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Third Sunday of Easter
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, April 18, 2021

The Voice of Faithfulness

Text: 1 John 1:1–2:2

I suspect that most, if not all of us, remember the movie, Back to the Future, starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. It came out in 1985 and produced sequels in 1989 and 1990. The first movie was about Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) as a 17-year-old high school student, who is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the eccentric scientist Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd.

We don’t have time or reason to unravel the storyline but suffice it to say that the movie trilogy was very well done and well-received worldwide. I read that the estimated budget was $19 million, and the cumulative worldwide gross receipts were around $392 million. Remember this was 30 years ago but even now the profit was huge. The movies were certainly well done but I suspect the popularity worldwide was due to the fact that most everyone has at some time, or times, imagined what it would be like to go back in time, knowing what you know now. Think of the things you regret that you could avoid doing, or the way you could benefit by knowing what to invest in for the future.

It never ceases to amaze me how much human beings have in common with one another in the area of regret. I have found that most people have indeed thought to themselves, “I wish I could go back in time, knowing what I know now.” Of course, that isn’t going to happen but what can happen is we can share our mistakes and failures and the lessons we have learned from them with those who are growing up. Unfortunately, most young people aren’t willing to listen to advice and seem destined to learn from experience. That is certainly one of the things I would do if I could go back in time.

More importantly, we can look back to what Jesus did on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins and embrace that gift that ensures a future that moves from darkness to the light of Christ for eternity. There is nothing of more value than that.

This week I considered our passages, in light of the resurrection story we have followed over the last three weeks. We started by considering the resurrection of Christ through Mark’s account in Mark 16:1–8 and last week we looked at the same event through John’s Gospel in John 20:19–31. Today we’ll briefly consider the story through the eyes of Luke in chapter 24:36–49. I considered how each writer recounted what happened on resurrection morning and how it impacted their lives and the lives of those around them.

Several years ago I dealt with these passages and pointed out the difference between the Apostle John who wrote the epistle that we read this morning from 1 John 1:1–2:2 and the disciple John who, along with the other disciples, encountered the risen Savior Jesus Christ in our reading from Luke 24:36–49. I want to continue along that line of inquiry but expand it a bit in order to see how this informs us of the way we should encourage those around us to learn the lessons of unbelief and the blessings of following Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

The encounter with Jesus who suddenly appeared to the disciples happened soon after his resurrection, which scholars place between AD 30–36. The Epistle of 1 John was written between AD 85–95, toward the later part of the Apostle John’s life. In our epistle reading we are hearing from someone who has lived as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ for 55–65 years and had been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry. At the writing of his epistle, John was one of the last disciples to be alive. According to church history most of the other disciples had been martyred with the exceptions of John and possibly Simon the Zealot. The Apostle Paul had been put to death for his faithfulness to Christ around AD 62–64.

With this in mind, I wanted to approach John’s epistle with the understanding that the writer was someone who had faithfully followed Jesus from the beginning, likely for over 60 years. He was writing to encourage the reader to understand that he had given his life to the proclamation of the gospel because he had come to understand that all of life was centered around the person and work of Jesus Christ, nothing else had the same importance. My prayer this morning is that we capture the power of the apostolic witness in this epistle with the hope that this will spur us on to be the type of witness where others can look back and remember our faithfulness and obedience and be encouraged to persevere in their faith.

Before we turn to 1 John, I want to briefly mention an important element in the scene of our Gospel reading from Luke 24:36–42 and the same account from the perspective from John 20:19–31. Just like in John’s gospel, Jesus suddenly appears in the room even though the door is locked, and the disciples are “startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” Jesus, knowing the effect this would have on them, offers them “Peace.” He wanted them to know that there was no reason for fear because he had come in peace. He wasn’t a ghost and did not come to chastise them for running away when he had been arrested. He then offers them proof that he isn’t a spirit and not only shows them his wounded hands and feet but encourages them to touch him and feel the reality that he is material and full of life. His body is transformed, but it is the same one that he had before the cross, upon the cross, and laid in a tomb. The most interesting part is that though Jesus’ body was transformed into a glorified state and could walk through doors or merely appear and disappear, his wounds were still present.

