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I don’t open the bible to receive a lecture…

I open the bible to receive Christ.

Here's my sermon on John 20:30-31.  Audio here.

The Scriptures bring me Jesus.  Jesus brings me life.

Sermon text below...

If God came down right now, I’d believe.  If He showed up in all His Godness and proved Himself to me, I’d bow down and worship.  I won’t believe if I can’t see, touch, taste and feel Him – but if He appears, I’ll believe. 

Have you ever said that? Or thought it?  Are friends of yours saying it?  Well, that’s Thomas’s issue. Verse 25:

"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." 

Thomas wants proof.  Tangible, in your face, see it, touch it, taste it, feel it, proof.  

But he is blown away when this proof comes. Verse 26:

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 

Thomas had wanted to see these wounds.  He demanded to see these wounds.  He would not believe unless he saw Jesus, bearing the scars of His crucifixion.  And so Jesus appears saying,  ‘Put your finger here, Thomas.  See my hands.  Reach out your hand and PUT IT INTO MY SIDE.’ 

Wow! 

And think about this, Jesus doesn’t just show Thomas the fact He was alive.  He shows Thomas the marks of His death.  

He shows Him His scars.  

Now that is interesting.  On a day when we remember two world wars, not to mention current conflicts that seem to be getting bloodier by the day.  Today we remember that there is One who is called LORD and God and He has scars.  He still has scars.  Even after resurrection and into all eternity He has chosen to keep His scars. 

Many people ask, How can we believe in God after all the war and bloodshed and cruelty and suffering?  What can we say?  One thing we can say is this:  Suffering disproves a million gods.  There are a million gods out there, who are simply arm-chair deities, unmoved by the suffering of the world, uninvolved and completely unworthy.  But there is one God who has scars.  And His name is Jesus.  Let suffering disprove every other god.  But it cannot disprove the scarred God – it cannot disprove Jesus. 

Suffering, bloodshed, cruelty, death cannot disprove this God because He is the God who suffered, who shed His own blood, who endured the world’s cruelty Himself – and He’s got the scars to prove it. 

Jesus appears to Thomas and shows His scars.  I wonder how many veterans today are reminiscing about their war wounds?  Wounds that perhaps tell a story of sacrificial love. 

On war memorials everywhere a verse from John’s Gospel is usually engraved: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  Written on those war memorials it brings to mind countless acts of self-giving love, where men and women very literally gave their lives for their friends.  We can imagine countless scenarios where perhaps one man would take a bullet for another, or throw himself on a grenade, or retrieve a wounded friend at the cost of his own life.  Scenarios where one man died so his friend would live. 

But you know it was Jesus who said these famous words.  And actually He’s talking about Himself.  The verse continues, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends, and you are my friends.” 

Do you hear what He’s saying?  He’s saying “I am the One who will lay down My life – and you are My friends who I will die for.”  And there is no greater love. 

On the cross, Jesus took the bullet if you like, threw Himself on the grenade, rescued us at the cost of His life.  He suffered the death we all deserve to give us the life we don’t.  

And so there is Thomas in the Upper Room and there is Jesus risen from the dead but still bearing those war wounds – the marks of His suffering love.  

And, verse 28, Thomas can’t control himself any more: He exclaims to Jesus, "My Lord and my God. 

Notice Thomas doesn’t just say ‘You are THE LORD and The God.’  He says ‘You are MY LORD and MY God.’ 

It’s personal.  

I wonder whether it’s personal for you.  Do you know Jesus as MY Lord and MY God? 

Is Jesus personal to you? 

That’s what a Christian is.  A Christian is someone who looks at Jesus and understands His scar story.  You understand that He came because He considered you to be ‘His friend’ and He laid down His life.  He took the bullet of divine judgement and you are won by His great love so that you say ‘You are MY LORD and you are MY God.’  

That’s what a Christian is.  And you can become one this morning.  All it takes is to confess Jesus as your LORD and your God.  

But, I wonder if you’re thinking – it’s alright for Thomas.  He got to see Jesus.  He got to see those scars.

I don’t get to see Jesus.  What about me?  It seems like Thomas has it much better than we do. Well actually Jesus says it’s the other way around.  Look at verse 29: 

29 Then Jesus told [Thomas], "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." 

Jesus says: Blessed are people when they are not like Thomas.  Jesus says it’s better not to have a Thomas experience.  It’s better NOT to have seen and yet believe.  Do you see that in v29?  It’s better not to have the Thomas experience.  

How is that possible?  Surely the Thomas experience is what the world is crying out for. 

How many millions of people this very day are crying out for a Thomas experience?  “Show yourself to me.”  Jesus says, there’s something better than the Thomas experience.  What’s that then?  Well it’s verses 30 and 31, and these are the verses that explain why John wrote his whole gospel. 

