Essential Questions: Did Jesus have an earthly life after his ressurection?

A numbers of years ago, I met a woman who had no idea that Jesus spent any time on earth after his resurrection.  We had a deeply fascinating conversation about the fact that Jesus spent 40 days on earth between his resurrection and his ascension into heaven.  It is because of this conversation that I decided to make this question my blog post this week.  Given that we are currently in the 40 day period as part of the Church’s liturgical year, I thought it was appropriate to look at this issue this week.

There are several stories in the Bible about  Jesus’ encounters with his disciples after his resurrection.  These meetings each tell us something about Jesus after his resurrection.

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Thomas encounters the Risen Jesus.(Can Stock)

 

(1) Jesus had a physical body.

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[a] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:11-18 ESV)

Jesus was standing there in front of Mary in physical form.  Mary thought he was another person; the gardner.  She did not think the man she saw was some form of a spirit.  Yet, Mary did not recognize Jesus at first.  Perhaps it was grief.  Perhaps he looked different.  Perhaps she wasn’t expecting to see someone she thought had died three days earlier.  Whatever it was, Mary did not recognize Jesus right away.  Yet, there was something about the way that he said her name that caused her to recognize him right away.  There was no doubt that it was Jesus.

And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24: 37-39)

Again, it is clear here that Jesus has a physical body that his disciples can touch.

(2) Jesus could walk and talk.

Not only did Jesus talk to Mary was understood.  He talked to his disciples in all his encounters.  He talked to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus while he walked with them.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”…So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. (Luke 24:13-18, 28-31)

(3)  Jesus could eat.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit….And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36-38, 41-43 ESV)

It is very clear from this encounter that Jesus could eat.  Food didn’t just drop through him as though he were a spirit.  In fact, Jesus specifically ate in front of the disciples to prove that he was there in bodily form.

(4)  The marks of the crucifixion remain on his body.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:36-40 ESV)

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20-21 ESV)

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.”(John 20:24-29 ESV)

Jesus’ body still has the scars from the crucifixion in his hands and his feet from where the nails held him to the cross.  The scar also remains on his side where the Roman soldiers put their sword into him to see if he was really dead.

(5) The normal laws of physics did not seem to apply to Jesus anymore.

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,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  (John 20:19-20 ESV)

The disciples were behind locked doors, and Jesus appeared to them.  He did not need to have the doors opened.  He just appeared in the room.

He could also leave just as easily.  After he broke the bread with the disciples after their walk to Emmaus, he vanished from their sight after they recognized him.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:28-33 ESV)

Check out the stories for yourself.  See what else you can learn about Jesus and his life on earth after his resurrection.  Share what you have learned in the comments.

John 20

Luke 24

 

 

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Essential Questions: Is there any other way to salvation other than Jesus?

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Photo Credit: Canstock, macelmooij

Is there any other way to salvation that through Jesus Christ?  It is a question that is debated at great length.  Let us look at both sides of this question for a minute.

If the answer is yes, then as long as we are doing good things and believe in something; then we will have a good relationship with God.

This position is appealing.  It is wonderful to think that we only have to be a “good person” to be in a good relationship with God.  We are a very achievement oriented culture and the idea that  all the “good people” we see will be in right relationship with God appeals to us.  It is seen as the “tolerant” position too.  It means that the devout Jew or Muslim will also be in right relationship with God.  By saying that there are many paths to God and that Jesus is not the only way, then there is no concern that someone will be offended.  It is the position that makes everyone happy:   the nice lady at the library, the person who works with the homeless, the devout Jewish neighbour – everyone is happy and is reconciled to God.

But, what if the answer is no that there is no other way to God but through Jesus?  Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come through the Father, except through me.” (John 14:6).  Oh, but can we really believe what Jesus says about himself?  Isn’t that a self-serving comment?

Perhaps.  But what if it is the truth?  Paul testified before the Jewish Council that salvation could be only found in Jesus. (Acts 4:8-12).  He also wrote in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 that there was one person who could reconcile us to God – Jesus Christ.   Paul did not follow Jesus around.  In fact, he persecuted the early Christians until he had a personal encounter with the risen Jesus.  He had no self-interest in promoting Jesus as the saviour of the world.  In fact, he lost everything – his prestige, his money and eventually his life – because of what he believed.

