Sermons Blog

Welcome to our "Sermon" blog


You need never miss another sermon again, as every week they will be uploaded on to this Blog page.


And even if you do not regularly attend either of our Churches; in St Peter's Rhoose, or St Curig's Porthkerry, on this page you will find out what we learn each week: About the meaning of our bible readings, how we can better understand them, and how we can live our lives closer to God.

By porthkerryandrhoose, May 9 2017 10:26AM

If I asked you to describe Jesus, I wonder what words you would use? What’s your image of him? I hear a lot of talk about approaching situations in the way Jesus would, but often they seem to be based on a very limited view of him: the Sunday school ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild.’ And he ends up being a bit like a cross between a jolly grandfather and Santa Claus: benign, smiling indulgently no matter what his children get up to. It’s a comforting picture, but one which ultimately lacks any power or authority at all. Is this really the Jesus we see in scripture? Even a quick look into these starting chapters of John’s gospel shows us that it couldn’t be further from the truth.

The last time we were in John’s gospel, we saw Jesus behaving with generosity and kindness towards a couple whose wedding was going disastrously wrong. They had run out of wine and Jesus stepped in to turn gallons of water into the very best wine. It was an exciting and memorable day. But straight away, John tells us a very different story. We know that he has deliberately moved this event to the beginning of his gospel as the other 3 gospel writers very firmly place it during holy week. Why has he done it? Let’s look at the passage together.

It was Passover time and Jerusalem would have been buzzing with visitors. Everyone wanted to be in the city for the festival and to make their sacrifices in the temple. Jesus went too, but when he stepped into the temple he was horrified at the sight which met his eyes. Instead of people having time and space to worship God, the temple courtyard was filled with people and oxen and sheep and pigeons. Money changers were sitting at their stalls, and the whole area looked like a busy market place. Jesus was angry. So angry in fact that he made a whip out of cords and drove them out of the temple. He upturned the tables and scattered the coins of the money lenders. It was a dramatic scene. Can you imagine the noise? Shouting, bleating, squarking, clattering. And Jesus said to those who sold the pigeons “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” This is no mild, accepting, ‘let’s talk about it’ Jesus. Jesus was angry. Now at some level we do understand righteous anger. When something terrible happens, like refugee children being sold into the sex trade or their bodies harvested for organs, we get angry. And if someone we know isn’t angry about it, we begin to wonder if something is wrong with them, if they have a heart for others at all. It is right to be angry about wrong doing, though of course we have to be very careful about how we deal with that anger. If it’s right for us, how much more is it right for God to be angry about the wrong things in the world. What sort of a God would he be if he just carried on smiling kindly while bad people terrorised others? Not the sort of God I would be interested in following, anyway. Jesus was angry. But the big shock in this passage is that Jesus didn’t direct his anger towards the ‘sinners’ in the big bad world outside. He directed it towards the religious people. What was going on?

From the days of Moses, God had always had a special place where he would meet with his people. In the desert it was the tabernacle, in the city the temple. Though he was so holy that only the high priest got to go into the area closest to him, the holy of holies, the rest was set aside for the priests and then the ordinary men and women to draw close to him. It was a special place where the presence of God rested. It was a place for sacrifice, for worship, for simply being with the God who had made them. But religion had taken over. Animals which had to be perfect to be offered to God were only deemed perfect if they were sold by one of the temple suppliers. The money for offerings couldn’t have caesar’s head on it, as it was a graven image, so the people had to pay their dues in temple money exchanged at a price. So rather than a humble meeting with God, the temple became a place of spiritual and financial transaction. People couldn’t come and worship God unless they were able to pay and had jumped through the priests’ hoops. It was a terrible twisting of God’s laws which shut people off from him. No wonder Jesus was angry.

As the disciples watched the events, they remembered the words of a psalm “Zeal for your house will consume me”. It’s Psalm 69, a psalm of David. It was one of the psalms which pointed forward to the Messiah, the king whom God would send. And they made the connection. This cleansing of the temple as we call it, was a prophetic act by God’s own king.