It would be natural to assume that Jesus' wounds would have been healed, but in John’s Gospel and in the account in Luke, Jesus' wounds in his glorified body are presented as proof of his identity. His scars reveal that he is indeed “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). The scars on Jesus’ body testify to His glory and let us know that he understands our pain and suffering. I love Hebrews 2:17–18 in The Message paraphrase,

That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.

Hymn-writer Matthew Bridges saw love in the scars and crowned him “the Lord of love” in his 1851 hymn:

Crown him the Lord of love!      
        Behold his hands and side —
Rich wounds, yet visible above,      
        In beauty glorified.

In the Book of Revelation it is Jesus, the “Lamb who was slain” who is standing next to God in the midst of a great multitude that no one could number.

Listen to Revelation 7:9–10,

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Jesus is referred to (27 more times) as “the Lamb” in the Book of Revelation and Heaven’s worshipers fall down before him, saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” (Revelation 5:12)

Of course in our gospel account the disciples were still in shock but are nevertheless overjoyed as they strive to process what had to be a major overload on their emotions. Jesus knows this and to further dispel their doubts, he asked for something to eat and right before their eyes he eats a piece of fish. He wanted them to see that his transformation was not merely his spirit but his body as well. His incarnation as God who had come down in the flesh was not temporary but eternal. He would be their representative and mediator eternally as Paul would later write to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20–21,

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Jesus wanted the disciples to fully understand that he was not merely going away because he had finished his work on their behalf but as the God/Man he would always be working as their mediator for all eternity. Then in Luke 24:44–49 Jesus reminds them that he had told them all that would happen and that it had been written about him in the law and the prophets. He then opened their minds so that they would understand the Scriptures. He then leaves them with this command,

“You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Now the blinders were removed, and the law and the prophets would testify from the Scriptures so they would be able to see clearly why Jesus came and their role in continuing his work.

The last part of their equipping would come at the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came in power, moving upon and in them, just as Jesus had promised. The Holy Spirit would enable the people of God to be the body of Christ and literally be his heart, voice, hands and feet. In this way the work that Jesus had begun would continue with the same power and authority of Jesus’ name. In addition they would have the honor of bearing the wounds of proving their relationship with Jesus, the Lamb of God.

With this in mind let’s look forward 55–65 years to 1 John 1:1–3. It’s here that we are privileged to read the words of the last of Jesus’ original disciples. He also bore the marks upon his flesh as one who had been physically beaten, imprisoned, and even dipped in boiling oil in an attempt to kill him. Oddly enough, it didn’t work, but that’s for another time. Listen to the joy in his words,

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you,...

John begins his letter by summing up the important beginning of his Christian life and ministry. Jesus Christ had been the focus and foundation of all that John had experienced for the previous 55–65 years. He had been one of those privileged to see, hear and touch the creator, the Son of God who had existed from the beginning. This of course echoes the beginning of John’s Gospel where he had written,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

John 1:1–3 mirrors the original creation account of Genesis 1:1 and shows that the incarnation account was as significant as creation itself because it is the beginning of the new creation, the re-creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth. John was an eyewitness who had physically experienced God in the flesh; he had heard his voice, he had touched him and been touched by him, he had seen with his own eyes the reality of the Son of God performing miracles and he had experienced these same things with the resurrected Savior. He had lived in close fellowship with Jesus both physically and now through the witness and power of the Holy Spirit. John reminds his readers that the fellowship that began with Jesus was extended through the offer to fellowship with the Father as well as the Son.

This had completely changed the direction of his life as the proclamation of the gospel had become the primary focus of his life. He had not written his gospel account until around AD 85–90 according to early church tradition because he was focused on the proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus, the one who had so deeply touched him forever. He reveals why he wrote his gospel in John 20:31,

…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 Gospel of John and the Epistle of John both seem to have been written because the early church was experiencing an attack against the deity of Christ and the claim that he had not really come in the flesh but was a divine spirit who had inhabited the body of a man named Jesus from Nazareth. John is testifying as an eyewitness that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and the only way to reconciliation with the Father and to eternal life. For this purpose, Jesus laid down his life for the sins of man, the creator sacrificing his life for the salvation of his creation.

