear of the Jews. Fear made them harden their hearts to the message of the witness, Mary Magdalene. Fear made them more fearful. Fear made them unbelievers. Fear made them useless and helpless, frozen inside. They were freemen who could go anywhere they wanted to, but they were living in a prison cell made not by police but by fear itself.
How did Jesus help them? Look at verses 19b and 20, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Jesus came through the locked doors and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. Jesus gave them peace first. What they needed was peace from above. Due to fear, the disciple lost peace; rather, they had anxiety attack, almost a heart attack. The peace Jesus gave is different from the peace the world offers according to John 14:27. The world offers peace with visible security. Many people think that they will have peace if the economy is good and stock market rises. Some students think that they will have peace if they finish that horrible class with a ‘B’. Some people think that they will have peace if they do not see their awesome boss. But the peace Jesus gives us is different from the peace we think about, it is the peace from above. What human beings truly yearn for is this peace that comes from above because we are spiritual beings. In this passage, we can learn how we can receive the peace Jesus offers in three ways.
First, the presence of Jesus brings peace to the disciples. When the disciples were with Jesus, they had no problem at all. They knew Jesus was their protector, provider and healer. Just like a baby who lost their parents in a zoo, the disciples fell into fear, crying like a baby. But when they saw the Risen Christ, all fears were gone because they have their protector, provider and healer again. They were overjoyed when the Risen Christ appeared to them with his pierced hands and feet. They were overjoyed when they found that Jesus was alive. In the same way, Jesus also shows us his presence because he is alive today. Only when we open our eyes to see the Risen Christ, we will be overjoyed like the disciples because we come to know that God is with us, protecting, providing and healing our broken heart.
Secondly, the peace of Jesus comes through the Holy Spirit. Look at verse 22, “And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” Galatians 5:22 testifies that peace is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 says that we receive the Holy Spirit when we repent our sins. It was the peace the disciples received when they repented of their fear which stemmed from unbelief. It is the peace that comes from faith in the promise of God. It is the peace that comes from faith in the resurrection of Jesus. Philippians 4:6-8 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all human understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” May God bless us to receive the peace Jesus gives through the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, the peace of Jesus comes when we obey the mission Jesus gives. Look at verses 21 and 23, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” When I read this verse for the first time, I could not understand why Jesus gave the mission to the disciples who lost their minds in fear just a minute ago. It seemed too much for the disciple to take. It seems he said this out of no where. We must know that God sent Jesus to this world. Jesus was sent to bring peace between God and men. Now Jesus was going to the Father, so the disciples should take that mission with the help of the Holy Spirit. When the disciples take the mission, they have peace from the Risen Christ. They will experience the presence of Jesus in their lives, while fulfilling the mission from God. Even though the disciples were imprisoned while preaching the gospel, they were overjoyed in prison. Their joyful singing shook the prison with the power of God. Fulfilling the mission is not a small matter; it is a matter of life and death. If they do not preach the gospel of Jesus, people would not know the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they must receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, so that they are able to preach the gospel without holding back. Act 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This means that the disciples need to repent of their fear. Their fear stems from a hardened heart. They were not willing to listen to the word of Jesus. They would not listen to the testimony of Mary who had met the Risen Christ. Through repentance, they will receive the forgiveness of their sins and the Holy Spirit. They will no longer live as a slave of fear but of courage. They will be able to go out of the locked room and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Christ is the same, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” When Jesus said, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven,” he meant we have a very important message of forgiveness and responsibility. If we do not preach the gospel of Christ, people cannot receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Those who do live in the grace of Jesus, knowing his presence and forgiveness, are able to take his mission. This is the way to maintain the peace of God which is given to us through the cross of Jesus. Amen. May God grant us the Holy Spirit to share the message of repentance with courage that comes from faith in the Risen Christ. Amen.
While we live on earth, we will confront problems of life. At that time, we may fall into fear. Fear makes us forget about the promise of God; and rather be anxious. When we are griped with fear, we will be able to listen to the message of other witnesses of the Risen Christ. May God help us to open our eyes to see the presence of Jesus through this passage.