But it was more than that too. The clue is in what happened next.

“18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”

The disciples weren’t the only ones who knew that Jesus wasn’t some crazed madman on a rampage. “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” The Messiah would have a way of proving who he was. Jesus’ answer was perplexing “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” Unsurprisingly, the Jewish leaders replied “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, how could you build it in 3 days?”. I’m with them: it’s taken us over a year to try and get St Curig’s limewashed even! But of course he wasn’t talking about the physical temple. Jesus was telling them something far more profound. John, with the benefit of hindsight and the Holy Spirit’s guidance explains it to us “But the temple he was speaking of was his body”. Jesus’ dramatic act in the temple did more than shake up the corrupt practices in the temple; it pointed to a far more important truth: Jesus was going to be the new temple. Instead of going to a physical place to meet with God, after the cross and resurrection, people need only go to Jesus to meet with God. He is the mediator and advocate, the Word made flesh. Right at the start of his gospel, with two dramatic events, John is showing us two important truths about Jesus: he is the new wine of the kingdom, bringing in the Messianic age and he is the new temple, the new place to meet with God.

This was so monumental, that the Jewish leaders didn’t get it and the disciples only understood after Jesus’ life and ministry had unfolded. But we have the benefit of their understanding, and it changes everything. No longer do we have to worry about which bits of the church are ‘holy’ or whether it’s right to have teas and coffees in church. The house of God is Jesus, and that gives us a far more important challenge. How do we respond to him? The disciples believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken (v21), but others had a far more superficial response. They saw his signs and believed, but the faith only lasted as long as the exciting signs continued. Jesus wouldn’t entrust himself to them because he knew what was really in their hearts. What is in your heart? Are you trusting in Jesus as the word made flesh, the place to meet with God, or do you only trust him while he’s reassuring you with signs?

So a dramatic and challenging reading from John this morning, but one which acts as a vital corrective to us. Wrongdoing and sin makes Jesus angry, especially if it’s happening within the church, and stopping people from meeting with him is particularly serious. This same Jesus has the authority to speak on these matters because he isn’t just a teacher or a prophet, he is the Word made flesh, the new temple, the place where we meet with God. Not gentle Jesus meek and mild, but someone far more important. How do you respond to him?

By porthkerryandrhoose, May 9 2017 10:21AM

Every so often a new piece of information is discovered which changes the way we understand things. A quick search of the internet shows new discoveries in genetics, archaeology and vulcanology which completely change the received understanding of how early humans lived, how the body works and how the earth functions. Sometimes discoveries like this are merely interesting; other times they change everything.

In our journey through John, we've already seen Jesus overturn the tables on religious practice. In today's section we see him teaching something which overturns the whole understanding of who is in God's kingdom, or in simpler language, who gets to heaven. But far from it being new teaching, we'll see that the evidence was there the whole time.

Let's look at the reading together. We're going to begin by asking the question 'what type of people get to heaven?'

If you'd have asked a Jew that question at the time of Jesus, he would have said 'a Pharisee'. They were the ones who made sure they were always at the temple or synagogue, they knew the law well and they kept it perfectly. They were the good guys. And of the good guys, you couldn't get better than Nicodemus. Not only was he a Pharisee, he was also on the ruling council. It's hard to find an equivalent in Christianity, but he'd be the one at every church event, volunteering with the refugees and representing his deanery on the Governing Body. After the events in the temple he comes to see Jesus. The upright Jew, visiting the radical, checking him out, maybe to bring him back in line. Not unexpected, you might think. But John gives us a clue that all is not as it seems. v2 "He came to Jesus at night." At the very least, making an official visit at night would be unusual. It could be an indication that Nicodemus has come for another reason, off his own bat and doesn't want to be seen. Perhaps Jesus is already toxic for the establishment. But there's also something else going on here. John, in his gospel, contrasts light and dark. Light is where Jesus is, dark is where the bad stuff is. Nicodemus is very much in the dark. His opening question, though it sounds good, seems to be heading towards a 'but': v2 "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him" and Jesus responds almost before he's finished, with a quite astonishing statement v3 "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." It's like saying 'Nicodemus, everything you've achieved so far is nowhere near what you need for my kingdom. You need to rub it all out and start again'. There's no chance of a patch up job, work a bit harder, do a bit better. The only option is to start again. The message is: even the best of the best isn't good enough. This is staggering. It was hard to take in then and it's hard to take in now, in a world where we are taught from our earliest days that being good and working hard is the way to success. Even Nicodemus, the top religious man, had to start his life again from scratch; be born again.

