Night and Day

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
April 28, 2013 – Easter V

Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, Revelations 21:1-6, John 13:31-35

From the book of Acts:
When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.”

From the Revelation to St. John:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
Little children, yet a little while I am with you; you will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going you cannot come.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Have you heard the expression: Night and Day? “Night and Day” was a popular song by Cole Porter. It was written for the 1932 musical play Gay Divorce. It is perhaps Porter’s most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook and has been recorded by dozens of artists. Porter was known to claim, that the Islamic call to worship on a trip to Morocco inspired the song. In this case the expression meant a length of time: He thinks of her night and day; meaning all the time.

It could also mean two opposites. You could have two brothers; one is into sports and the other isn’t. So, you could say that their knowledge of baseball is night and day. It could also represent darkness and light; Satan and Jesus Christ. The expression could also mean the difference between right and wrong.

Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chairman and Republican Vice Presidential candidate said, “Only by taking responsibility for oneself, to the greatest extent possible, can one, ever be free, and only a free person can make responsible choices – between right and wrong, saving and spending, giving and taking.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus was eating with His disciples. Jesus became troubled and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” They all looked at each other and wondered, who it could be. Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Jesus said to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

A dark shadow now fell across the scene as Jesus dealt with Judas, the traitor. It is important to note that Judas was not a true believer. At that hour, Jesus had two concerns: to fulfill the Word of God (John 13:18-30) and to magnify the glory of God (John 13:31-35).

The remarkable thing is that the others at the table with Jesus did not know that Judas was an unbeliever and a traitor. Up to the very hour of his treachery, Judas was protected by the Saviour whom he betrayed. Had Jesus openly revealed what He knew about Judas, it is likely that the men would have turned on him. Remember what Peter did to Malchus when the soldiers came to take Jesus; he cut his ear off.

From the very beginning, Jesus knew what Judas would do (John 6:64), but He did not compel him to do it. Judas was exposed to the same spiritual privileges as the other disciples, yet they did him no good. He chose darkness over light.

Keep in mind that Judas knew what he was doing and that he did it deliberately. He had already met with the Jewish religious leaders and agreed to lead them to Jesus. They wanted it to be in such a way that there would not be any public disturbances (Luke 21:37-22:6). Judas had heard Jesus say, “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born!” (Matt. 26:24). Yet, he persisted in his unbelief and treachery.

The instant Judas was gone, the atmosphere was cleared, and Jesus began to instruct His disciples and prepare them for His crucifixion and His ultimate return to heaven. It was after Judas’ departure that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, something that Judas as an unbeliever certainly could not share. Judas was out in the night, controlled by the prince of darkness, Satan; but Jesus was in the light, sharing love and truth with His beloved disciples. Night and day; what a contrast!

From the human perspective, the death of Christ was a dastardly deed involving unspeakable suffering and humiliation; but from a divine perspective it was the revelation of the glory of God. “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified” (John 12:23).

What did it mean for Jesus to glorify the Father? He tells us in His prayer: “I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gave me to do” (John 17:4). This is the way all of us glorify God, by faithfully doing what He calls us to do. In our Lord’s case, the Father’s will was that the Son die for lost sinners, be raised from the dead, and then ascend to heaven. The Son glorified the Father and the Father glorified the Son (John 17:1, 5).
There would come a time when the Son would be glorified in these disciples (John 17:10), but they could not follow Him at that time. Peter boasted that he would follow the Lord even to death, but unfortunately ended up denying Him three times. One day the believing disciples would go to be with Him, and they would also see Him after His resurrection. But during this time of His suffering and death, it was important that they not try to follow Him.

It is still fresh in our minds of the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. Four people were murdered and countless others were hurt and maimed. Memorial and prayer services were held this past week for the victims; and the important question is “why?”

From the very beginning, man was given the ability to choose right or wrong and man unfortunately chose sin. Judas chose to betray his Lord and Master and set in motion the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Why did these two men and others come to the point of believing that by murdering innocent civilians, would somehow bring glory to their god? And it isn’t just the few who actually carry out the dastardly deeds who sin, it’s also a large number of people around the world who feel that it is justified. This is truly night and day; and Jesus Christ is the light who came into the world to shed light on the darkness. Obviously, darkness still exists; and it will exist until Jesus Christ returns.

Human history begins in a Garden and ends in a City that is like a garden paradise. In the Apostle John’s day, Rome was the admired city; yet God compared it to a harlot. “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). The eternal city of God is compared to a beautiful bride (Rev. 21:9), because it is the eternal home for God’s beloved people.