I look at it this way.  If it is true that there are other ways to God, then why was Jesus’ birth, death or resurrection necessary?  God would not need to come down from heaven in human form.  Jesus would not have to die to pay the price for our sins.  Jesus would not have had to conquer death by rising again.  God could have just said “Take another path.  I am not giving up my son and killing him for you.”

But this is not the God of the Bible.  The God of the Bible is a God of justice.      He requires payment for the sins of the world.  Yet, He is also a God of mercy.  In His wrath and judgement, He did not destroy humanity, but rather gave them garments to wear when He exiled Adam and Eve from the garden (Genesis 3:21).  God wanted the relationship to be fixed and so He sent Jesus as the mediator for our sins to stand in our place and take the punishment.  If there was another option, don’t you think God would have taken it?

If we decide that there is no other way of salvation but Jesus, it can be an uncomfortable position to hold.  It may not be considered tolerant.  (Of course, that may not be true, if you consider what Jonathan Dodson has to say).  It can leave you worried about your family and friends who are on a different path.

I can’t tell you what the answer to the question is for you.  It is something you have to think and pray about for yourself.  Yet, the answer to the question is important.  Not only for our own faith journey, but also for others.  It will affect how we deal with people every day.  Do we think that what we believe doesn’t really matter to the world at large, because everyone is heading in the same direction anyway?  OR do we believe that we have something wonderful and life-giving to share with them through our words and deeds?

Essential Questions: How does sin affect me?

Over the last few essential questions, we have been looking at what our response to Jesus and the gospel should be.  I would like to take this opportunity to remind us of why we need Jesus and why we need to consider our response to the gospel.

Advent starts next week.  It is the time when we consider why we need Jesus in our lives and start to prepare for His coming.

Faith in Jesus is personal.  Our response to the gospel is personal.  Sin if personal.  Today, we will re-examine the question – How does sin affect me?  When we get right down to it, we are interested in what God can do for us, personally, and preferably, right now.

As we continue our inquiry, let us pray for God to open our hearts and minds to learn more.

Praying_Hands_clip_art_hightO God, my Creator, who sent your Son as the Way, the Truth and the Life to save me and all the world, I long to understand all that it means to be loved, known, and forgiven by you, and to be made whole: at peace with you, others, myself, and your creation. Open my eyes to all that you are, and draw me closer to you, I pray. Amen.

Read the following passages and see how they speak to you.

[B]ut, your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.  (Isaiah 59:2)

Or consider the way it is put in The Message

There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.
Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.
Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.

Read also Romans 6:20-23

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What do these passages say to you?  Essentially, what the Bible is trying to say is that sin alienates us (you and me) from those who mean the most to us.  It alienates us from God, so He does not hear us.  It alienates us from our loved ones and even from those who could be friends, so we feel alone.  It alienates us from God’s good creation, causing us to be poor stewards of the world God entrusted to us in Genesis.  It even causes us problems with ourselves, as we listen to the voices of shame and insecurity in our heads; affecting what we think of ourselves and how we treat others.  Basically, we are hopeless, guilty, lost, helpless, and walking in the way of death because of sin.  But all is not lost!  There is a happy ending as we know – God sent His Son Jesus to rebuild that relationship.

For now, identify the things in your own life that put a wedge between you and God, between you and your family or friends, even between yourself and the person God made you to be?  Try to become conscious of these things, not to feel shameful, but to learn about yourself.  The more you know and understand your own sin, the more you will be able to see the need for God in your life, to determine your response to Jesus and to accept His grace.

Essential Questions: What does having faith mean?

In the last Essential Questions blog post we looked at the idea of repentance and what it means.  Repentance is the first response that we should have to the Gospel of Jesus.   Before we take the step to ask Jesus to forgive us our sins, we must be sure that we understand what having faith in Jesus means. According to the bible, faith is a two step process.  Taking these steps can deeply impact your life. 

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Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines belief as “accepting something is true, genuine or real.” The first step of faith is to decide that the gospel message is real.  If you have decided that the Gospel is true, then you genuinely believe in Jesus Christ and all the promises that God has made. As Hebrew 11:1 says this faith gives believers a certainty in God’s promises that makes them real.  Faith affects our souls in such a way that we will experience the joy of God.  The experience of this joy changes how we see things.  As we see thing a differently, we will act differently.

The second step in faith is to speak your belief.  If you have faith in Jesus, then you must be willing to tell others about that faith.