Understandably he questions Jesus v4 "How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born?" It sounds like he's being a bit facetious. Obviously a grown man can't go back to being a baby in the womb. But if it's not a physical birth Jesus is talking about, what is it? He explains v5 "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit." The new birth is a spiritual birth. Human parents can only give birth in a physical way, but God gives us birth in the spirit. After all, it's not our physical body which is the problem.

Nicodemus is still puzzled. 'How can this be?' v9, so Jesus gives him a gentle reprimand "You are Israel's teacher, and you do not understand these things?' Though his religion didn't teach it, Nicodemus should have known because it was there in the scriptures all along. Ezekiel 36:26-27 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you." All those centuries ago, God had promised that he would come and change people's stony hearts into hearts of flesh. He promised his Spirit. Nicodemus should have known. He was the teacher of Israel. We should know too, even more clearly than Nicodemus, because we have had Jesus' words in our scriptures to read all of our lives. Yet don't we often see things just as Nicodemus? Be good, go to church, work hard and we'll probably be OK, we hope, fingers crossed? Yet Nicodemus, the best of the best needs to start over, so where does that leave the rest of us?

It brings us to another question: 'Who then can go to heaven?' If the Bible teacher, all round good guy can't, who can? Jesus' answer is simple: anyone can, through him. v13-15 "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” The precedent was all there in scripture, in Numbers 21:4-9

"They [the Israelites] traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[c] to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

But now, rather than a snake on a pole being the focus of salvation, it will be Jesus, through the cross. Not our own goodness or hard work or piety, but Jesus. And this is wonderful news, especially for those of us who know we're not good enough and feel it deeply v15 "everyone who believes may have eternal life in him."

In case we have missed it, Jesus spells it out in one of the most famous verses in the Bible: John 3:16 " For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." God doesn't sit in heaven weighing our good deeds against the bad like the ancient religions believed. He isn't calculating the karma of our actions. God loves us so much that he gave his son for us. The God who rightly brings the judgement also sends the saviour.

We live in a world that is very quick to condemn. Someone makes a mistake in public life and they are hounded. The internet and social media mean that nothing can ever be forgotten or wiped clean. We think that God is like this too. Yet v17 "For God did not send his son in to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Living a life without God at the helm sets our lives on a certain trajectory. If we are living for ourselves, whether that's a hedonistic lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll or one where we've never done anyone any harm, the road leads away from God's kingdom v18 "whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only son". The salvation is there, like a rubber ring bobbing next to the arm of the drowning swimmer, and if it's not taken the consequences are severe. But the way to God's kingdom is there, it's through Jesus, and it's open to all.

Did Nicodemus respond? We’re not told, but when we see him standing up before the Jewish council and speaking in Jesus’ favour (7:50) and then when we see him helping Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus’ lifeless body (19:39), I think we know. The bigger question, though, is what will you do? You can float around the things of God, you can be interested, you can be a good person, but if you don't start your life again with Jesus and let God bring you to new birth in the Spirit, you are still on the path away from God. You are loved so much that Jesus died for you. Will you believe in him and take your place in his Kingdom?