II. Stop doubting and believe.
When the Risen Jesus appeared to the disciples, there was one person missing, Thomas (called Didymus) one of the Twelve. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord! You know he was awesome. You cannot believe it that he is truly risen from the horrible death.” But Thomas responded to them, saying, “You are right I cannot believe that. 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.” Maybe Philip logically tried to explain why he should believe. It was not just one woman but ten disciples were testifying, but Thomas did not even budge. How astounding it is for the other ten disciples. Maybe they thought that they were bad when they met the Risen Christ, not listening to the message of Mary. But Thomas was the worst. Even though the ten disciples testified that they had met the Risen Christ, he would not take their testimony, saying, “I have to see to believe. Seeing is believing.” Maybe Thomas was thinking that the eleven disciples and Mary became crazy after seeing the death of Jesus on the cross. How come he was not convinced by 10 witnesses? What was he really thinking? One good side of him is that he is a man of firm decision. No one could change him but Jesus. He would not take anything from anyone but Jesus. Maybe he was mad that Jesus only appeared to others but not him.
How did Jesus help him? Jesus should have rebuked him for his stubbornness. Look at verses 26 and 27. “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus gave Thomas a week to be convinced by the testimony of the other disciples, but he was not. Finally, Jesus has to come and show himself. As Thomas requested, Jesus told him what to do, putting his fingers in his nail-pierced hands and his hands in his side. Our Lord Jesus is like a mother who cares for her child’s wants and needs. Jesus did not mind to make another trip for Thomas so that he did not live in doubt and fear but faith and courage. To Jesus, a disciple of Jesus should not live with doubting heart. Doubt makes people stubborn. Doubt was the first step of Satan’s prank in Genesis 3. Doubt of love makes a wonderful family destroyed. So Jesus came and showed his hands and side to Thomas so that he may overcome doubt and believe in his resurrection. The presence of Jesus amazed Thomas. He could not believe his eyes that the glorious risen Christ was right in front of him. When he put his fingers in his wounded hands and his hand into his side, his stubborn heart was melted by the loving and merciful heart of Jesus. He could not but repent his doubt and fear. He was moved by the word of Jesus and uttered out of his heart with tears, “My Lord and my God.” He realized that Jesus was his Lord, who understood his heart. Jesus was the Lord of his heart and life. Jesus was God who created him, knowing his needs and wants. For the first time, he could truly confess out of his heart that Jesus is his Lord and God.
Today, yes I believe today, the Risen Jesus shows his presence to us in one way or another. But when we look at our lives with a doubting heart, we can neither take other’s testimonies nor see his presence in our lives. May God open our eyes to see the presence of the Risen Christ. Jesus wants us to put our fingers in his hands and our hands into his side so that we do not live and fear and doubt. Please, reach out your hands to Jesus and feel his presence so that you can also confess like Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” Amen.
It was good that Thomas overcame doubting and believed the Risen Christ. But Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Maybe most human beings are like Thomas, saying that seeing is believing. But truly blessed person is the one who believes without seeing. In a way, we are more blessed than the disciples because we believe in Jesus even though we did not see Jesus face to face. This verse; however, reminds me of Hebrews 11:6, which say, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” What Jesus really wanted for Thomas and his disciples is for them to believe even though they might not see his presence. Their faith may grow until they can trust in God in the midst of sufferings and hardships. May God bless each one of us to have faith that pleases God.