The first heaven and earth were prepared for the first man and woman and their descendants. God had readied everything for them when He placed them in the Garden. Unfortunately, our first parents sinned, ushering death and decay into God’s beautiful world. Too often man chooses darkness, instead of light. Creation is in bondage and travail (Rom. 8:18-23), and even the heavens “are not clean in His sight” (Job 15:15).

God has promised His people a new heaven and earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified. Jesus called this event “the regeneration” of the earth (Matt. 19:28), and Peter explained it as a cleansing and renewing by fire (2 Peter 3:10-13).

It is difficult to imagine what the eternal city will be like. John characterizes it as a holy city, a prepared city and a beautiful city, as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day.

But the most important thing about the city is that God dwells there with His people. The Bible gives an interesting record of the dwelling places of God. First, God walked with man in the Garden of Eden. Then He dwelt with Israel in the tabernacle and later the temple. When Israel sinned, God had to depart from those dwellings. Later, Jesus Christ came to earth and “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14).
Today, God does not live in man-made temples (Acts 7:48-50), but in the bodies of His people (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and in the church (Eph. 2:21-22).

In both the tabernacle and the temple, the veil stood between men and God. That veil was torn in two when Jesus died, thus opening a “new and living way” for God’s people (Heb. 10:19ff). Even though God dwells in believers today by His Spirit, we still have not begun to understand God or fellowship with Him as we would like; but one day, we shall dwell in God’s presence and enjoy Him forever.

This “new and living way” is open to everyone: Jews and Gentiles. Peter had the task of uniting the converted Jews and Gentiles in the Christian faith. Having fellowship with the Gentiles was a new experience for these Jewish Christians, who all their lives had looked on the Gentiles as pagans and outsiders. Tradition said that a Gentile had to “become a Jew” in order to be accepted; but now Jews and Gentiles were united in the church through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). It was not only a matter of religion, but also of culture; and cultural habits are very hard to break.

Peter had nothing to fear. After all, he had only followed orders from the Lord; and the Spirit had clearly confirmed the salvation of the Gentiles. Peter presented three pieces of evidence: the vision from God (Acts 11:5-11), the witness of the Spirit (Acts 11:12-15), and the witness of the Word (Acts 11:16). Of course, none of these men had seen the vision, but they trusted Peter’s report, for they knew that he had been as orthodox as they in his personal life.

Peter reviewed the entire experience from beginning to end; and, when he was finished, the Jews dropped their charges and glorified God for the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18). The conversion of the Gentiles was God’s gracious work. He gave them the gift of repentance and the gift of salvation when they believed. In later years, God would use the letters of St. Paul to explain the “one body,” how believing Jews and believing Gentiles are united in Christ (Eph. 2:11-3:12).

Christians are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction (Rom. 14-15). Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews, and some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles. This caused problems in the early church, but through love it was overcome.

Jesus left His disciples with two important commandments: first to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. The second is like unto it: to love your neighbor as Jesus had loved them. Love would take on a new meaning and power because of the death of Christ on the cross (John 15:13). With the coming of the Holy Spirit, love would have a new power in their lives.

Jesus said to the people and says to us today: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). He also said: “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36).
Let His light so shine through you, so that others will know Him through you.

Let us pray:
O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Do You Know Me?

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
April 21, 2013 – Easter IV

Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelations 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

From the book of Acts:
But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

From the Revelation to St. John:
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

And from the Gospel of St. John:
“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

I am sure that all of us know about the horrific act of terrorism that was committed last Monday at the finish line of the Boston marathon. Two bombs exploded seconds apart; three people were killed, including an 8 year old boy, and over 170 people were injured. Several people lost limbs and amputations were necessary. The survivors will have to live with the scars for the rest of their lives. A few days later an MIT cop was murdered.

On Thursday, the FBI decided to release photos of the two suspects suspected in connection with the bombings. Within hours of the release, things started to happen. There was a shootout and the older brother, Tamerlan, 26 years old, was killed. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19 years old, escaped. On Friday, the governor imposed a kind of “lock-down” where people in the Boston area were asked to stay in their homes and businesses were asked not to open. After a house to house search in Watertown, with no results, the governor removed the “lock-down” late in the day. As luck would have it, a few hours later, the younger suspect was found and captured alive.
The question on peoples’ minds is why? Why would two brothers who came to America with their families a decade ago turn on their adopted home with a brutal attack on a cherished tradition, the Boston Marathon?