By porthkerryandrhoose, Mar 7 2017 05:13PM

Have you ever served on a jury? Have you watched episodes of ‘Judge John Deed’ or ‘Law and Order’? Have you read any courtroom dramas? If you’ve done any of these, you may well have admired the skill of the barrister in presenting his or her case. Each lawyer makes an opening statement, then in turn, the lawyers for the prosecution and defence present their evidence to the jury. Finally, each lawyer makes a final attempt to persuade the jury of the defendant’s guilt or innocence in a closing speech. John, our gospel writer was a fisherman. Yet in his presentation of the good news about Jesus, he uses many of the techniques of a Queen’s Counsellor. In fact, we might even call him John, Son of Zebedee KC, because he presents the case of Jesus the King of kings.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been examining John’s opening speech, where he sets the scene, making bold statements about who Jesus is. He introduces his first witness, John the Baptist – the man who pointed the way to Jesus ‘Look, the Lamb of God’. He also introduces six other witnesses: Andrew, Simon Peter, James, John, Philip and Nathanael, men who become Jesus’s disciples and through whose eyes we watch the story of Jesus unfold. Last week, we heard a statement from Jesus himself: that his disciples – and we – will see great things (1: 50). This week, we hear John beginning to present his evidence of the great things that Jesus spoke about. Our scene is a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Mary, Jesus’ mother is there, as are Jesus and the six disciples. John presents us with three pieces of evidence: Mary’s belief that Jesus can help spare the bridegroom’s social faux pas in not providing enough wine; Jesus revealing himself as the loving Son of a God of love and as the Messiah; and his outpouring of generosity in providing the best wine. We’ll look at each of these in turn.

Firstly, we have Mary’s belief in Jesus’ ability to help. It would seem that Mary knows the family hosting the wedding. She is aware that the wine has run out, something which would not yet be generally known because of the social shame this would bring on the family; and she is able to give instructions to the servants. In the conversation between Mary and Jesus in vv3-4 we see that Mary believes that Jesus is able to help. She doesn’t specify how she thinks he can help but she wants him to do something. However, Mary hasn’t realised that Jesus’ actions are guided by God and not the requests of humans. Jesus tells her ‘My hour has not yet come.’ He’s talking about the time when God’s glory will be revealed in his death and resurrection. He is working to His Father’s timetable, not Mary’s or anyone else’s.

Have you ever tried to impose your own agenda or timeframe on God? Have you asked him for something and given him a deadline? We don’t know the entirety of God’s plan for us, or for the world. We don’t know his timeframe. We may feel that God hasn’t answered our prayer. We have reassurance from Jesus though: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). We can only trust that God will act in his own time.

John’s second piece of evidence is that Jesus reveals himself as the loving Son of a God of love. This occurs despite Jesus saying that his hour has not yet come. When Jesus turns the water into wine, it isn’t a public act in front of the entire wedding feast. The only people who are aware that anything has happened are Mary, the disciples and the servants. He acted to save the wedding couple’s families from the shame of not providing enough wine for the celebrations. This meeting of human need demonstrates his love and God’s love to those who witness the miracle and particularly his disciples, who ‘believed in him’ (v11). That the miracle involved wine also meant that Jesus was revealing himself as the Messiah to his disciples. They would be familiar with the prophecies in Scripture which heralded the age of the Messiah. Amos foretold that in this time ‘new wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills’ (9:13) and Isaiah spoke of a banquet of aged wine … the finest of wines’ (25:6). So, when they saw that the water in the jars had turned to wine, they would have understood the significance of the act.

How well do you know the Bible? Do you have the same understanding of the Bible as the disciples? Of course, we have the benefit of their witness and we know that Jesus is the Messiah. The Bible contains many messages for us today too. It tells us how to live and how not to live; it brings words of comfort; and it gives us a vision of how life will be when Jesus returns. A good understanding of the Bible will deepen our faith, as we deepen our relationship with the God who speaks through it. Faith is the same as any academic discipline, or indeed leisure activity, in that in order for it to grow, it needs to be nurtured. We can nurture our faith through regular and careful reading of the Bible and meeting and sharing with others to do so.

