Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
“He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!!” Those words, spoken last Sunday in worship services around the globe, proclaim good news that has changed the world, and that has changed our lives. Yes, the sin of this world and the sin of our lives has shown itself in hatred, violence, greed, and death. BUT, Jesus died and rose again. Jesus has paid the price for the sins that cause such pain and trouble in our lives. Jesus rose again and offers eternal life in heaven to all who believe in Him. This good news of eternal life is a stark contrast to the death and judgment our sins deserve. Could there ever be better news than the resurrection of Jesus our Savior?
Perhaps you have considered how the grief of Jesus’ followers made them numb to this good news of Jesus rising. As we read the Bible, it seems the disciples could not see nor believe the reports that Jesus had risen. Consider that, at the tomb, Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize Jesus. Jesus had to call Mary by name. (John 20:1-18) The grief in Mary’s heart had blinded her eyes to the Good News she was actually seeing right before her eyes!
When the women returned to the disciples on Easter morning and shared with them the words of the angels that Jesus had risen, we are told of the disciples’ response. “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11) The grief of Jesus’ disciples made them unable to see and believe.
On Easter Sunday evening Jesus appeared to His disciples, though Thomas was not with them. The ten told Thomas about Jesus’ appearance. But, Thomas could not believe Jesus had risen. Perhaps you’ve heard Thomas’ words. “. . . Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." (John 20:25 ) The pain of Thomas’ grief kept him in the depths of doubt, instead of the joy of faith.
I think we can all understand how the loss of a loved one changes our lives. No wonder grieving spouses are told not to make any important decisions for 6 months after the death of their loved one! No wonder Jesus’ disciples struggled to see and believe.
However, can the news ever be too good to believe? The disciples on the way to Emmaus had been told that Jesus had risen, but when they saw Jesus they did not recognize Him. They told Jesus, “20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.” These men heard that Jesus had risen, from more than one source. But, Jesus’ rising seemed too good to be true!
Even after the disciples had seen Jesus alive, when they later met Him on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, they still did not recognize Jesus at first. And Peter had to be reassured that Jesus’ dying and rising were really true for him. You see, Peter had denied 3 times that he knew Jesus. How could he be forgiven? Such news would be too good to be true (or so it seems)! So, Jesus had to reassure Peter 3 times that he was still called to serve as an apostle. (John 21:15-19)
The news of Easter is so good, it can be hard to believe. But, thank the Lord above that His love and salvation are not an empty hope, but is as real as the death and resurrection of Jesus. When this good news hits our hearts, when our eyes open to the fact that Jesus rose, then the resurrection of Jesus should and does make a difference in the way we live today. We have joy in the midst of trials, because Jesus lives! We have courage in the face of opposition, because Jesus lives. When life looks difficult, we have faith and we trust God to care for us, because Jesus lives and defeated sin and death. In a world of selfishness we love, even loving our enemies, because the risen and living Jesus loves us. Do people see the light of Jesus’ forgiveness and salvation shining through you? The prayer of pastors, the prayer of this pastor, is that the good news of Jesus is not just words. My prayer is that the good news of Jesus rising changes the hearts and lives lives of those I serve.
So, I’ll tell you a story. There is a young many in my “Basic Teachings of the Bible – Adult Member Class”, named Lucas Fisher. Lucas has been attending St. John for a number of months. He has participated in the St. John Youth Group and helped with the Good Friday service. I hope the class I teach has taught Lucas about God’s love, and that God’s love has made a difference in Lucas’ life. On Saturday night, before Easter Sunday, about 15 men gathered to set up for Easter Breakfast the next day. Lucas and his dad were there. As we finished setting up and as people were leaving, I told Lucas and his dad, “Thank you for helping!” Lucas replied, “Thank you for LETTING us help!”
Lucas’ response may seem like a small thing, but his response warmed my heart. In this world of selfishness and sin, to hear a young teenage man thank the leaders of his church for the privilege of serving, tells me that Jesus is making a difference in Lucas’ life.
The accounts of Good Friday and Easter are not just past history, they affect us personally. I pray that you see, understand, and believe that Jesus died and rose for you. I pray, as Jesus’ dying love and resurrection victory has an on-going affect on your life, that people do see the light of Jesus’ forgiveness and salvation shining through you, and through me.
“He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!!”
A Child of God, Seeking to Let the Light of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Shine Through Me!
P.S. Here are some pictures from Holy Week.
· St. John Passover and Maundy Thursday Worship – First Communion for 7th Grade Students. https://photos.app.goo.gl/CGAmBLaceraYNAW28
· St. John Easter Festival. https://photos.app.goo.gl/cPfNCLp2Ti1uFvgg9
· Saturday night preparation for Easter Breakfast. https://photos.app.goo.gl/ykSUAhSVKTZCN3979
P.P.S. Snow on the day after Easter. https://photos.app.goo.gl/J2ToWigMnWYxbJKN7
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.