“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”(Matthew 10:32)

“I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man[a] will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.(Luke 12:8)

“For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”(Romans 10:10)

For Jesus, and for Paul, faith is not a private thing.   So often in our world, we want to keep our faith private.   The privatization of faith is one of the hallmarks of our modern world.  The Christian faith is okay as long as you do it on your time and in your own space.  Your faith must not impact anything you do.  I was once told at a job interview that I would have to “park my faith at the door.” Christianity is not that kind of faith.  If you honestly believe the gospel, it impacts your whole entire life.  There was a reason that Jesus told his disciples to count the cost first.  (Luke 14:25-30).

Why do we want to keep our faith private?  I think it is because we are concerned about what people will think of us.  In a world where faith is supposed to be completely private, it is difficult to talk about it.  It is socially unacceptable.  We worry that people will negatively judge us.  We fear the loss of friendships.  We are concerned about persecution (emotional or physical).

We are overly concerned about sharing our Christian faith than sharing our belief in other things.  Do you worry about being left out if your friends don’t like the same movie as you?  The same music?  What is they don’t like the same latte?  You might be slightly nervous, but you really want them to try it.  So, even if your friends don’t end up liking the same movie or the same latte as you do, you want to tell them about it so they will try it – hoping that they will love it too.  Why is this so?  Because it is acceptable to share these “private” things.

Yet, this is not what God wants.  I believe that His desire to have us share our faith is for a good reason.  If you really believe something and have faith in it, you will want to share it with other people.  Marketing is very much built upon the idea of word of mouth.  If you believe that something is good, you will tell others because you will want them to experience the same joy that you have.

It is this kind of excitement and lack of fear that God wants you to have if you believe the Gospel.  If you believe that Jesus is Lord, that he died for your sins in your place and was raised from the dead by God the Father, then you will want to share that joy with others.  You know that your faith is genuine if you will express it to other people.  (This is not to say that you might not be nervous while doing it.)

I am not suggesting that you need to go and stand on the street corner and tell the world about your faith in God.  (If you want to, that is wonderful!)  It does mean that you need to tell someone you trust about it, particularly if this person also has faith.  By sharing with someone, especially another person, you can grow in your relationship with God.  It also means that if someone asks why you act differently than others, you need to be ready to tell them that it is because you believe in Jesus.

Think about whether you really have faith.  Do you truly believe?  Are you ready to tell others about it?

Essential Questions: Who is Jesus?

After a hiatus for the build up to camp (and camp itself), Essential Questions is back to look at some of the basic questions of the Christian faith. We will go back to publishing Essential Questions every second Monday.  Before camp, we looked at our broken relationship with God, what God wants to give us, and how do we reconcile with God which all ties in with this week.  But back to the immediate topic at hand…

Who is Jesus?  This is a foundation question in the Christian faith.  The answer to this question is what makes Christianity different.  Perhaps we should have started with this question because it is so important, but we will look at it now.

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Photo Credit: http://www.photobucket.com

Who is Jesus?  Who is this person that inspired people to walk away from their jobs so long ago?  Who is this person that that inspires one third of the world to follow him now?   The only conclusion, according to Philip Yancey, is that

“Jesus is who he says he is, the human expression of the invisible God.”

What exactly does that mean?  It means (1) Jesus is fully human and (2) Jesus is fully God.  Let us explore these ideas a bit more.

(1) Jesus is fully human.  

When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.  Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (Phil. 2:5-7)

Jesus was born just like you and me.  He couldn’t feed himself or sit up or walk, like all infants.  We have all seen babies, and so we can grasp this part.  Jesus didn’t just look like a human, he was one.  He took human nature upon himself. (Hebrews 2:5-18). He had good days and bad days.  He had parents that he had to listen to and to obey, and who sometimes just didn’t understand.  (Luke 2:41-52)  He was hungry and tired and even cranky, just like we are.  We live this reality, so we can appreciate being human.  We can understand that Jesus was human.

BUT, it doesn’t end there….

(2) Jesus is fully God.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col. 1:15-16)

What does that mean?  It means that Jesus is fully divine.  The word image implies that Jesus is the likeness of his Father – he is God (Hebrews 1:3).  “First-born” means that Jesus was not created; he existed before the creatures.  In the time in which the bible was written, “first-born” also signified the person who had the leadership and the inheritance.  Jesus has leadership as he rules heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).  He has the inheritance because he inherits the eternal Kingdom (Hebrews 1:2Revelation 3:21).