The Tsarnaev family arrived in the United States, seeking refuge from strife in their homeland. They were ethnic Chechens and Muslins, who were persecuted in Kyrgyzstan. The two brothers and two sisters grew up and went to our schools. The older brother was an amateur boxer and thought of one day being on the U.S. Olympic team. The younger brother was on the wrestling team and attended the prestigious Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

The other question is how well do we know our neighbors, our friends, and our family? Most of the people that knew these two young men are in a state of shock and denial. Especially the younger brother; his friends thought of him as well-adjusted, well-liked, smart, funny, a really sweat person, very kind hearted, and a kind soul. His father, who now lives in Russia, thought is younger son was a “second year medical student” though that wasn’t true. Their mother thought they were set up.

There is an expression: “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” You need to delve into the book and read its pages in order to know what the book is all about. What we find in the book can be positive or negative.

In 2011, the FBI was alerted by Russia to the possibility that the older brother, Tamerlan, might be a problem. The FBI talked to him, saw nothing wrong and let him go. They chose to look only at the surface, the cover of the book; and not do any follow up by delving into the pages of his life. They chose not to know him. In the days and weeks ahead, as the FBI and other law enforcement officials delve into the lives of these two men, the truth may come out as to who they really were and why they perpetrated such an evil act.

If I were to ask all of you who is Jesus Christ? I am sure all of you would be able to answer the question. Of course the bigger question is: Do you know Him or just know of Him? How well do you know Him? How often do you delve into “The Book” to find out about Him?

That was the problem in Jesus’ time: Who was He? Was He the Messiah? A few people figured it out, but even His disciples struggled with the truth until after His resurrection. In our Gospel reading today, the Jews were celebrating the “Feast of the Dedication” which takes place in December, near the time of the Christian Christmas celebration. The feast commemorates the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C., after it had been desecrated by the Romans. This historical fact may bear a relationship to the words of Jesus for He had been set apart or dedicated by the Father and sent into the world.

Jesus went into the temple and the religious leaders surrounded Him so that He had to stop and talk to them. They had decided that it was time for a “showdown” and they did not want Him to evade the issue any longer. “How long are you going to hold us in suspense?” they kept saying to Him. “Tell us plainly – Are You the Messiah?”

Jesus reminded them of what He had already taught them. He emphasized the witness of His words and His works. But our Lord went much deeper in His explanation this time, for He revealed to the Jewish leaders why they did not understand His words or grasp the significance of His works: they were not His sheep. From the human standpoint, we become His sheep by believing; but from the divine standpoint, we believe because we are His sheep. There is a mystery here that we cannot understand or explain, but we can accept it and rejoice (Rom. 11:33-36). God has His sheep and He knows who they are. They will hear His voice when He calls and respond.

The lost sinner who hears God’s Word knows nothing about divine election. He hears only that Christ died for the sins of the world, and that he may receive the gift of eternal life by trusting the Saviour. When he trusts the Saviour, he becomes a member of God’s family and a sheep in the flock. Then he learns that he was “chosen…in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). He also learns that each saved sinner is the Father’s “love gift” to His Son.

In the Bible, divine election and human responsibility are perfectly balanced; and what God has joined together, we must not put asunder.

Jesus went on to explain that His sheep are secure in His hand and in the Father’s hand. “They shall never perish” is His promise. The false shepherds bring about terrorism, death and destruction, but the Good Shepherd sees to it that His sheep shall never perish.

The security of God’s sheep is assured here in several ways. First, by definition – we have “eternal life,” and that cannot be conditional and still be eternal. Second, this life is a gift, not something that we earn or merit. If we were not saved by our own good works, but by His grace, then we cannot be lost by our “bad works” (Rom. 11:6). But most important, Jesus gave us His promise that His sheep do not perish, and that His promise cannot be broken.

It is important to keep in mind that Jesus was talking about sheep – true believers – and not counterfeits. The dog and the pig will go back into sin; but the sheep, being a clean animal, will follow the Shepherd into the green pastures.

As you delve into the pages of “The Book,” and read about our Lord’s teaching about His ministry as the Good Shepherd, you will note the threefold relationship to His sheep. He has a loving relationship because He died for the sheep, as well as a living relationship because He cares for the sheep. It is also a lasting relationship, for He keeps His sheep and not a one is lost.

So when the Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a plain answer: Who is He? Our Lord made a statement that He knew would startle His enemies and give them more reason to oppose Him (John 10:30). It was the “plain answer” that the religious leaders had asked for. “I and My Father are One” is as clear a statement of His deity as you will find anywhere in Scripture. This was even stronger than His statement that He had come down from heaven (John 6) or that He existed before Abraham ever lived (John 8:58).

The word “One” does not suggest that the Father and Son are identical persons. Rather, it means that they are one in essence: the Father is God and the Son is God, but the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. He is speaking about unity, not identity.

