The Resurrected God: Pentecostal Living


John 15:26-16:15

In John 14-16, when Jesus is talking with his disciples, he promises them that he will send a comforter. This promised comforter is the Holy Spirit. The first movement of the Holy Spirit is God’s promise to be in our lives. God never forsakes his promises to his people. God is trustworthy. What he says, he will fulfill. When Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to us, it is God assuring us that he will always be with us. When we confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, this is a sign of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:3 tells us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. So, as you live your life, know that if you confess that Jesus is the Lord of your life, that the Holy Spirit has empowered you to do so and, therefore, you have had the promise of the Holy Spirit active in your life. The Holy Spirit is with you and is God present in your life.

In every way, we are commanded to wait upon the Lord. God’s timing is not our timing. Our lives ought not be dictated by our plans and our aspirations. We await God. We await his will to be done. As we await, may we remember his promise for us. But we do not do nothing while we await. We pray. We serve. We welcome. We faithfully live to the glory of God. May we know that he is with us. May we not be distracted by the things of this world, but instead, may we see ourselves as God’s disciples and faithfully prepare ourselves for the work Christ has in store for us.

John 16:12-13 says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” As we wait upon the Lord each day, we are to be aware and alert to what God is doing around us. Our waiting is active—the Spirit that Jesus promised guides us in the truth of God’s grace and mercy. We wait as ambassadors. We seek to serve Christ in the places and times we find ourselves.

This is what Pentecostal living truly is. It isn’t necessarily magnificent displays of power and might. Pentecostal living is, at its heart, living in the expectation and guidance of the Holy Spirit who calls us to proclaim through our everyday interactions the glory of Jesus Christ and his message—that God is for us. Amen.

The Resurrected God: Jesus Prays for Us


John 17:6-19

Lutheran theologian Walter Obare Omwanza has stated that “the unity of the church is given by God and not an achievement of human beings.” No human action can create the true unity that humanity desires. Omwanza echoes the prayer of Jesus in John 17. In John 17, while in the Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for unity of the disciples. This unity was not to be for the sake of unity alone, but it has deep theological significance for the world. The unity of the followers of Christ will provide a witness to the world that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has defeated sin and death for all time. Unity is not a wish dream nor is it an ideal. It is a reality found only in the Triune God that communicates the gospel in a mighty way.

Jesus prays for our unity within the church because unity is naturally formed between two forces that at one point in time were opposed. As we read in Paul’s writings, there were tensions between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. There were tensions within congregations between families and friends. When the people of God are conflicted with one another and struggling to be together, we obstruct the purpose for our being. Jesus tells us this in John 17. In his body, he has brought together the Holy God and sinful humanity. That is considered impossible, but Jesus did it. And if he can do that, he can unify the body of his disciples whatever their differences. We should rejoice and be encouraged by this news!

In Ephesians 1:1-2, Paul opens his letter by addressing the people of Ephesus as saints. Many times, we do not think of ourselves as saints. We often think that a saint is a perfect person who does most everything correctly. However, the Bible teaches us that everyone who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, even though we are imperfect, are God’s saints. These folks in Ephesus were faithful to Christ and that is the only requirement to be considered a saint. Therefore, in Christ, fallen humanity has hope and assurance that we are all saints with a purpose to glorify God.

As we consider all that Christ has done for us, may we always remember that he has prayed and continues to pray for us. He prays for the unity of his saints. If we follow Jesus, we are his saints in this world and we have been reconciled to God and one another. May we live always to fulfill his prayer in our world. May we live in the truth that Jesus is God’s Son who came to save the world from its sins. Amen.

The Resurrected God: He Knows His Own


John 10:11-18

It happens about once a week when I will meet someone, and as we talk, we realize we have a common acquaintance. The conversation will then turn to how we know the person, and then there will be that moment when we realize that there is something special happening. What had begun as a brief conversation that perhaps wouldn’t have normally turned into a sacred moment actually became meaningful. All because we have a common friend.

In John 10, Jesus tells his disciples about himself. He uses the opportunity to clarify who he is in relation to others. The hinge of Jesus’s words to his disciples is his knowledge of them. He is the Good Shepherd. He genuinely cares for those entrusted to him. He isn’t a hired hand. He isn’t clocking his work as just any shepherd. He isn’t spending his time just making sure he has the same number of sheep that began with. No, he actually cares and knows those entrusted to him. Not only that, but those entrusted to his care know him as well. This relationship is special. It is authentically one of concern and love. And the ultimate reality of this concern and love is the fact that Jesus will give his entire life to save those he knows and loves.

As Jesus’s disciples in the reality of the resurrection, we have certainty that Jesus knows us and loves us. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when we feel alone and lost, that Jesus is with us. But this knowledge isn’t for us to hoard all to ourselves. We are to share it. Because we know Jesus and he knows us, we have the great opportunity to connect with those around us. It is actually the unifying force (at least it should be) when we meet people in our everyday living.