John’s third statement demonstrates Jesus’ generosity. Imagine being at a restaurant for a meal. Throughout the evening, you’ve been drinking the house wine. Conversation is flowing and the bottle is empty, so you decide to order another. When the waiter brings the bottle, it’s not the house wine but a bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pâpe (other fine wines are available)! This is what the guests at the wedding in Cana experienced. Jesus doesn’t just provide more wine, he provides the best wine. He does more than was needed. In verse 10 we see the surprise of the master of the banquet after he has tasted the wine and he says to the bridegroom, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’ We saw earlier that few people at the feast knew what Jesus had done. The master of the banquet ‘did not realise where the wine had come from’ (v9). He gave credit for the fine wine to the bridegroom.

How many times have you overlooked Jesus’ generosity? How many times have you given credit to someone, or something else. It’s easy, when something wonderful has happened, to say that we’ve been lucky or had good fortune or that fate has been kind. All too often, we don’t discern the love and generosity of the God who loves to give.

John’s closing statement is as we saw earlier, that the disciples believed in Jesus after he revealed his glory in this first sign (v11). After all, only God could have made such a transformation. We also saw how the sign fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament. However, this same sign also points to Jesus’ return in glory – when he will draw those who believe in him to dine with him at his Father’s great banquet in the world to come.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Many people think of Lent merely as a time to give things up, to declutter or detox. However, Lent is much more than this. Lent is a time of repentance, when we remember our sin and asked to be cleansed from it through Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, this Lent, let us repent of the times we gave God a deadline, or asked for something in our time rather than his. Lent is also a time of growth. It’s a time to nurture our faith and relationships. So, let us deepen our understanding of the Bible, spend more time in prayer and meet together to share love, fellowship and faith. Lent is a time for renewal or restoring too. It’s an opportunity to renew our relationship with God, to give thanks for all that he gives and to recognise his hand on our lives. So, let us remember not to credit luck or fate for the good things in our lives but to recognise and give thanks instead to God, the most generous giver. Finally, and most importantly, Lent is a time when we turn, as Jesus did, towards Jerusalem and think about the events that occurred there that form the cornerstone of our faith – Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Lent is a reminder that following Jesus isn’t easy. It’s uncomfortable and challenging. In future weeks, we’ll be looking at the challenges Jesus sets as he invites us to follow him. Are you ready to accept those challenges?

Let us pray

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you revealed your glory to your disciples through signs and miracles and that these were recorded so that we too might believe in you. We’re sorry for the times we’re too impatient and want you to act in our time not yours. We pray that you will continue to reveal yourself to us in the Bible, so that we can grow in faith. We pray also that we will always recognise your hand on your lives and thank you for it. Help us to be ready for the challenge of following you, today and every day. Amen.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Feb 28 2017 09:04AM

Shorter due to announcement about children and communion.

This week has been a frustrating one. The Electoral College of the Church in Wales met in Llandaff Cathedral to decide who our new bishop will be. They went in after a eucharist on Tuesday morning and we waited anxiously to see who they would appoint. Tuesday passed, and nothing. Wednesday passed, and nothing. Thursday passed, and nothing. No one was appointed. The most frustrating thing? We couldn't see what was going on, and our only source of information were the rumours and jokes going around Facebook. Guesswork and speculation.

Thanks to our apostle John, we aren't working on guesswork and speculation when it comes to Jesus. If you remember back to last week, John presented people to us who saw and heard and passed on what they discovered to us. Here in the final verses of chapter 1 there is even more to see. Seeing is the thread running through our verses. We have the invitation to come and see, the surprise at already having been seen and the wonderful things yet to see.

The invitation to come and see v43-46. Jesus had called Andrew and John, who in turn had invited Simon Peter, and now Jesus went on to find Philip. Philip needed no extra encouragement. Jesus said 'Follow me' and he did. In fact, just like Andrew, he then dashed off to tell Nathanael "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth!" No fear, no concerns about Nathanael's reaction, just a need to share the good news. Even Nathanael's less than enthusiastic response didn't dampen his enthusiasm "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" It wasn't a time for theological debate or a retelling of the birth narratives. Nathanael needed to see for himself, so Philip issued the invitation "Come and see". That's all any of us need to do to find Jesus. Be prepared to come and see. Don't take what others say, for good or for bad, and there's plenty of bad out there. Come and see. Read the gospel. Meet Jesus. Nathanael did, and he had quite a surprise awaiting him. v47

" 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’

48 ‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you.’