This second part is harder to understand.  How can a man be the creator of the world?  I think the question that often troubles us more is “why”?  Why would the creator of the world become an infant?  Most of us wouldn’t give up a position of power (being God) to put ourselves in a weak position (being a baby).  In our fallen world, power is seen as good thing and weakness a bad thing.  But God sees things differently.  Jesus became human to accomplish a greater goal; to reconcile us to God.

And it was right and proper that God, who made everything for his own glory, should allow Jesus to suffer, for in doing this he was bringing vast multitudes of God’s people to heaven; for his suffering made Jesus a perfect Leader, one fit to bring them into their salvation. (Heb. 2:10)

If we can begin to understand why Jesus, as God, would become human; then we can begin to accept that Jesus is more than a wonderfully good person who lived a blameless life and died a blameless death.  (Phil. 2:5-8) If we believe that God wants to give us abundant life and make us co-heirs, then God is a good God.  Thus, it makes sense that God would want to help us get those gifts.  (Matthew 7:9-11)  Yet, because of our sin, something drastic needed to be done.  Thus, Jesus who is fully divine, had to become human to redeem humanity from its own destruction and reconcile us to God. It is only through that reconciliation that God can give us the abundant life He longs to provide for us.

Jesus is the Son of God, a human and yet God.  It may not be something that we can logical reason through.   There are a number of things that must be taken on faith.  As Philip Ynacey states:

I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.

I can only tell you who I know Jesus to be and to point you to some of the places in the Bible that explain who Jesus is.  I pray that in thinking through these passages for yourself, you too will come to have faith in who Jesus is.

Essential Questions: How does God reconcile with us?

In our last Essential Questions post, we looked at what God wants to give us.  In short, God wants to give us abundant life, making us co-heirs of the eternal kingdom. (John 10:10; Romans 8:17, Revelation 3:21).  But, how does God fix the broken relationship that we have with Him so as to give us this amazing gift of life?  That is what we will examine today.

(c) CanStock Photo http://www.canstockphoto.com/kikkerdirk/
(c) CanStock Photo http://www.canstockphoto.com/kikkerdirk/

The answer is in perhaps the most quoted verse in the Bible – John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish by have eternal life.

God saves us by His grace through his Son, Jesus Christ.

But, who is Jesus Christ?  In Colossians 1:15-26, Paul tries to explain who he is.  Jesus is the “image of God, the firstborn of all creation”.  What does that mean?  It means that Jesus is fully divine.  The word image implies that Jesus is the likeness of his Father – he is God (Hebrews 1:3).  “First-born” signifies that Jesus was not created; he pre-existed the creatures.  In the time in which the bible was written, “first-born” also signified the person who had the leadership and the inheritance.  Jesus rules heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).  Moreover, he inherits the eternal Kingdom (Hebrews 1:2; Revelation 3:21).

More than that, Jesus is also fully human (Hebrews 2:14-17).  He took human nature upon himself. (Phil. 2:5-8).  It was in his human body, and the shedding of his blood on the cross, that he fixed our broken relationship with God and allows us to receive the wonderful gifts that God has for us.

Essential Questions: Can we mend our broken relationship with God?

The last Essential Question that we looked at was how does sin affects us.  Sin separates us from God and destroys our relationship with Him.  Sin brings us into a place a place empty of God’s love.  A place controlled by things that do not bring eternal joy.

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Image courtesy of cuteimage at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So, God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.”” (The Message, Romans 1:21-24)

We have fooled ourselves into thinking we are happy and can make ourselves happy, but the reality is, we cannot.  In effect, we are miserable and have no hope without God.  We are slaves to sin, whether we want to admit it or not (John 8:34).  When we are ready to admit we are miserable, then we start to consider how to fix our relationship with God.  We want to restore our relationship with God our creator to experience the contentment that it can bring in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11).  Is this something we can do ourselves?

Short answer:  No.

Sin skews our view of the world and of our life.  It takes over how we think and how we act.  We like to believe that we are self-sufficient and in control.  In this instance, we are not.  Only God can build the bridge to us that mends our broken relationship.  Only God can save us from the human condition and from sin.

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Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t believe me?  Consider the bible passages below.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)

Next week will begin Holy Week.  A time in the church year when we turn our hearts and minds to the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross in order to fix our relationship with God.  Have you accepted that amazing sacrifice?  Are you still trying to mend the broken relationship through your actions? Trying to win God’s favour through what you are doing? This Holy Week and Easter Sunday focus on what Jesus has done for us.  Turn away from the desire to believe we can fix everything ourselves and meditate on what it means to have God come looking to save us.