April 26, 2020

Theresa Gordon – The shock of the New

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“THE SHOCK OF THE NEW”
What do we mean when we say we are in shock? Shock can make us react in certain ways – denial, disbelief, confusion, anger, mood-swings, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, withdrawal from others, feeling sad, disconnected or numb, the list goes on…. The disciples must have felt some or all of these symptoms when Jesus was crucified, BUT they would have also experienced some of these symptoms, mixed with extreme joy, at the news of his resurrection too! “The shock of the new” is difficult to cope with, isn’t it?
I would suggest that the recent Covid 19 virus crisis has created in us a sense of shock as well. The different routines and the lockdown are difficult enough, especially for those who are in vulnerable family situations, or living on their own,but the continuing sad stories of bereavement, trauma, battling infection, lack of resources, job-losses, and hard-pressed key-workers putting their lives at risk for others, do have an effect on all of us, in the long run.
The events of Easter week provided a “shock of the new”, didn’t they? How did the disciples react to those events? Well, there must have been some of the reactions, mentioned at the start of my talk, BUT - and this is what I want to unpack as I begin - Jesus was very careful to help them through the process of “the shock of the new.”As we look at how He dealt with the new situation the disciples found themselves in, perhaps we can think about how our dear Lord can help us through the present crisis as well. (Let’s briefly pray: “Lord, help us now to open our hearts to You, as we read further, consider Your love for Your disciples and for us, and help us to allow Your Holy Spirit in, to minister Your grace and beautiful presence into our hearts”)
LET’S HAVE A LOOK AT THIS, THEN:
1). MARY.
In John Ch. 20: 10-17, Jesus was revealing the most amazing history-changing news, that He had risen from the dead and was alive, and yet He was, at the same time, very gentle with His dealings with Mary, and mindful that she would have been shocked but joyful, and a whole mixture of other emotions too. Jesus only had to gently speak her name, for Mary to recognise who He was, and to reassure her. Jesus knows YOU by name, and wants to do the same with you!
2). THE UPPER ROOM.
The disciples were locked away in fear of the Jews; Jesus came in to the room and imparted His peace to them. (John 20;19). He didn’t just say something like ’cheer up, things will soon be better’, but He took the time to reassure them of His presence, and that He was not a ghost(He ate fish with them: Luke 24;42). Jesus also breathed on them (John 20: 22). An intimate impartation of the Holy Spirit, which was like a special filling of the Holy Spirit for the disciples, a foretaste of what would be made availableto all believers at Pentecost. (Acts 2). This impartation would no doubt help them take in, process, and try to understand all that Jesus would teach them in the forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension (Luke 24: 44-49).

3). THE ROAD TO EMMAUS
The disciples on the road to Emmaus were perplexed, and yet Jesus took the time to allow them to express how they felt and talk it through (Luke 24: 13-24). He then reminded them of how all that had happened had been foretold though the Prophets in the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-35). It must have been reassuring and a revelation, and a joy for these Jewish believers to begin to understand, as Jesus explained how He was fulfilling the O.T. Scriptures, which they honoured, and had been steeped in (Matt 28: 16-20), (Mark: 16 15-20), (Acts 1:3)