Nathanael had the surprise of his life. The surprise of already having been seen. Our second point. And Nathanael hadn't just been spotted by Jesus. Jesus knew him. I wonder if you've ever met someone and it feels as if you've known them all your life? Maybe a sweetheart or a best friend. There's an instant connection. Now imagine that with bells on. That's what Nathanael experienced. Jesus saw him under the fig tree and looked straight into his heart. The theological debate about where the Messiah had to come from was forgotten. Nathanael came to see, was seen and saw for himself "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." v49. To know and be known by Jesus is the most wonderful thing, and it's an offer Jesus holds out for each of us. It doesn't mean we don't ever have to do any hard thinking, or work out some difficult theological conundrums. It just means that the relationship we have with Jesus is, when it's there, the most important thing, the foundation and springboard for a lifetime, and beyond, of discovery. Do you know yourself known by Jesus?

The chapter ends with a promise: there are wonderful things yet to see. v50&51 "You believe because I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that . . . very truly I tell you. You will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." Jesus had broadened out his audience. The 'you' in v51 is plural. This promise isn't just for Nathanael but for the other apostles and even for us. But what does it mean? Heaven open and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man? It all seems rather odd. It becomes clearer if we know our Old Testament. Back in Genesis 27 Jacob, Abraham's grandson, had just sneakily gained his father Isaac's blessing by pretending to be his brother Esau. Esau was out for his blood, so their mother Rebekah sent him to stay with her brother Laban in Harran. It was quite a journey, and no doubt Jacob was afraid and wondering what the future held. We need to pick the story up in 28:10

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it." Though he had done wrong, God chose to affirm that his covenant would continue through him. The way back to God was there. Now here in John's gospel we discover how people can get back to God. There's no wooden or metal ladder that can get us there. The way back is through Jesus. God's covenant promises will be fulfilled in him.

So a great introduction to the gospel. John has set the scene for us to see Jesus through the eyes of the apostles. To see him and be known by him and see wonderful things with him. Stay with us next week as John begins to reveal the amazing signs Jesus did to show us his claims were true.

By porthkerryandrhoose, Feb 22 2017 02:06PM

3 weeks ago, Rhiannon introduced an earlier bit of John chapter one as being a bit like a game of 'Who am I?', as we build up different pieces of information to discover firstly who John the Baptist is, and then more importantly who Jesus is. In fact the whole of this first chapter of John is like a giant 'Who am I?' game as John gives us titbit of information followed by titbit of information. He started off at the beginning by telling us that Jesus was the Word of God, God himself made flesh; he was life and light. He introduced us to John the Baptist and his 3 'I am nots' - I am not the Messiah, I am not Elijah, I am not the Prophet. He was just the voice. And that voice told us 3 new facts about Jesus: he is the Lamb of God, that great sacrifice who dies in our place, he is the one who takes away the sins of the world, he is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit. And now in today's section we see John the Baptist, the last great Old Testament prophet, handing the baton of the telling on to the first disciples. In these final 16 verses of the chapter we get 6 key nuggets of information, one after another, which join together to give us the full identity of Jesus. The lamb of God v36, rabbi (teacher) v38, Messiah v41, the one Moses wrote about v45, the son of God and the king of Israel v46. As John our gospel writer takes us through the rest of his book he'll give us the evidence to back up those titles. This whole chapter is like a giant introduction.

Let's look more closely at our section for today: v35-42, and we'll divide it into 2 sections: John the Baptist lives out his faith and the disciples discover theirs.