Perhaps our conversations with others should be marked more with the understanding that we know Jesus and when we meet a stranger, we introduce others to him. Because we have been saved, we share the love of Jesus with all we meet. Then, when we meet one another, we can all share that blessed moment when we have what we think is a coincidental conversation and it becomes a moment of true worship when we realize that Christ is the common bond between neighbors and strangers. Jesus truly is the Good Shepherd that brings those who are entrusted to him together into a beautiful communion built upon God’s covenant love in Christ, our common, yet holy, friend. Amen.

The Resurrected God: Believing What Our Eyes See


Luke 24:36-48

You are a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In our Gospel reading, the disciples are reeling from the events they have just witnessed. After they witnessed Jesus crucified and buried, they saw the empty tomb. In the chaos of trying to understand what was happening, word begins to spread that Jesus is appearing to disciples far and wide. Disciples on the road to Emmaus unknowingly share a conversation and meal with the risen Jesus. Other disciples are hiding in fear behind locked doors waiting for some assurance that what they were experiencing was real and if it was safe for them to live public lives. Amid the chaos, in that chamber of fear and confusion, Jesus appears and calms the storm in their lives.

“Peace to you!”, are the words of Jesus. These words are followed by two questions: “Why are you troubled and why do you doubt?” These questions may appear to be naïve, especially to those enduring the uncertainties of life. But Jesus is far from naïve. He is sovereign. He has everything under control. What looked like his final fate in this world was nothing but victory for all of eternity. The disciples encounter the risen Jesus and have their fears vanquished and their hearts encouraged. The tomb was not the end of the relationship between the disciples and Jesus. Instead, the empty tomb was the proclamation that things on earth would be forever changed. And Jesus was not finished with his disciples—there was work to be done.

We are witnesses along with these disciples. Their task is our task. To go and proclaim the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus to all nations. Regardless of our struggles, fears, anxieties, or doubts, Jesus is alive. He has set us free from the chains of bondage to sin and death. We are witnesses to this miracle and, thus, we must testify. For because Christ is risen, all have the hope of eternal life. Amen.

The God of the Living: John 20:19-31

Derek and Sherrad are writing a reflection on the Gospel reading for each Sunday this Easter season called, “The Resurrected God.”

Image credit: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio

John 20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The disciples do not see a ghost of Jesus. They do not see a hallucination, or a vision, or a dream of Jesus. They do not see a reanimated Jesus. Thomas does not put his hands into the side of a zombie.

They see, for the first time, what it is to be human. Jesus is what they will one day become, a human person with a glorified body over which death no longer has sway.

Make no mistake, John’s description of the locked doors in v. 19 is not here to make us think that this Jesus now exists on some ethereal plane where he can walk through walls. He has not transcended above the physical. But neither is he bound by what we think is physical. He is not, as the disciples are, chained indoors by fear, threats, or death. He has passed through all these things and come out alive. Neither is he stopped by the locked doors. His resurrected body is more realthan the doors, more physical than the physical. As he said, he is the Door. And the doors the disciples vainly lock are as ghosts to him.

He offers them peace – three times in this passage – because his body is the sign of their peace. Why should they fear the Jewish leaders? The Sanhedrin could do no worse to them that it did to Jesus. Yet, here is Jesus, standing in front of them, showing them his hands and his side. His wounds could no longer kill him; the scars stand eternal witness that it is finished. The peace has been bought for a price. God, the victor over sin and death, sends his very Spirit that he might be present with his friends. He has forgiven them their sins. And the disciples are now ambassadors of that forgiveness because they have seen in the flesh the cost of forgiveness.

But Thomas doubts. The other disciples doubted before when they did not believe the true testimony of a woman. Thomas needs to see. He needs more than to see; he needs to touch. He needs more than to touch; he needs to feel inside with his whole hand. And Jesus condescends to Thomas. Jesus condescends as he did when he washed Thomas’ feet. Jesus bends low, as he did when he left his throne of power to become a baby. Thomas does believe and makes one of the boldest confessions in the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!”

This Jesus is human. This Jesus is the God who created humans. This Jesus is the God who suffered death by humans so that humans would no longer suffer death.

And the signs of his wounds, as with the many signs in Scripture, are given so that we might believe. When you see someone come back from the dead, belief cannot be a mere assertion of facts. It cannot be a calculus of probability. It must be a way of living, a way of following, that leads to life in Jesus’ name. Indeed, it is a way of living that will lead the disciples out of their locked rooms so that others who have not seen – like us! – will believe and be blessed. Because the Resurrected God is not a god of the dead but of the living.