John says, v30:

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

Do you see what’s better than a Thomas experience?  These are written that you may believe.  These are written, and this is better.  

Do you believe that? 

Well just think about it.  If Jesus appeared to you tonight at the end of your bed and you saw His wounds and heard Him say ‘Peace’ to you personally.  I reckon that would give you a spiritual high for days.  Weeks even.  But the next morning someone would ask – how’d you sleep?  And you’d say ‘Didn’t get much sleep I saw Jesus at the end of my bed.’  How’s that conversation going to run?   

But if you’ve ever asked for some amazing private experience or appearance, do you realize what are you asking?  You’re asking for something that will impress you today but will ultimately make you doubt more than believe.  

It is more blessed - it is better - to go on the eye-witness testimony of the Bible.  Because with the Bible, it’s all there in black and white for all time.  At three in the morning when I have doubts.  When loved ones die.  When I’ve lost my job.  I can always see Jesus, by opening my Bible and seeing Him in the words of Scripture.  

If I’d physically touched the risen Christ ten years ago - by now my memory would have faded and become distorted.  Instead I met Jesus in the pages of the Bible, and I assure you I am seeing Him more clearly today than I did when I first believed.  As I go deeper into the Bible His scars are more vivid, His scar story is more real, His love seems more profound and I know Him better than I know any earthly creature – all through the pages of this book. 

These things are written that you may believe. 

Why are we studying John’s gospel?  These things are written that you may believe.  We’re studying John’s Gospel together with the expectation that the risen Christ will encounter us through these words.  We hear these words again hoping for nothing less than a profound and personal meeting with Jesus Christ.  We open our bibles day by day seeking for something better than what Thomas experienced.  We seek the risen Jesus – reminding us of His death for us and speaking ‘Peace’ into the depths of our souls.  That’s why John’s Gospel.  That’s why preaching.  That’s why the whole bible.  These things are written that you may believe. 

If you want to understand verses 30 and 31 in a sentence it’s this.  The Scriptures bring me Jesus and Jesus brings me life.  The Scriptures bring me Jesus and Jesus brings me life. 

First let’s think about how the Scriptures bring me Jesus.  

How many millions of people are seeking for a divine encounter?  And yet John tells us plainly where to find it.  

He says, v30, he has written a selective biography of Jesus.  Jesus did lots of other miraculous stuff and John has had to leave it out.  He’s been selective. 

John includes seven miraculous signs that Jesus does – things like turning water into wine and like raising Lazarus from the dead.  But all those miraculous events are what John calls ‘signs’.  And because they’re signs, they point somewhere.  If you see a sign for the Tower of London, you follow the sign to the destination and there you’ll see the crown jewels.  But what you don’t do is camp underneath the sign hoping to see the jewels.  No, signs point somewhere.  And the miracles point to Jesus’ identity.  They tell the world that Jesus is (v31) the Christ, the Son of God. 

I’ve been thinking this week about those two titles of Jesus.  The Christ and the Son of God.  I don’t think there’s a more important truth in the world for someone to grasp than that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  All of Jesus’ miracles are pointing to it.  All of John’s Gospel, in fact the whole bible is crying out to you, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. 

What does it mean?  Well Christ is a Greek word that translates the old Hebrew word Messiah.  And in English it just means the One who is Anointed.  In the bible, the greatest men of the Old Testament, the prophets, priests and kings were anointed with a little bit of oil in a ceremony.  A little bit of oil was poured on their head to signify the Holy Spirit – who would empower them for their job.  But Jesus is THE ANOINTED One.  Before the world began, He has been the ONE who is FULL of the Holy Spirit.  He has the Spirit of God poured onto and into Him and it flows out of Him.  That’s who Jesus is – the very greatest men of the Old Testament had a little bit of oil poured onto them.  Jesus is the One from all eternity, anointed by, flooded with, filled to over-flowing with the Holy Spirit.  

And He’s also the Son of God.  The Son of God the Father.  Before there was a universe there was God the Father loving His Son Jesus and pouring His Spirit into Him.  The Son of God is the One loved by God with an almighty love that has had no beginning and will have no end.   He is the beloved Son of God. 

Do we start to see who Jesus is?  The Christ, the Son of God.  Older than the universe, full to overflowing with the Spirit, eternally beloved Son of the Father.  No wonder, Thomas cries out ‘My Lord and My God’ – that’s Who Jesus is.  That’s who all those miracles are pointing to.  That’s Who John’s Gospel is pointing to.  That’s Who the whole bible is pointing to.  The Scriptures bring us Jesus. 

