The Mess of Death (Finally)

December 15, 2017

There are several places in the Scriptures in which there were people raised from the dead. It was, by no means, a normality or commonplace. But it wasn’t something that had never happened before.

But, in each one of those cases, someone else had come along and caused them to be raised. And, in each of those cases, those individuals returned to the grave sometime later. Even Lazarus, the one Jesus called back from the tomb four days after his death, eventually returned.

But Jesus…

Join me in looking at the events of John chapter 20 as we see how Jesus stepped into the mess of death and brought resurrection.

[This video has some technical issues for which we do apologize. But it’s what we have of an important message.]

You see, Jesus went on through the grave and conquered it. And, because of this, death, for every person who puts their trust in Jesus, is temporary.

Death is an inevitable reality in this world… for now.

Do you know Jesus? If you do, death is just a temporary bump on the way to a vastly more wondrous road.

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All the Best and Far Beyond

December 13, 2017

When someone dear to you is about to leave—whether it is to move across the world or to face the painful reality of death—it seems absurd for them to tell you how much better things will be for you.

That’s the way Jesus’ followers must have felt when He was telling them about the better things in store for them.

He told them that things would be different. When the Spirit comes, the presence of God in the world will not be limited to the place where Jesus was, but would be all around, in the hearts of all believers, and, through them and the power of the Word, influencing people.

Jesus describes some of the ways He will work.

And when he comes, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16.8-11)

These things were descriptive of what Jesus did as He walked the earth—only better. In the same way that Jesus seemed to make people aware of their sin when they were in His presence, the Holy Spirit would be showing people their sinful condition in every place that the Word would be carried forth and proclaimed by His people.

Just as Jesus walked through this world giving the perfect expression to the holy life to which we are all called, so the Spirit would enable every believer to live that life out more and more and more in such a way that the world would see and recognize the righteousness of Jesus in them.

Jesus pointed people to the hope of His sacrifice as the only way to escape the judgment to come. So the Spirit, He promised, would make clear the choice to be judged with the ruler of this world, Satan, or to follow the Savior of the world.

You see, Jesus had shown them the so many things, things far beyond the good things they had known, better than they had ever imagined. And now Jesus was describing for them a forthcoming reality in which they would experience all the best things they had seen in His presence.

He promised that the Spirit would be better. That’s hard for us to imagine. But think about it with me.

When Jesus went off by Himself to pray, He was, for just a while, away from them. When He would take Peter and James and John up further upon the mountain, the others would no longer be experiencing His presence.

BUT… when the Spirit would come and take up residence in the heart of every believer, they would NEVER be deprived of His presence. They would NEVER be separated.

Jesus promises that, with the indwelling Holy Spirit, they would experience all the best things… and so far beyond what they could comprehend.

He had great things ahead, but they were on the other side of some of the most painful things they would ever experience.

And today you and I, if we have put our hope and trust in Jesus, are experiencing that great expanse of possibility as His Spirit is at work in us. He is at work, doing all the best and far beyond.

Have you ever been hated simply because you were connected to someone important? I’ve seen it happen to teachers’ kids or the families of police officers or other public personalities.

We can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of Jesus’ inner circle of followers, a leader in HIs ministry, when Jesus left them. The same people that made it their mission to send Jesus to the cross were no less determined to silence His followers.

In John 15, we find Jesus’ teaching on this predictable behavior.

[Read John 15.18-27]

This is one of those places where Jesus used the word, “if,” but probably meant “when.” It’s almost inevitable that, if we are genuinely loving and serving people in Jesus’ name, someone is going to hate us for it. The really sad part is that this will most come from other religious people.

He assures them that the world’s hatred for them would come because of their hatred for Him.(18) He reminds them that it’s our nature to have animosity toward those who are starkly different from us.(19a) The fact that Jesus chose them to be His would just fuel that animosity.(19b)

He imparts an important principle:

Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.(20-21)

Jesus was trying to prepare His followers for the reality that there would be people who were just angry with them because they were angry with Him. Today we would simply say, “Haters gonna hate.” It’s true. The haters will hate.

He went on to explain that His coming and His teaching were bringing a great accountability to those who heard Him—they were now without any excuse because of the works they had seen Him do and the things they had heard Him teach.(22-24) They hated Jesus because His holiness brought them face to face with their unholiness. And when they hated Jesus, they were hating the Father that sent Him.

But notice verse 25:

But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.”

They hated Jesus. They had no reason to do so, but they did.

And because they hated Jesus, they would hate Jesus’ followers simply because they followed Jesus.

But Jesus brings back the promise He had introduced in chapter 14.

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.(15.26-27)

The Holy Spirit, Jesus promised, would come and help them by stirring them to remember, to understand, and to proclaim Jesus and His greatness.

Yes, the haters will hate. It’s inevitable.

But He has not left us alone. By His Spirit, He lives in the heart of every believer. That means we are never alone.

The haters will hate, but you’re not alone.

Today, if you encounter people who are hostile to the faith we hold so dear, remember that it’s not you that they hate but the One whom you represent. Pray for them. Love them in Jesus’ name. And take courage for you are not alone.

Surely the haters will hate, but you’re not alone.