3). THE MIRACULOUS CATCH OF FISH
In John Ch. 21 Jesus showed Himself to the disciples, providing them with a miraculous catch of fish, thereby showing His deity, His provision for them, and His desire for fellowship with them, over breakfast. But Jesus was careful to have a special encounter with Peter. Peter must have felt there was ‘unfinished business’ with Jesus, he must have felt such guilt, maybe self-loathing, a sense of real failure at denying Jesus, not once, but three times. Jesus commissioned Peter by asking him three times if Peter loved Him. This was also a way of giving Peter the opportunity to replace the pain of the memory of the three-fold denial with a three-fold affirmation of his calling. Jesus went deep with Peter. Twice Jesus asked if Peter loved Him (‘agape’ in the Greek, meaning sacrificial love), and Peter replied using the word‘philio’, (in Greek, meaning affection, affinity, or brotherly love). Finally, Jesus asked him if Peter loved Him, but Jesus just used the word ‘philio’, almost like saying the third time, ‘Are youmy friend, that’s a start?’ Jesus wanted to ‘be real’ with Peter. He wanted Peter to face His true feelings and really search his heart. Yet, even though Peter’s love was not perfect, not yet perhaps ‘agape’ love, Jesus was ready to entrust Peter with the commission to ‘feed My lambs’. He brought Peter full circle, because He loved him, He knew him, and wanted Peter’s relationship with Him to be restored.
4). THOMAS
Thomas doubted – but Jesus came and made sure Thomas could know, with the same surety as the other disciples, (John 20: 24-28) that Jesus was alive, and He made sure, in the process, that Thomas felt part of, and in unity with, the rest of the disciples. In Matt. 28: 16-20, there is also reference to some disciples doubting. What an amazing way that Jesus reassured them of His authority, and that the disciples would having the assurance and confidence of working under His authority, as they undertook the great commission to go and ‘make disciples of all nations’. Jesus was entrusting them to make known His Gospel to ALL the world, from now on. He also promised that He would be with them: ‘…and lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age’. What trust Jesus had in them! What a commission, and what a promise!
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO US?
How might this resonate with you and me, as we cope with “the shock of the new” in these times of the Covid 19 virus? Before I continue, stop and think….Is Jesus saying something to you about how He can minister to you right now at this time? Let’s take a moment to reflect………, and let these Scriptures sink in. Ask the Lord to highlight which Scriptures He wants you to take in today, or any others He may bring to mind - (and don’t rush this bit……..)
• Do you need the Lord to reach down in your loneliness, as Mary and the disciples may have felt? Jesus wants to speak kind words to you, like Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross in Luke 23: 43, or to look on you with kindness, as when He viewed the crowds with compassion in Matt. 9:36 -see also (Deut 31;6,),(Ps 27: 10), (Ps 68: 5-6), (Matt. 28:20), (Is 41:10), (Prov. 18:24), (Mtt.11: 28-30)
• Do you need Jesus to minister to the fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, like the disciples may have felt? The Lord said that He has plans for our future (Jer. 29:11), doesn’t He, and we know from I John 4: 18, that perfect love (that is, Jesus,) casts out all fear. - See also (Phil 1:6), (Prov. 19:20-21), (Prov. 3 5-6), (Lam. 3 21-23), (Prov. 16: 1-4)
• Is there confusion pressing in, a little like the disciples on the road to Emmaus? Jesus wants us to talk to Him in prayer, and He has much that He wants to say to us. Take that time with Him. This unusual gift of time, which the Lord has given us in this period, gives us an opportunity for Jesus to speak to us through reading the Scriptures, perhaps in a little more depth. Perhaps we could take a theme, or do a word study, or look at a passage or book you have never read before. There may be a difficult passage or book that might challenge you a little more. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had the eyes of their hearts opened to the Old Testament Scriptures in a totally new way, even though they were already very familiar with them!– See also (1 Cor. 14;35), (John 14:26), (John 16: 13)
• Do you feel anxious?Jesus wanted His disciples to know His peace in their hearts.He gave His disciples peace, He will give you His peace too. See also - (John 16; 33), (1Pet. 5:6-7, (Rom 8: 38-39), (2Cor. 1: 3-4), (Ps. 37: 23-24), (Is. 41: 10)
• Do you feel that sadness or depression may be beginning to affect you? Thomas, or the disciples on the road to Emmaus may have felt this too. Also, John the Baptist, when he was perhaps having a moment of doubt in prison, asked Jesus to confirm if He really was the Christ. Jesus encouraged him to look and see what He was doing,in Luke 7: 22. Jesus was reminding Him that He was the Son of God, that He had the power to do miracles, to heal, restore, raise the dead and communicate the Good News to all. The power that is in us, is the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, as it says in Rom. 8:11. Jesus wants to fill us with His Spirit, so that we are empowered, but also filled with His joy, as in Acts 13:52. Ask Him for a fresh infilling of His spirit, right now!– See also (Phil. 4:8), (Ps. 40: 1-3), (Ps. 3:3), (Ps. 42: 11), (Rom. 8: 38-39), (Ps. 147:3). (Matt. 11: 28-30)

