Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; John 20:19-31

Scripture for this Sunday: John 20:19-31

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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2000 years after the Resurrection, we CELEBRATE Easter. We sing songs, we imagine the Angels’ reaction when they finally figured out what was happening.

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By contrast, on the First Easter, the Disciples and followers of Jesus were grief stricken, desperate and scared, their hearts heavy with disappointment, fear and gut-wrenching anxiety, not knowing what would happen next and whether they themselves would be able to survive the ordeal.

Before that Friday, they had real Hope, a Hope of a different and better tomorrow, a Hope of making a REAL difference in the world, a Hope that with Jesus’ leadership and guidance they could change the whole world and ease the suffering of their people. Others also saw something in Jesus they had not seen before.

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But on that Friday, things took a seemingly wrong turn and everything fell apart. It happened so quickly, so dramatically, and with such finality; all their hopes were nailed to the Cross and left to die. When Sunday came, and Jesus’ body was missing, they did not know what to think or how to be.

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When tragedy and loss happen in our lives, we face a choice. Our first option is that we can give into the void and emptiness that fill our hearts and souls, constrict our ability to think and act, suck the air out of our lungs, and drain us of our desire to live. Our second option is to try to find meaning. Notice I did NOT say that the second option is to try to explain why the tragedy and loss occurred. I said that the second option is to seek the meaning of what happened.

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Hope, vision, spiritual and emotional growth follows meaning, not explanations.

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In times of loss, uncertainty and doubt creep into our souls. Times of loss and frustration present us with opportunities to face our doubts and fears, and as we deal with them, the Holy Spirit of our God helps us to grow in our faith.

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  • “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).

  • “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10).

  • “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God'” (Zechariah 13:9).

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Today is the first Sunday of the period of time between Easter and Pentecost. For the Disciples and followers of Jesus, this was a time of searching for meaning in the tragedy of Good Friday and the unexpected events of the first Easter morning.

In the life of the early church it was the beginning of a journey through which Christian communities tried to discover and articulate who they were. The Disciples had to grow into a new reality that they did not yet fully understand.

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By facing their fears and anxieties, they discovered the meaning in Jesus’ death and discerned what God was doing in the world and in their lives.They understood that their lives could not be the same anymore because of their relationship with Jesus, both before and after the Resurrection. They understood that their reality and their lives would be different, because of their relationship with Jesus.

All of us have been in a similar place in our own lives. I am talking about times when everything that we know and love is changing or even taken from us. I am talking about times when we must reinvent ourselves.

Was it a time when you lost a loved one? Was it a time of national tragedy that threatened everything you believed to be right, true and beautiful? Was it a time when you lost a job and did not know what you would do next? I saw the same “lost-ness” in college freshmen who found themselves in an environment where their High School “ways” did not produce the results that they expected. Pastors go through this process every time we change appointments. Churches go through this process every time they receive new pastors. Newlyweds go through this process after they are married. Young people go through this process when they move out. Older people go through this process when they retire.

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Today’s Scripture gives us an illustration of Jesus appearing to his Disciples and helping Thomas grow in his faith. Resurrected Jesus usually visited small groups of people in remote areas or in a closed room. These visits deepened the faith of those who already followed him; the Bible does not give us reports of Jesus appearing to unbelievers because Jesus entrusted that task to us.

Jesus did not marry; he has no descendants. Jesus did not write books and pamphlets. Jesus did not leave possessions that can be displayed in a museum. The only traces of Jesus that we have are in our hearts and souls and experiences. If it was not for the generations of Christians who made their relationship with Jesus known, today we would know nothing about him. That was his design.

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Jesus’ appearances have a certain feel of being ordinary. Easter changed everything; but life went on. The Resurrection gave us a glimpse of God’s restoration plans for a fallen world, but for the time being the Disciples felt abandoned, lost, and confused, their leader more absent than present.

That is true in our lives as well. We get settled into a routine, then Jesus taps us on a shoulder and things change. We then get used to this new and different routine, and Jesus shows up again. Our lives are a sequence of days. Some days are happy, some days are sad. Sometimes we experience sadness and loss, sometimes we experience joy and fulfillment. But no matter what kind of day we are having, our lives are interlaced with experiences of God and these experiences make all the difference. The totality of these experiences enables us to say, “My Lord and my God!” as we confess Jesus to be our Lord and Savior.

Like the disciples, and countless generations of Christians before us, we never know where or when Jesus might show up, how he might speak to me or to you, or what he might ask of us.

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The last verse in today’s reading makes a claim, “… these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

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