I am like the disciples and Thomas, living in fear and doubt, as soon as I do not see Jesus’ presence. As you know well, I have had a problem in my Ph.D. study. When I lived in fear, I was living in anxiety, which made me helpless and useless. I have struggled to hold on to the word of God in order to overcome fear and have faith in him. It was an everyday struggle, but God opened my heart when I was trying to help one shepherd to listen to his voice. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Through the voice of Jesus, God taught me that there is the work of God in this situation, which I thought was bad. God opened my eyes to see the presence of God in my life. God sent people to testify that God is with me in my Ph.D. study. In fact, God answered all my prayers, publishing papers, getting a teaching job in a university and consulting in a credential facility. God also moved heart of other professors to tell me what God is doing. God wants me to establish a good relationship with everyone I meet even though I do not like. That is the way of Christ even though it takes a longer time. I could see the presence of God all around me. It seems that Jesus was telling me put my fingers in his hands and my hand into his side. I could feel him, his glorious presence. I can confess that God is like my mother who does her best to meet my wants and needs with some discipline and yellings. When I lay down all my plans and trusted in the Risen Christ, the peace of God came into my heart, the peace that comes from faith in him, which transcends all human understanding. Whatever I do and wherever I go this is what I need, peace that comes from faith. Thank you Jesus. You are my Lord and my God. May God continue to grow to be a man of faith like Abraham. Amen.
ONE WORD: YOU ARE MY LORD and MY GOD
“I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!”
John 20:1-18, Key Verse: 18
“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.”
Life is a game of percentages one could say. Maybe I’ll go to that movie. I have a good chance to win the lotto. Scholars think there is an 85% chance that there is water on the moon. Mary though does not deal in percentages. In this passage, Mary Magdalene meets the Risen Christ. This meeting changed her sorrow to everlasting joy. She clearly testified without a speck of a doubt, that “I have seen the Lord!” Can you say that with 100% confidence? We, too, can experience this joy when we see the Risen Christ by faith. By faith I want to challenge you to see the Lord who turns our sorrow into joy and empowers us to carry his great mission! May God bless us to confess like Mary, “I have seen the Lord!”
Part I: The Empty Tomb (1-9)
When I was a boy, my mom asked me to go to a grocery store to buy some food at night. But because of a graveyard on the way to the store, I always chose to go another longer way not meet any monsters that my sisters told me about. Mary was different from me. Look at verse 1. “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” The first day of the week refers to Sunday morning. It was so early that it was still dark. For Mary, it was the first possible moment she could go to the tomb to see Jesus’ dead body. Mary must have not slept well since she witnessed Jesus’ death and burial. While she was on the way to the tomb, all the memories of Jesus must have come to her mind.
In the past, she had been possessed by seven demons that tormented her day and night such as a boyfriend demon, greed demon, selfish demon, credit card demon, gossip demon, Face-book demon, and lazy demon. Other men noticed her outward appearance, but Jesus was different. Jesus the good shepherd understood her tortured soul which longed to live a holy life before God. Jesus freed her soul from demon possession and taught her how to live by the truth of God. Jesus gave her absolute meaning of life. She found the joy of living to serve Jesus with all her heart and strength.
But now her beloved Jesus was dead. Even so, her love for Jesus was not dead. Song of Solomon 8:6 says, “for love is as strong as death.” Her love for Jesus was still burning in her heart. She could think of nothing but Jesus, and how she might serve him even though he was dead. So, at the earliest possible moment, she went back to the tomb to anoint his dead body. Have you ever been to a tomb early in the morning by yourself? When she loved Jesus, she was not fearful at all. 1 John 4:18a says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,”
When Mary arrived at the tomb, she saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. Naturally, she assumed someone had taken his body. Look at verse 2. “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’” Actually, Jesus was not in the tomb because he had risen from the dead! But Mary assumed that someone had taken Jesus’ body for some strange reason. Her red and swollen eyes began to cry again. Mary was under the power of death. Though she loved Jesus so much, she did not have resurrection faith! Without faith in the resurrection, she could not recognize Jesus’ divine majesty and true identity as the Son of God. Even though she called Jesus “Lord”, the evil of the world and the power of death were ruling her.
Mary came running anxiously to Peter and John with the news of Jesus’ missing body. The disciples must have been ashamed of themselves when they saw Mary’s diligent spirit and burning love for Jesus, while they were sitting down doing nothing. They felt even more stressed trying to overcome their shock from Jesus’ crucifixion. But they could not ignore Mary. Mary seemed to be saying to them, “You must do something. Now!” So they got up and ran to the tomb. It was a footrace to see who could get to the tomb first. John outran Peter and got there first. Perhaps Peter was older and a little overweight.
John bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there, but did not go in. We don’t know why he did not go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went right in. Even though Peter was slower, he was a man of courageous action. Peter discovered that the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Each person in this event discovered some fact about Jesus’ resurrection: Mary discovered that the stone had been removed, John the strips of linen, and Peter the folded cloth. Even though they didn’t know it at the time, they were all working together as witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.
Look at verse 8. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.” John was quick; Peter was bold. Together they helped each other to investigate Jesus’ tomb. When John entered the tomb, “he saw and believed.” According to Luke’s gospel, Peter was still wondering what had happened (Lk 24:12). But John believed, as the first one in history to do so. His faith was rooted in his love relationship with Jesus. John called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” At the cross John heard Jesus say, “Here is your mother.” John knew that Jesus loved and trusted him. John was personally sure that Jesus loved him. It was because he decided to believe Jesus’ love. When he did so, his soul was satisfied and he found his identity in Jesus’ love. When John was sure about Jesus’ love, he could believe the resurrection of Jesus.
John’s faith in Jesus’ resurrection was not yet based on Scripture. At this point, John simply believed that Jesus had risen through the fact of the empty tomb. The strips of linen were lying there as if Jesus’ body had simply evaporated out of them. The burial cloth was neatly folded up by itself, perhaps even nicely dry-cleaned. But there was no body. There was no sign of any foul play. The evidence at the empty tomb declares that Jesus had risen! Jesus lives! The grave is no longer dreadful.
Since the Fall of man, the grave has been a place of awful finality. Death was the ultimate expression of punishment for sin, as man returned to the dust for disobeying God’s holy decree. In the Old Testament, there are many laws prohibiting contact with dead bodies. Death was unclean, and it was not what God intended for man. But now, through the resurrection of Jesus, the grave has lost its power. God foretold this through the prophet Hosea: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14) Paul quoted Hosea, declaring, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54-55).
Now the grave is a doorway into the Eternal Kingdom. So we don’t have to be afraid of graveyards. The early persecuted Christians in Rome fled to underground catacombs. There they lived, worshiped, and even buried their dead. In a difficult situation, they kept their faith and hope in Jesus and overcame the world. Their faith still inspires truth-seekers. To the world, death is a fearsome and gloomy topic. But for believers, death is a victorious graduation cerebration and a joyful homecoming service. King David understood this and wrote with hope and joy in Psalm 16:9-10, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices…because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
Jesus’ empty tomb declares that Jesus has risen from the dead. No other religion can boast an empty tomb because only Jesus defeated death. In Colombo, Sri Lanka there is a Buddhist temple that has a display with a bone from one of Buddha’s toes. Buddhists from all over the world come to this temple to worship. But there is no church with a bone from Jesus’ body anywhere in the world. It is because Jesus rose from the dead. When we believe the fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty because he rose again from the dead, we are free from the fear of death.
Part II: “Mary”…“Rabboni!” (10-16).
After seeing the empty tomb, the disciples Peter and John went back to their homes. But Mary stood outside the tomb crying. The disciples did not find Jesus’ body. They did nothing except look inside, and then go away. More tears flowed from Mary’s eyes. She missed her shepherd Jesus. Mary longed for Jesus with all her heart and soul. In her longing, she bent over and looked into the tomb. What did she see? Look at verse 12. “…and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.”
This reminds us of the Ark of the Covenant. Above the ark were figures of two angels with wings outstretched over the atonement cover. This was where blood was sprinkled from the sacrificed lamb. Through faith in the blood, sinners were forgiven; they could meet the holy God. Jesus shed his blood for our sins. The grave became a place where Mary could meet God. In fact, God had sent his holy angels to meet her. The angels did not reveal themselves to the disciples. But they appeared to Mary who was there longing for Jesus more than anything.