Do you know that about the bible?  The bible brings you Jesus.  The point of this book is so that you can MEET Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.  That’s the whole point of John’s Gospel.  It’s certainly the whole point of our sermon series in John.  But it’s also the whole point of the whole bible.  The whole bible is a sign pointing you to Jesus.

Turn back a few pages to John chapter 5.  Our first reading.  Turn to John 5 and verse 37.  Here Jesus is speaking to the best bible scholars of His day.  These people – many of them would have memorized the first five books of the bible.  Memorized them.  But listen to what Jesus says to them.  Verse 37: 

37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 

The Scriptures bring us Jesus.  That is their whole purpose.  They testify, they point, they are like a sign with a massive arrow saying ‘JESUS, JESUS, JESUS.’  And if you read the bible and don’t come to Jesus, you are deaf, you are blind and you have a heart of stone.  You could memorize the bible, but if you don’t read it in order to be led to JESUS – you’ve never heard God’s voice, you’ve never seen anything spiritual, God’s word doesn’t dwell in you.  

See, the bible is not a religious text book full of interesting information and wise moral guidance.  That’s not its purpose – its purpose is for us to meet Jesus. 

And Jesus can say to the finest bible scholars of His day – if you don’t read it to meet with me, you don’t know the first thing about this book. 

How do we see the bible?  A burden to read?  A little religious text book? A little moral guide book?  Is it a religious chore to read?  Do we think we’re doing Jesus a favour by reading it?  We’re not!  Jesus does us the favour because He treats the pages of this book like the Upper Room where He appeared.  This is where He comes to meet with us.  And as we read it and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, unblocks our ears, softens our hearts, we see Jesus, we see His war wounds, we are assured of His love again, and He speaks peace into the depths of our soul.  That’s what the bible is. If we don’t understand the bible like that, we don’t understand the bible at all. 

The Scriptures bring us Jesus. 

And Jesus brings us life. 

That’s how our passage ends.  John 20, verse 31: 

But these are written 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 Scriptures bring us Jesus.  Jesus brings us life.  

You see we don’t naturally have life. We breathe in and out and our hearts pump, but that’s not the life we really need.  Jesus says in John 5, verse 24 that we have to cross over from death to life.  Jesus says we’re born into death and must cross over to life. 

Because life and death are about relationship to God.  When we are cut off from the life-giving love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are dead – doesn’t matter if our hearts are pumping or not – that is true death.  But if we come to Jesus we are brought into that life-giving relationship.  We can be brought from death to life.  

When we join up with Jesus THE Christ, we become anointed by the same Holy Spirit.  When we join up with Jesus THE Son of God – we become children of the same heavenly Father.  We share in the eternal love relationships of the Trinity.  And THAT is life.  Life in His name 

The Scriptures bring us Jesus and Jesus brings us life 

That’s why John’s Gospel was written.  It’s why the whole bible was written. That you may believe 

Do you believe?  Some here have never come to Jesus.  You’ve never crossed over from death to life.  And perhaps Jesus is saying to you as He said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.”  Perhaps even now you are meeting with Jesus through these Scriptures – we shouldn’t be surprised at that, we should expect it.  Will you call out to Jesus even now and call Him “MY Lord and MY God.”?  Come to Him now and know eternal life. 

Perhaps you need a bit longer, well don’t put it off – but seek after Jesus in the place where He is found.  Seek Him in the bible.  Keep coming on a Sunday morning as we go through the first chapter of John.  Perhaps pick up John’s Gospel yourself and enter into it like it’s the Upper Room and as you read and as you think hard on these things, ask Jesus to meet you 

Some of you have been Christians for 50, 60, 70 years.  What do you need to do in response to these verses?  You need to do what we all need to do – believe.  And go on believing.  We begin day one of the Christian life by believing and we continue every day of our Christian lives believing.  What does that look like?  It looks like Jesus meeting us again and again in His word.  Through the encouragement of other believers, through personal bible reading, through growth groups, through church, through any way you can get the Scriptures into you.  Because there you will meet with Jesus – and Jesus has what you need for the day.  He has the fullness of life.  And He gives Himself to you in the Scriptures. 

Friends, you don’t open the bible to receive a lecture.  Whenever I don’t open my bible it’s because I think I’m going to be given a lecture.  We’re not given a lecture, we’re given Jesus, who bled and died for us and who speaks Peace.  He spoke Peace even to doubting Thomas, He will speak peace to you as you meet Him in this book.

The Scriptures bring us Jesus and Jesus brings us life.

0 thoughts on “I don’t open the bible to receive a lecture…

  1. theoldadam

    Amen!

    The Bible is not some sort of lawnmower manual where you put part A to part B and connect part C.

    It is not a self-help book.

    It is God coming to us...in His Word of Law and Gospel.

    He gives Himself to us, in love.

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