John knew that to understand this truth was of first importance because it proved that the eternal God was accessible to men and women, and He wanted to be experienced and known personally. In verse 3 John refers back to those things that the disciples had seen and heard and were now declaring to those who would listen in verse 4. The goal was, that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John, along with the early disciples, gave their lives to telling the story of the love of God seen clearly through the sacrifice of the Son. For over six decades John had enjoyed sweet fellowship with Jesus, initially in the flesh, but now through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

This would have been a revolutionary idea to John’s readers. In the Greek culture the idea of fellowship was prized but it was only men to men. To claim that men could have intimate fellowship with the creator of the universe would have been unthinkable. John uses the word koinonia to describe the type of fellowship he was speaking of. It didn’t mean a simple awareness but speaks of sharing a common bond and common life with another person. This simple and bold statement could be made by John who had experienced that relationship with God for many years. Jesus had first introduced this type of radical thinking when He invited men to address God as Father in the Lord’s prayer of Matthew 6 and Luke 11. For those who had been afraid of God and his power this would have had the same appeal as a prisoner being invited to spend time with the warden, but John knew better.

John had discovered that fellowship among Christians who together to experience fellowship with God brought real lasting joy, no matter the circumstances they found themselves in. Again, Jesus had introduced this concept the night before his crucifixion, even though he knew the cross was before him: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus was demonstrating that obedience to God brought about a depth of joy unimaginable. John is writing as one who experienced that joy and wanted others to know that joy as well. In verses 5–7 he reveals the source of the joy. Let’s read 1 John 1:5–7,

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

John wanted to make it clear that these were not his words or a message that he had thought up but came directly from the source of all light. He had written at the beginning of his gospel in John 1:4–5, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” In verse Jesus is called “the true light that gives light to everyone.”

This was the light that broke into a world of sin and darkness. In his gospel and in 1 John, he alludes to the primeval light that broke into the darkness of creation in Genesis 1:1–4. In these passages’ darkness represents chaos, sin, and death; light is the characteristic of goodness and life. All this is associated with God’s moral holiness and the fact that he has no connection with the darkness of evil. John is inviting the reader to escape the ravages of sin and death and enter the life of light and joy with God and his people.

John then contrasts two diametrically opposed ways of living. He does not suggest that those who walk in the light never sin but that those who continue in patterns of sinful behavior are lying to themselves if they assume that they are walking in the light. This is one of the reasons that John is inviting those who want to walk in the light to come and walk in fellowship with the people of God. It’s as much for protection against spiritual blindness as anything else. We are to encourage and exhort one another to stay in the light of Christ.

I began this morning by imagining the differences between the disciple John of Luke 24 and the Apostle John who wrote the gospel and the epistle many years later. I think the major difference had to do with what he had learned and experienced in his walk as a servant of the living Savior. There were simply things that he no longer wondered about but knew with certainty as to their truth. He now knew intimately the God that he served, and I suspect the depth of his love and commitment was complete, as he counted everything that had happened as joy in Christ.

To know God through his word and Spirit builds a bond and desire that is extremely hard to comprehend by those who have not yet seen or experienced God in fullness. We are created to have fellowship with God but it’s important that we understand who he is and what he reveals about himself through his Word, and not who we imagine him to be.

In our day we are living with the results of what happens when men seek to be their own gods and believe that morality and truth are what they determine them to be. The result is darkness, chaos, godlessness, and lies masquerading as truth. There are many who are trying to teach that sexual freedom, whatever it may be, aborting babies who are inconvenient, having no moral absolutes, but doing what you want is the path to freedom and joy. They try to make us believe that the suicide rate among the young is because they are being subjected to rules and lifestyles foisted on them by the religious right. It a lie that is being told over and over by the radical left and their media puppets. We can’t go back in time to undo the damage that has been done. We can’t go back and rescue the unborn who have been butchered and we can’t stop the current agenda from taking over UNLESS we turn to the God of the universe in repentance and faith.

I find it helpful to remember that the Apostle John would have seen his time just as dark and godless as ours, but he also saw the power of the gospel dispelling the darkness when God’s people were faithful to its proclamation. We have no reason to despair because God is moving in power throughout our country and around the world.

I believe that right now there are more people feeling fearful and asking what in the world is going on than there has been before in my lifetime. They are wondering, there any hope for our future.

The Apostle John wanted his readers to fully grasp that it was only through embracing the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the light that dispels the darkness, that their joy would be complete. Anything else is an illusion and a lie that will always lead to darkness and misery. That is as true today as it was over 2,000 years ago.

Let’s pray.

©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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