Just How Much Evidence do you Need?

Crime shows on TV have a huge audience. How many versions of ‘CSI,’ or ‘NCIS,’ or ‘Law and Order’ can we watch? Our appetite seems insatiable for them.

There seems to be something about the challenge of piecing together evidence and finding witnesses to a crime that fascinates us.

Of course, it helps that we are watching mostly fictionalised events from the safety of our loungerooms. Everyone wants to see the bad guy get what he deserves.

Might be a bit different if we were the accused. We’d find it much less entertaining then, I suspect. It would be even less entertaining if we were truly guilty of the crime.

But to be accused without evidence, without witnesses, without a ‘body’ or ‘a smoking gun’ is just going to far.

But that’s what Jesus faced in John 5. The Pharisees held an impromptu ‘kangaroo court’ to judge Jesus for being a law-breaker after He healed the man by the Pool of Bethesda.

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Judgment or Life – The Choice is Yours

So, are we saved by grace, or are we saved by our good works? It’s an age-old question.

I can almost hear the shouts, “By grace, of course! How can you imagine anything else?”

Then why does Jesus say in John 5:28-29 “… an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment”?

It seems pretty plain: “… those who have done good… those who have done evil…”

Have Christians got this wrong all this time?

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Jesus Christ is Superior to the Angels

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things” (Revelation 22:8).

Angels are terrifying beings. They are nothing like the cute and cuddly babies with wings that Renaissance art depicts.

They are terrifyingly glorious, and they are terrifyingly powerful. They are truly fearsome creatures.

In fact, they are so fearsome that they frequently have to announce their arrival with “Fear not,” lest the mere mortals they are appearing to fall down dead in terror. 

The angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel with a message, and Daniel was so terrified that he fell on his face in fear (see Dan 8:16-17).

Even the apostle John, who walked and talked and lived with Jesus for 3 years fell down to worship at the feet of an angel. Little wonder, then, that we humans should be tempted to worship and exalt them. 

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Is Jesus Really God?

John 5:18 tells us that “… the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him (Jesus), because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

What a wild claim! Equal with God! What sort of arrogance does it take to claim equality with God? No wonder the Jews – fiercely protective of the ‘oneness’ of God – wanted to shut Jesus up.

Every good Jew knew that God is one – and only one. The verse sometimes known as the ‘Sh’ma’ says it plainly; “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” [Deut 6:4].

There had been plenty in the past who had the audacity to claim to be what they were not – prophets, messiahs, saviours of the people. And each one ended in disappointment at best, captivity and slaughter at worst.

In fact, this desire to be like God goes back a long way. Back to the Garden of Eden, in fact, where the devil enticed Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit with the promise “… when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” [Gen 3:5].

So, for another to come along declaring Himself to not only be the Messiah, but claiming to be equal to God Himself was just going too far for them.

Jesus’ claim that He is God in the flesh is, then, an audacious claim. And it’s a claim that led to His execution as a heretic, a blasphemer, executed like a common criminal.

But in John 5, Jesus not only stands by His claim before His accusers, He ‘ups the ante’ by making more claims to prove His Godhood.

And each claim enraged the religious leaders more.

So, what are some of those claims?

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How Will You Respond To Jesus?

What a fascinating contrast the apostle John provides for us between all the various character in his gospel. He shows us a real mixed bag of people, from all different walks of society.

Rich and poor, respected and outcast, family member and stranger, working class and ruling class, illiterate and educated, friend and enemy.

Each person different from the other in background, experience, nationality, social standing, education, popularity. Truly, Jesus comes for everyone.

But we also see a mixed bag of reactions to Jesus too.

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Exalting Christ

“Christ first, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence – Motto for 1902.”

So reads a small framed panel we have in our entry hall, rescued years ago from an antiques store. Someone – who lives on only in memories and faded photographs and in this inscription – wanted a daily reminder of the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

The author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament writes with a similar thought in mind. So Mike reminded us yesterday as he began a new series looking at this important letter.

Hebrews was written to encourage Christians in a time of trial – a time when the pressure and temptation to abandon their faith seemed almost overwhelming.

That may just make it the perfect medicine for Christians today in the face of the global Coronavirus pandemic and the associated fallout.

So, the author begins the letter by establishing the supremacy – the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ – for his audience.

But why not start with encouraging words like “God loves you and has a plan for your life” or something similar? Why talk about such ethereal things as the nature of Jesus Christ, and His power in creating and sustaining the universe?

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Do You Want to be Healed?

“Do you want to be healed?”, Jesus asked the paralysed man laying by the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:1-16. 

At first glance, it would seem to be a strange question to ask a man who has been paralysed for 38 years. “Are you blind? Can’t you see my condition? Of course I want to be healed!”

But the answer isn’t always thot obvious.

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Is He a Prophet or a Circus Performer?

John’s gospel was written with a very specific purpose in mind: “… 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” [John 20:31].

So, the selection of material that John reports seems to me to be an odd choice in achieving that purpose. We know from John’s own words – and from the other gospels – that Jesus was a miracle-worker without peer.

John himself wrote in the very last verse “… there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

So why would he choose to report only seven miracles? And why would the first two miracles that he reports be ones performed out of sight of all but a tiny handful of people?

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Sowers and Reapers

Every culture has its celebrities – those who stand above the crowd for their abilities and success in their chosen field. They attract attention wherever they go, command respect, and often receive adoration bordering on worship.

In the movie world, there are any number of stars and directors who we would pay to see, and pay even more to have a photo taken with them. Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe, Quentin Tarantino, Clark Gable, Rose Byrne… the list goes on. 

Music, Art, Business, Sport – you name it, there will be celebrities for us to follow and to hang off their every word as if they spoke as gods.

It’s nothing new. The adoration of celebrities seems to be built into our human nature.

Even Christian culture is not immune to a fascination with celebrities. There are plenty of Christian musicians who qualify as celebrities – at least, in Christian circles they do.

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True Food

What’s your favourite food? If you were a prisoner on death row, what would you request for your final meal before execution?

Tough question. I have so many ‘favourites’ that it’s hard to decide which is #1. Corned beef with white sauce, mashed potato and veg, maybe. That would have to be in the Top Ten – maybe even Top Five.

Pumpkin soup with fresh bread rolls to dunk – mmm! A winter wonder. Or Meatloaf with BBQ sauce. Or Spaghetti Bolognese. All simple foods, but all some of my favourites.

What about fried Fritz with homemade tomato sauce, mash and veg? I love that! Takes me back to my childhood. If you have to ask what Fritz is, you betray your lack of ‘South Australianness.’

I sometimes joke that Roast Lamb is God’s favourite food. He seemed to consume a lot of it in the Bible. In fact, He insisted on it whenever someone wanted to approach Him in the Temple. Good choice, God. Roast Lamb and roast veg is hard to go past.

What was Jesus’ favourite food? Lamb with bread and wine was certainly up there. “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” [Luke 22:15].

But there was one food He desired even more…

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