• Do you feel that you have let Jesus down, somehow, or guilt is pressing in on you, as Petermust have felt? Remember that if we do sin, we can lay hold of the promise in I John 1:9 that ‘if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. We confess what we have done wrong, ask His forgiveness and HE WILL CLEANSE US FROM IT. We may not FEEL forgiven, straight away, but we need to believe His promise that He has, indeed, forgiven us– after all, He died on the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins. Don’t keep revisiting it, or brooding over it. Beware of false guilt, too, that can be laid on us so easily – a generalised, non-specific heaviness, which does not lead us to repentance, but just keeps our eyes focused on our problems or ourselves, instead of Jesus. Jesus is interested in restoration – yes, we need to be honest with Him and say sorry when we have messed up (sinned), but then His desire is to release us into new life with Him, not keep us trapped in a ‘yoke of slavery’. As it says in Gal. 5: 1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”. This is referring to the slavery of sin, primarily, but I think it can maybe be applied to false guilt, as well.– See also–(John 3:17), (Is. 1:8), (2 Cor. 5:17)
• Do you feel that you are far away from Jesus? Again, it’s possible, like Thomas, that you need a fresh vision of Him. You may need to feel close to Him, that He cares for you as an individual, and that He is indeed alive and able to do His Kingdom work in you and in this world. You may feel distanced from your brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are all, I am sure, missing actually seeing each other (- even though some of see each other over ‘Whatsapp’ fairly regularly, it’s still not quite the same, is it?-) Let us not forget that we are ALL part of His body, so we belong to Him but also TO EACH OTHER. We are reminded in
I Cor. 12: 12-27, that we are all part of the one body – See also (Ps. 110:3), (John 10: 2-28),
(I Cor. 6:19), (2 Cor. 1: 21-2), (Gal.3:28), (I John 3:1),(1 John 4:4)
• And finally, do we need to restore a relationship? Peter needed his relationship to Jesus to be restored, but perhaps didn’t really know how to go about it. He was maybe left feeling that it was too late, there was nothing he could do to change the situation? Perhaps the only thing he felt he could do, was to go back to his old way of life, and do what he did before - his fishing.
Do you feel that you have strayed too far away from Jesus, and that there is no way back? Have you almost given up on ‘feeling close’ to Jesus, maybe through something, or several things, which has gone wrong, or which you have failed in. You might as well go back to your old ways…? Please let me remind you of the prodigal (or ‘lost’) son. He only needed to make a decision to come back to his father, and start on the road back, didn’t He? His father did the rest. It says in Luke 15:20(b), that ‘he RAN to his son, THREW his arms around him and KISSED him. What a response! What love was LAVISHED upon him. That’s the love which He wants to lavish on YOU. It says in Ps. 18:19 ‘He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.
Jesus wants, as He did with those early disciples in that period of huge change, to minister to YOU in this present period of change and shaking. To minister to you in this “shock of the new”

TO CONCLUDE.

I want to briefly look at Revelation 3:20 - “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will dine with him, and he with me”. The Laodicean church, which was being addressed in this passage, was complacent and rich, and they didn’t have Christ’s presence within them. It is a WARNING to us and every church, that we can easily in ‘normal’ times, shut the Lord out of our lives because we are too busy, worldly or preoccupied. But it can happen in lockdown too. Other things can still take priority, we can be preoccupied with worries, fears oror even ‘doing things’ in our ‘new normal’ routines.
We need to honour and treasure the Lord’s presence in our midst always, either in lockdown on our own, or when we are back together, as a church.
The Lord has much that He wants to minister to us during this lockdown period – just Jesus and you, Jesus and me! You may be ‘locked in’ at this time, but DON’T LOCK HIM OUT’. Revelation 3: 20 is an invitation to His church – you and me! The precious Holy Spirit, given by the Lord at Pentecost completely transformed the disciples from the believers whom we see immediately after the death and resurrection of Jesus, into those we see, as the early church, filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. That’s how we want to be as well, isn’t it?
We would love, in the natural, to have someone dine with us during this period of isolation! Well, here’s an amazing invitation from our Lord, in Revelation 3:20, to let Him into our lives afresh. What an adventure awaits us this week! Expect great things – and He will empower us to encourage, strengthen, embolden, comfort, come alongside, have compassion for, and share the wonderful truths about our Lord, found in the Scriptures, with others, as we allow the Spirit to fill us anew!

God be with you and protect you all,
Theresa