John the Baptist lives out his faith. Actually living out what we believe can be far harder than we imagine. If any of you went away after last Sunday planning to act on what Jesus said about being reconciled to someone who has hurt you, you will know exactly what I mean. Knowing something and doing it are 2 very different things. John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the one God had promised. God himself had shown him. He knew that once he had prepared the way for Jesus, he had to step down. He said it twice in v15 and in v30 "This is the one I meant when I said 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me'". But the reality when it hit can't have been easy. Look at v35 & 36 again "The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by he said "Look, the Lamb of God!" When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus." A rabbi's disciples were close to him. They spent every day together, they ate together, they discussed the scriptures together. The bonds were close. Yet John not only had to point to Jesus, but he also had to watch his disciples turning from him and following Jesus instead. Just because it was right didn't make it easy. In our own church family we have had to say goodbye to Dave and Cath and the family as he embarks on his training for ordination. We know it's for the greater good of the kingdom, but it doesn't make it easy. Following Jesus isn't all about what I want; it's about what God knows to be best. Authentic Christianity involves sacrifice.

John the Baptist lives out his faith, to great sacrifice, and the disciples discover theirs. Andrew and another disciple, who most scholars assume to be John the gospel writer himself, obey John's direction and follow after Jesus. That in itself is significant. They must have heard John talk about Jesus a lot. They were his disciples, so they would have heard him explain his message to many people. But listening on its own isn't enough. I could listen diligently to the firefighter telling me about the importance of fitting a smoke alarm. I could nod and agree at every point in his talk. But unless I go home and fit one, I'm not going to be protected if my scented candle sets light to the curtains while I'm out of the room. Similarly it wouldn't be enough for John's disciples to listen to him telling them about Jesus if they didn't respond when John pointed him out. As they respond, things start to happen. It's the same for us. As we respond to what we discover about Jesus, we find a whole new life with him.

Jesus spots these two young men following him and asks "What do you want?" He never makes assumptions, Jesus, even though he knows what's in our hearts. He likes to hear us say the words, for our own benefit. We'll see Jesus do this on several occasions in the gospel. What do you want? The answer is a little unexpected "Rabbi, where are you staying?" But when you hear the title 'Rabbi', teacher, it makes perfect sense. A disciple would literally sit at the feet of his teacher to learn. They want to go with Jesus, to sit with him and learn. And that's what they do. "Come and you will see" says Jesus. That seeing wouldn't just be in the physical sense of spotting his house. By the time they had spent the day with him, they could see that he was exactly who John said he was, the Messiah (our next title for Jesus).

They've discovered the one God had promised. It's news far too exciting to keep to themselves, and so Andrew dashes off to find his brother Simon. "We have found the Messiah!" and Simon goes with him to see. This is how most people come to faith, brought by a friend or family member to meet Jesus. But John has far more to tell us than a simple lesson in evangelism. Look at Jesus' reaction to meeting Simon in v42 "Jesus looked at him and said 'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas". Cephas, Peter, the Rock. Even before he's said anything, Jesus marks Peter out as the Rock, the rock on which his church will be built (Matt 16:18). God's plan is unfolding. The events surrounding Jesus' arrival, ministry and ultimately death and resurrection aren't random. They are all part of God's plan which he reveals at the right time. That wasn't just how God operated then. It's still how he works today. It's amazing how we can often see his hand in our own lives: as we come to him we realise he's been there, guiding us all along.

So in this first chapter of his gospel, John is setting out his stall for us. Here is Jesus, the Word of God, God himself made flesh, life and light, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit, rabbi (teacher), Messiah, the one Moses wrote about, the son of God and the king of Israel. And here are the first apostles: the ones who have been chosen to see, hear and share the good news with us. John is saying that we can have confidence in them as eye witnesses appointed by God, as we see and hear Jesus through them and share him with others. What's written isn't a cleverly invented set of stories (2 Peter 1:16) designed to hoodwink the vulnerable, but the eyewitness account of people who were there and who were chosen to share what they saw and heard with us so that we too can get to know this amazing Jesus. So come with us on our journey through John. Read ahead, look up the previous sermons on the website, and see what happens as you rediscover Jesus through his word.

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