The Jewish leaders understood clearly what He was saying! He was saying: “I am God!” to speak this way, of course, was blasphemy; and according to Jewish belief, blasphemy has to be punished by being put to death.

Could they have believed? Jesus invited them, urged them, to believe, if only on the basis of His miracles (John 10:37-38). If they would believe the miracles, then they would know the Father, and that would open the way for them to know the Son and believe on Him. It was simply a matter of examining the evidence honestly, delving into the pages, and being willing to accept the truth. But they chose not to know Him as the Messiah.

Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, was commissioned by Jesus to care for His sheep and Peter was faithful to fulfill that commission. He evangelized, taught and encouraged the church in the faith. Peter journeyed to Joppa, a seacoast community. This is the place where Peter raised Dorcas from the dead. This miracle attracted great attention and resulted in many people trusting Jesus Christ. During the “many days” that he tarried in Joppa, Peter took the opportunity to ground these new believers in the truth of the Word, for faith built on miracles alone is not substantial, it’s just the beginning.

In the end times, we are reminded that the Lamb died to redeem people “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The great multitudes, refers to all believers: Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles; all people who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord!

In the heavenly city, all distinctions will cease and we shall all simply be the people of God in glory. But while God is working out His program in human history, distinctions still exist between the Jews, the Gentiles, the church, and the Tribulation saints. We are assured that through the Blood of Jesus Christ, we are saved. No matter what the age or dispensation, God’s way of salvation has always been the same: faith in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Do you know Him? Have you delved into the pages of His Word? If so, then share the Good News of salvation with others! May your book of life, be a witness to His love, His mercy and His grace. As people delve through your book, may they come to know Him through you.

Let us pray:
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. AMEN †

Resurrection Power

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
April 7, 2013 – Easter II
The Sacrament of Holy Communion

Acts 5:27-32, Psalm 150, Revelations 1:4-8, John 20:19-31

From the book of Acts:
“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

From the Revelation to St. John:
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

I have talked to Pastor Howard a few times since his retirement and his move to Florida. He always ends the conversion by saying, “say hello to everyone for me.” He is amazed at how friendly people are down in Florida. It’s a whole different culture down there. He is also amazed at how open the people are about their faith in Jesus Christ; that within a few minutes of the conversation, they will invite him to their church. How do you think that would work up here in New England? How many of us would have the courage to talk to a complete stranger; witness our Christian faith and then invite them to our church?

The news that Jesus was alive began to spread among His followers, at first with hesitation, but then with enthusiasm. Even His disciples did not believe the first reports, and Thomas demanded proof.
But wherever people were confronted with the reality of His resurrection, their lives were transformed. In fact, that same transforming experience can be yours today!

How did our Lord transform His disciples’ fear into courage? For one thing, He came to them. We do not know where these ten frightened men met behind locked doors, but Jesus came to them and reassured them. In His resurrection body, He was able to enter the room without opening the doors! It was a solid body, for He asked them to touch Him – and He even ate some fish (Luke 24:41-43). But it was a different kind of body, one that was not limited by what we call “the laws of nature.”

It is remarkable that these men were actually afraid. The women had reported to them that Jesus was alive, and the two Emmaus disciples had added their personal witness as well (Luke 24:33-35). It is likely that Jesus had appeared personally to Peter sometime that afternoon (Mark 16:7), though Peter’s public restoration would not take place until later (John 21). No wonder Jesus reproached them at that time “with their unbelief and hardness of heart” (Mark 16:14).

His first word to them was the traditional greeting, “Shalom – peace!” He could have rebuked them for their unfaithfulness and cowardice the previous weekend, but He did not. The work of the cross is peace, and the message they would carry would be the Gospel of peace (Rom. 10:15). Man had declared war on God (Acts 4:23-30), but God would declare “Peace!” to those who would believe.

Not only did Jesus come to them, but He reassured them. He gave them proof of His resurrection. He showed them His wounded hands and side and gave them opportunity to discover that it was indeed their Master, and that He was not a ghost.

But the wounds meant more than identification; they also were evidence that the price for salvation had been paid and man indeed could have “peace with God.” The basis for all our peace is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He died for us, He arose from the dead in victory, and now He lives for us. In our fears, we cannot lock Him out! He comes to us in grace and reassures us through His Word.

When Jesus saw that the disciples’ fear had now turned to joy, He commissioned them: “As My Father hath sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21). Keep in mind that the original disciples were not the only ones present; others, including the Emmaus disciples, were also in the room. This commission was not the “formal ordination” of a church order; rather, it was the dedication of His followers to the task of world evangelism.