Look at verse 13a. “They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’” Mary had no reason to cry because Jesus had risen. But she didn’t recognize the angels. She thought they might prove helpful to find Jesus’ missing body. She said to them, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” Look at verse 14. “At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.” “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Even though the Risen Jesus knows all things, he did not rebuke her but asked her questions. Here we learn that Jesus listens to us. Jesus cares for us. Mary could not see Jesus, though he appeared right before her. She thought he was the gardener and said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him” (15). What made her spiritually blind like this? Perhaps it was her sorrow. Mary who was self-occupied was blinded to the Risen Jesus although he was right there with her.
However, we must admit that Mary was a woman of great determination. If possible, she was ready to carry the dead body of Jesus all by herself to give him a proper burial once again. Mary’s determination to find Jesus sprang from her love for Jesus. In this passage Mary would not give up until she found Jesus. This kind of attitude pleases him and is blessed by him. How did Jesus help Mary? Look at verse 16. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” Jesus called Mary by name, as only Jesus the good shepherd could do. When Jesus called, “Mary,” Mary recognized Jesus as the shepherd of her soul, the one who had laid down his life for her, and the one who knows his sheep by name. Jesus knows each of us personally, including all our weaknesses, and calls us each by name.
When Mary recognized Jesus’ voice, she turned toward him and cried out, “Rabboni!” In an instant Mary’s grief vanished and joy welled up in her soul. Perhaps Mary grabbed Jesus’ feet and did not let him go. John does not describe this in detail. But he mentions Jesus’ words, “Do not hold on to me….” In any case, the meeting of Jesus and Mary was that of a good shepherd and his loving sheep. We need to recognize that when Mary loved and sought Jesus without giving up, Jesus appeared to meet her. It was a great blessing from God to be the first one to meet the Risen Christ. This privilege was given to Mary. It was not given to one of the disciples, but to Mary, who loved Jesus most. This tells us that God looks at our hearts. God wants us to seek him. God wants our love and devotion. When we seek Jesus with all our hearts, we can meet the Risen Christ.
Part III: Jesus said, “Go…and tell them” (17-18).
Look at verse 17. “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary must have wanted to remain in Jesus’ presence forever and enjoy his company all by herself. Perhaps she wanted to have Bible study with Jesus all day, there in the garden. But Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.” Jesus was not refusing Mary’s affection. Jesus was conscious of his time.
Before his ascension, Jesus had to plant resurrection faith in his disciples and give them the world mission command. Jesus had given great grace to Mary, but now he had to proceed with saving the rest of the world. So he said to Mary, “Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Jesus sent Mary to tell this good news. From the Father’s throne he would pour out blessing on his disciples and all people. Jesus blessed Mary to make her a blessing. Jesus works through personal relationships to bless all people. In verse 17, Jesus said, “I am returning to my Father…” Jesus was returning to the Father to receive the honor and glory. Jesus finished the work God had given him to do by dying on the cross for the sin of the world. God revealed Jesus as the Son of God through his resurrection from the dead. Jesus came from God and now he was returning to God.
In verse 17 Jesus also called the disciples “my brothers”, and he called God, “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples came into a new relationship with God and with Jesus. They became the children of God and brothers of Jesus Christ. At the time, they felt like failures. They felt threatened by the situation and helpless. But Jesus saw them as children of God. It was time for them to accept Jesus’ grace by faith and recognize themselves as children of God and co-heirs of his kingdom. Look at verse 18. “Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.” Mary was no longer a sorrowful woman. Now she was bursting with joy and her soul was alive. She loved Jesus and Jesus loved her. This spiritual relationship with Jesus would grow and grow, and never end. She could have fellowship with Jesus continuously through the Spirit as she carried out his mission.
*Conclusion: Today we learn that Jesus reveals himself to those who love him and seek him with all their hearts. Jesus turns our sorrow into joy and gives us a holy mission. I repent that I did not seek Jesus with all my heart like Mary last week. Instead of trying to have one more 1:1 Bible study, I spent time to read the recent news about the Sea battle in Korea. May God help me to love you and seek you like Mary by having more than 15 1:1s a week. May God bless each one of us to love Jesus, meet the Risen Christ personally and go and tell others, “I have seen the Lord!”