The following is a sermon manuscript from November 27, 2015.
As we enter the season of Advent, I just wanted to mention briefly the meaning of the word “Advent,” and why the church started this tradition, because it has a lot to do with the text we will be looking at.
The English word “Advent” is from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” It was originally created to help prepare for the celebration of Christmas Day, the day we remember the first coming of Jesus Christ. It is also a reminder that we await the return of our King.
This morning we celebrate the hope we have as believers. We have hope because we know that while we are sinners and are undeserving of fellowship with our Creator, we also have a King who came to make amends between us and our Eternal Father.
We have hope because no matter the darkness around us, we have within us the light of eternal life.
I am so pleased that as we enter the Advent season, we are wrapping up our study in John. It is very appropriate that we talk about the resurrection and final days of Jesus’ life on earth as we remember the first coming of Christ and as we bring to focus the future return of Christ.
This morning we will continue from last week, when I asked the question, “what would be different without the resurrection?” Last week was all about our eternal hope.
God sent Jesus to earth not only to die as payment for our sin, but he also sent him to rise from the dead. Forgiveness of sin alone was not the plan. Ultimately, God’s plan was to restore fellowship between himself and us. So, Jesus came not only to offer forgiveness, but he came to defeat death so that we could enjoy eternal life and fellowship with God.
This morning, I want to answer that question, what would be different without the resurrection, by looking at what Jesus wants us to do in response to belief in him.
Jesus makes some statements in this passage about his followers. These are statements about the new nature of God’s people, who we are and what we are doing here. There is a reason Jesus did not take his followers with him when he left earth. And there is a reason he didn’t stay to rule the new eternal kingdom. He has work for us to do until he comes again.
All of this is dependant on whether or not we will believe. John says in verse 31, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.” Jesus said to Thomas, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
There are three statements we will look at from this passage, but I want us to remember that these are things that come after belief in Jesus. Many of us will say that we believe in Jesus because it simply has seemed like the right thing to do. But I want to challenge all of us to question what it is we actually believe in.
If you have been with us for the last 15 months, you have heard the Gospel of John preached straight through. In a couple weeks, we will wrap up our John series and you will have heard the entire account of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. You will have heard about the things that Jesus taught and did, the miracles he performed and his explanations of some of the things he did.
If you have heard these things, and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. If you believe that when Jesus died he paid the penalty for your sin. If you believe that when Jesus rose from the dead, he secured an eternal hope for your life. If you believe that Jesus is who the Scriptures say he is, then you will respond by asking, “so, what does Jesus want me to do?”
These three statements help us answer that question. These are the three statements he makes to his disciples that we can take as promises or commands.
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.
The first question regarding this statement is, how has the Father sent Jesus?
This is a loaded statement. In order to understand what Jesus meant, we need to review the entire life and mission of Jesus. What did Jesus say about why he came to earth? Actually, the question probably needs to take a different form. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me…”
There is more to this statement than just, “what did Jesus come to do?” I’m going to sit on this for longer than I normally would on a statement like this. The reason is because we need to be careful about skipping over something here.
In our Google, Wikipedia, instant answer society, we tend to jump from a question to an answer very quickly. Sometimes in the process we misunderstand the question.
Also, we are generally very quick to try and figure out what needs to be done. But Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me…” The way this is worded, it cannot mean, “I am sending you to do the things that the Father sent me to do.” So we cannot respond by figuring out merely what we are to do.
Jesus is sending his disciples to go out into the world in the same way Jesus was sent by the Father to go into the world. Here are some passages to help us:
John 1:11-12 “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
John 3:17 “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
John 5:19, 36 “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing… the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”
John 6:38, 40 “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me… this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 8:26, 28-29 “he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him… when you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
There are many more passages that could help us out here. But I want to just say that there is a pattern. Jesus came in a manner of obedience to the Father. That is the most common statement Jesus said about his mission to earth. The underlying theme and message for why Jesus came was to obey the Father.
Jesus said to his disciples, I am sending you the way the Father sent me: to obey the Father and to bear witness to Jesus, the Son of God.
This leads us to the next statement, which is actually two statements, but they are connected.
Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.
Another loaded statement. Jesus said to the disciples earlier that he would leave them, but the Father will send them a helper, a Paraclete. This is the Holy Spirit.
You have probably heard me say that the church is the manifest presence of God on earth. When Jesus came, God was alive on this planet. He left, and sent the Holy Spirit to live in and work among the followers of Jesus, the church.
This is how we are the manifest presence of God on earth. We carry with us, wherever we go, the presence of God. If you say you are a believer in Jesus, you represent him and it is your responsibility to be his presence to others.
Just as the previous statement says, you are in the world in the same way Jesus is in the world. Your behaviour tells other people something about who Jesus is. Let me ask you: what do people know about Jesus by the way you behave?
This is a life-changing question. It’s worth repeating. What do people know about Jesus by the way you behave?
I could end the sermon here and you would go home with enough to think about. The Christian life is not just about doing things. The Christian life is about being the sort of person that demonstrates the truth about who Jesus is.
And this does not only apply to us as individuals. This is something we need to consider as a church family. What do people know about Jesus by the way we treat one another?
This is a lot of pressure. You might be wondering if it is actually this serious. Some of you might be wondering if Jesus really meant for us to represent him in such a way. But let’s read the rest of this statement.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.
There is nothing more serious to humanity than the forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness, we do not experience eternal life and fellowship with the Father. We are doomed without forgiveness.
And Jesus is saying that he is giving his followers the responsibility to offer forgiveness to others. How is this possible?
Like everything else in this passage, this is a loaded idea. I am sad to say that the church has got this terribly wrong in the past.
So, I encourage you to explore in Scripture what I am saying here. Test it and discover what I am saying for yourself.
When we present the gospel, the testimony and witness of Jesus, to others, we are presenting to them the opportunity to receive forgiveness. We are offering to them the truth about who they are as enemies of God and how to have their relationship with God restored.
Part of offering the gospel to others is showing them the love and grace of God just as it has been shown to us. If we withhold forgiveness to others, we are not presenting the true gospel to them. If we do not forgive them, they are not shown the truth.
This is terribly serious. I don’t believe the Christian life needs to be boring or depressing. But, I do believe we need to take this calling seriously. How we live our lives demonstrates to others what sort of God we worship. How we live our lives, how we forgive others and offer to others love and grace is a witness to the person of Jesus Christ.
What do people know about the forgiveness of Jesus by the way you offer forgiveness?
Let’s go on to the final statement.
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
This statement was made directly to Thomas, who said he needed to see Jesus in person before he would believe that Jesus was alive. We get the term, “doubting Thomas” from this passage.
Although Jesus was talking to Thomas, he was making a statement about belief in him. He said that those who have not seen Jesus are blessed. He is talking here about billions of people over the course of the last two thousand years.
So, how are all of us blessed? None of us have seen the physical human person called Jesus of Nazareth. For those of us who believe, what is our blessing?
I’m going to close with reading from 1 Peter 1. Before I do that, I want you to think again about what has been said this morning. We started with this question, “what would be different without the resurrection?”
It could be summed up using the theme of Advent today: Hope. If there was no resurrection, there would be no hope.
But, because there was a resurrection, we have hope. But we also have responsibility. We have been sent by Jesus to be his witness and presence on earth.
Because there was a resurrection, we can tell people about the hope of forgiveness and the hope of the promise of eternal life.
This Advent season, this season of awaiting our eternal King, I urge you to be a witness to this hope. Start each day by asking yourself, “how can I show people who Jesus today?”
Now, would you stand as I read 1 Peter 1:3-9 from The Message. Receive this as the benediction.
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.