In these verses we see the new Christian community in Jerusalem struggling with the Gentiles new-found reconciliation to God apart from adhering to Jewish ritual purity laws. Peter recounts how he came to a fuller understanding of the new means by which a sinful people are now able to stand in God's presence - by grace, through faith. As we head into a new year, may our time reflecting on this truth encourage us to cultivate a daily closeness to God that accurately reflects the extraordinary reality of our relationship with Him through Christ Jesus.
As Christmas draws near, many of us desire to be with the ones we love. As we mature, it is not the gifts that we look forward to most but the opportunity to be with loved ones. And so we make plans, book tickets, pay outrages prices, we navigate insane traffic and travel great distances to be with the ones we love. Christmas is about God coming near to us. He leaves his heavenly abode and draws near to his loved ones, his beloved. At Christmas, God, who loves us, came to us.
This morning, we finish the Gospel According to John. Without a doubt the resurrection of Jesus is the climax of the gospel. But John keeps writing and tells us about Jesus’ interactions with the disciples after his resurrection. And so in a way, the Gospel of John can feel anti-climatic. But John ends with something very meaningful. He ends with Peter’s redemption. Indeed, these finals verses are very beautiful and precious to those who love Jesus but are oh so painfully aware of our shortcomings and many failures. The gospel of John ends with hope for every single imperfect disciple of Jesus.
John provides us with a succinct yet powerful purpose statement for his gospel as he continued to urge his readers to believe in Jesus. Jesus continued to graciously reveal himself to his disciples and welcome them into fellowship.
Some of the strongest evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the transformation in the disciples themselves. As John records, not all the disciples believed Jesus had resurrected even after they saw and heard the tomb was empty. But this doubt was crucified when Jesus unexpectedly joined them as they fearfully huddled locked in a room. Jesus showed the disciples his hands and side and they believed. Then Jesus commissioned them and sent them to declare the reality and truth of his resurrection, making disciples in His Name and He equipped them to do this by giving them the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament plays a vital role in our understanding of the crucifixion of Jesus, the Lamb of God. John uses the OT as a interpretative tool, a lens through which to understand what is taking place at Calvary. John demonstrates Jesus is our Passover Lamb. There is no other way to be reconciled to God except through the death of Jesus Christ as our substitute. Only by Christ bearing the penalty of sin in the place of believing sinners, is there any hope for any of us. Jesus has satisfied the demands of justice in our place.
The Apostle John wants us to see is that Jesus is subjected to the world's rejection. This is what John has been telling us from the very beginning, from the opening prologue of the gospel, that Jesus came to His own and His own did not receive him. Nevertheless, John wants us to understand that even now, even in the midst of Jesus’ betrayal and trial, all things are going according to God’s plan. John wants us to understand that everything that happens to Jesus and everything Jesus does before Pilate, He does in fulfillment of Scripture.
This Sunday we will participate in Orphan Sunday. Orphan Sunday is an opportunity to join in with churches all over the world in learning about God's heart for the fatherless. This week we will thank God for the ways He is using our church and study Psalm 68:1-10. God has a plan to care for orphaned and vulnerable children and his plan involves us!
This morning is Missions Sunday, a Sunday in which we emphasize the mission of the church. The church is comprised of all those saved by the grace of the Lord, called out of darkness and unbelief and brought to faith in Christ. Having received God's mercy, we have been commissioned to take the hope of the gospel to the nations. God chooses to make his offer of mercy and grace through us.
In these verses John presents us with two very portraits: One of Jesus moving resolutely towards the cross to give his life a sacrifice for sinners and another of Peter, a faithful follower of Christ at an all time spiritual low. These verses stand to serve as a source of great hope and encouragement for imperfect followers of Christ as we are reminded not only of the magnitude of what Christ did for each of but also the kind of people he did it for.