Written by Larry Woelke – April 9, 2020
Dear friends at Faith Baptist Church,
My thoughts this week center on the importance of the resurrection, and in particular how the resurrection pertains to forgiveness. There are three stories that address the issue of forgiveness that happened after the resurrection that I would like to focus on.
Let me give you a bit of background first.
There were 40 days between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ known as Eastertide or Paschal. It is in these 40 days that we see many proofs of the resurrection confirming that Jesus is the Messiah. But it’s not only his resurrection but his ascension into heaven that is the touch stone of the Christian Church. There would be no Christian Church today if it wasn’t’ for the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. There are nine recorded resurrections from the dead recorded in the Bible but only one ascension of Jesus into Heaven. So why did Jesus spend 40 days on the earth after his resurrection?
To prove He was the Messiah
To bolster the church that was in hiding and great fear that had gripped so many. But there are three people in particular that Jesus sought out and these are the stories I want to focus on.
The first person that Jesus appeared to was:
Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
She comes to the tomb and finds it empty.
“Woman why are you crying?”
“She turned toward him and cried out Rabboni” (teacher)
When she heard his voice call her by name she knew who he was. John tells us that Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus’ resurrected body.
Why was Mary singled out?
Why was this demon possessed woman that had seven demons cast out of her crying?
Why would a woman of ill repute be accepted and forgiven and loved by Jesus when society would cast her out as a whore?
Women in first century Israel had no privileges. A woman was not allowed to give testimony in a court of law. They were not allowed to speak in church.
They were treated like chattel until Jesus came to liberate women, and liberation allowed her to receive full forgiveness, mercy, and love from Jesus Christ.
Those who have been forgiven much have a deep intimacy with God. That describes her relationship with Jesus. Mary Magdalene is spoken of 14 time in scripture. She uses the term “My Lord” 6 times to describe her relationship with Jesus.
Some people think they are beyond God’s forgiveness, mercy, and love. But you are not. You may have been abused and suffered rejection but you need to be reminded when you accept Jesus Christ that he can set you free to have a deep intimate relationship with Him.
The second person I want to focus on is Thomas (John 20:24-29)
Imagine all your life being dubbed with the title “Doubting Tomas”
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finder where the nails were, and put my hands in his side I will not believe”
I can identify with Thomas. Thomas missed the first meeting with the disciples. He had only heard from his friends that Jesus was alive but he hadn’t seen him. Some of us just need a little more evidence for proof of the miraculous. Thomas not only wanted to see him he wanted to feel him.
I don’t believe that God is disappointed with us for doubting sometimes. But I know that God wants those doubts to be turned into understandable facts that will never cause us to lose hope in Jesus Christ. Examine the evidence. Touch, taste and see that the Lord is good and any time your limited resources of understanding fail you apply a good dose of faith because without faith you can never understand the supernatural God.
So Jesus says, “Go ahead Thomas, feel for yourself”. His response: “My Lord and My God.” That is the moment Thomas confirmed for himself that Jesus is God.
Jesus know what you need.
The third person that I want to look at is Peter (John 21:12-17). Why Peter? Probably because he denied Jesus 3 time and he hated himself for being so weak. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells the women to go tell the disciples and Peter that he is going to Galilee and wants to meet with them. Did you catch that? Sometimes we need a special invitation from God to experience healing.
Galilee is 180 km north of Jerusalem. Capernaum is Peter’s hometown and fishing is what keeps the community alive. So Peter goes home to fish.
I have a little plaque that someone gave me that says “Work is for people who don’t know how to fish”. Peter knew how to fish.
Special one-on-one times that God arranges with the people he loves are life changing.
The conversation they had went like this:
Peter do you love me? Not once but three times. What we miss in this interpretation is the Greek word for love. Jesus asks “Peter do you agape me” (unconditional love) and Peter answers “I phileo you” (friendship). The third time Jesus uses phileo and Peter answers “I phileo love you”. Peter soon found out it would take agape love to feed the lambs.
All the personal messy stuff is dealt with and Peter is affirmed and forgiven.
I don’t know what personal messy stuff you have to deal with but I know what I have to deal with. You can’t run and hide from it. It will still be there. The only way you can offload all your pain, all you shame, all your guilt, all your fear, all your hurt is to answer the question that Jesus asks all of us who desire to live for him.
Do you love me more than these?
What are the “these” of your life?
Maybe you need a personal encounter with Jesus Christ where all the messy stuff can be dealt with to receive God’s forgiveness. When you receive God’s forgiveness you can forgive yourself and then you are able to forgive others.
Jesus knows your name
Jesus know what you need
Jesus knows how to heal
May this Easter be a special time for all of you! It certainly will be memorable, because of the Covid virus, but my desire for you is that you experience the personal love of Jesus Christ in your life to heal and forgive. Here’s a suggestion…why not have a special communion service in your home to remind yourself of Jesus’ love for you and his promise to return.
He is risen!