EASTER IS NOT OVER
Where did they all go? The people who were here on Easter. Didn’t anyone tell them that Easter is a season not just a single event? The Easter season gives us a chance to reflect on the Easter moment and to discover some of the implications for our lives.
In the Gospel reading today we hear of amazing events. Out of fear the disciples have locked the doors of the house. Yet Jesus comes out of nowhere to stand in their midst. Jesus comes to bring “peace” to His disciples and then He “sends” them forth to do important work. Thomas says he will not believe unless he can touch the wounds of Jesus. A few days later Jesus is back with the disciples and He invites Thomas to touch His wounds. Thomas exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” Thomas becomes a believer. Thomas believes Jesus has been raised from the dead. John concludes his account of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus with these words: “These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.” In this one sentence the author of John’s Gospel offers us the most important reason for telling the story of Jesus: To give us the gift of new life.
John tells the story of Jesus in his own words and from his own unique perspective. Easter had changed his life and he wanted the world to know about his story. The other Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus in their own ways. The challenge is to relate this story about Jesus to the issues in our own lives. How can this story shed light on the stories of our lives? We look for the connections. We want to know how the pieces fit together. How would you tell the story of Jesus?
John began his gospel with a description of the beginning of time: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Then he described the “Book of Signs,” a series of miracles that showed who Jesus was. The series began with the transformation of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana and concluded with the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This last miracle convinced the Jewish authorities that Jesus must die because of His total disruption to their religious system. The Last Supper in John’s Gospel takes place over several chapters. This material is known as the “Farewell Discourses.” Jesus is preparing His disciples for the time when He will no longer be with them. He tells them that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to protect them and to prepare them for the coming of the Kingdom. The Passion story tells about the final days of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is crucified. The ministry is over. The dream has died. And then God works God’s greatest miracle. God raises Jesus from the dead. Death is transformed into new life. Despair becomes hope. This is the story that transforms the author’s life.
“These things are written so that you may come to believe.” Coming to believe is a process. It takes our whole lives. The process is not over until life is over. We take one step forward and then two steps backward. There is always more to discover about the story of Jesus. The faith journey is dynamic and ever-changing. I wonder what God wants us to discover today. We need to pay attention. That is why the spiritual practices of our lives, prayer and worship, are so important. They help us maintain our focus. We can lift our questions and concerns to God and wait with expectation for an answer.
Believing is not just about saying the creeds. It is not primarily about having proper beliefs about God. Believing is more about trusting God. It is more about inviting God into the center of our lives and allowing God to walk with us on our journeys through life. The spiritual practices of our lives help us develop a sense of trust in God’s presence. God wants us to be the people God created us to be. God wants to be part of the day by day decision making process so that we make choices which reflect God’s glory. As we trust God’s presence in our lives we receive inspiration, healing and forgiveness, all the things we need to get on with our lives in the best way.
What does it mean to be the Messiah? Jesus is the bridge person, the person who bridges heaven and earth. If you want to know the true nature of God, look at Jesus. He is the person who has come closest to building God’s Kingdom here on earth. Jesus also gives us the full lowdown about what it means to be a human being. He is the model for our humanity. We are called to live our lives in the same way He lived His life. His example is a model of a life lived for others. Generosity and sacrifice were hallmarks of His life
The goal of trusting in Jesus is to receive the gift of abundant life. What does “abundant life” look like? Our culture tells us that we are the center of the universe. We can have it all. The Christian message goes against the culture. We are called by God not to live for ourselves but to live for others. We are meant to live lives of generosity and sacrifice. To live through Jesus is to give and give and not count the cost. The deep meaning comes from reaching out to others who have major needs.
Marriage offers us an example of how we are meant to live. If you live your marriage from the perspective of what you will get out of the relationship, it is remarkable how elusive love becomes. The point is no one can meet all our needs. We are insatiable. We would use up everyone. On the other hand, when you live 110% for your partner, it is amazing how love blossoms and flourishes. That is what it means to make your life together, a “sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world.” That kind of living is “abundant living.” Deep meaning and purpose transform us.
The resurrection of Jesus transformed John’s life. The event inspired him to write his Gospel so that others would understand the importance of the life and ministry of Jesus. Then at the end he summed up his task: “These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.”