What a tremendous privilege and what a great responsibility! It is humbling to realize that Jesus loves us as the Father loves Him (John 15:9; 17:26), and that we are in the Father just as He is (John 17:21-22). It is equally as humbling to realize that He has sent us into the world just as the Father sent Him.

It must have given the men great joy to realize that, in spite of their many failures, their Lord was entrusting them with His Word and His work. They had forsaken Him and fled, but now He was sending them out to represent Him. Peter had denied Him three times; and yet in a few days, Peter would preach the Word and thousands would be saved.

Jesus came to them and reassured them; but He also enabled them through the Holy Spirit. God breathed life into Adam, the first man. The breath of God in the first creation meant physical life, but the breath of Jesus Christ in the new creation meant spiritual life. Without the filling of the Spirit, they could not go forth to witness effectively. The Spirit had dwelt with them in the person of Jesus Christ, but now the Spirit would be in them (John 14:17).

As the early believers went forth into the world, they announced the good news of salvation. If sinners would repent and believe on Jesus Christ, their sins would be forgiven! “Who can forgive sins but God only?” The Jewish religious leaders had that correct. What they didn’t understand was that Jesus was the Son of God and that He did have the power to forgive sins.

We as Christians do not have the power to forgive sins. Jesus did not give His disciples the power to forgive sins either. Only God can forgive sins! Jesus Christ died on the cross for the remission of sins; our sins are forgiven; the debt has been paid! Jesus then gives us the authority, as He did His disciples, to be witnesses to this truth! God performs the miracle of forgiveness; we only bear witness to it. If sinners will believe on Jesus Christ, we can authoritatively declare to them that their sins have been forgiven; Alleluia!

By now, the disciples’ fears had vanished. Jesus had appeared before them; removed any doubt; and Jesus had breathed the Holy Spirit on them. They were sure that the Lord was alive and that He would be with them. They had both “peace with God” and the “peace of God” (Phil. 4:6-7). They had a high and holy commission and the power provided to accomplish it. And they had been given the great privilege of bearing the good news of forgiveness to the whole world.

We must not look at Jesus’ disciples and envy them, as though the power of Christ’s resurrection could never be experienced in our lives today. This is why John wrote his Gospel – so that people in every age could know that Jesus is God and that faith in Him brings everlasting life.

It is not necessary to “see” Jesus Christ in order to believe. Yes, it was a blessing for the early Christians to see their Lord and know that He was alive; but that is not what saved them. They were saved, not by seeing, but by believing. The emphasis throughout the Gospel of John is on believing.

You and I today cannot see Christ, nor can we see Him perform the miracles that John and others wrote about. But the record is there, and this is all that we need. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
All of the evidence points to the conclusion that He is indeed God come in the flesh, the Saviour of the world.

Sinners are not saved by believing in miracles; they are saved by believing on Jesus Christ. Many of the Jews in Jerusalem believed on Jesus because of His miracles, but He did not believe in them! Great crowds followed Him because of His miracles; but in the end, most of them left Him for good. Even the religious leaders who plotted His death believed that He did miracles, but this “faith” did not save them.

Faith in His miracles should lead to faith in His Word, and to personal faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Jesus Himself pointed out that faith in His works was but the first step toward faith in the Word of God. The sinner must “hear” the Word if he is to be saved.

Eternal life is not “endless time,” for even lost people are going to live forever in hell. “Eternal life” means the very life of God experienced today. It is a quality of life, not a quantity of time. It is the spiritual experience of “heaven on earth” today. The Christian does not have to die to have this eternal life; he already possesses it in Christ today.

The new covenant was not sealed by the blood of animal sacrifices but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. May we have the resurrection power to be a witness to His love and saving grace. As we come to your most sacred table Lord; we remember Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ; that we are partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood; that this Bread and Wine are signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us, until His coming again.

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Easter mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation; Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


Jesus Lives!

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 31, 2013 – The Day of Resurrection – Easter Sunday

Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; I Corinthians 15:19-26, John 20:1-18

From the book of Acts:
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

From St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I not yet ascended to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Easter Sunday: where we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The resurrection is an essential part of the Gospel message and a key doctrine of our Christian faith. It proves that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that His atoning work on the cross has been completed and is effective. The empty cross and the empty tomb are God’s “receipts” telling us that the debt has been paid. Jesus Christ is not only the Saviour, but He is also the Sanctifier (Rom. 6:4-10) and the Intercessor (Rom. 8:34). One day He shall return to judge both the living and the dead.

From the beginning, the enemies of the Lord tried to deny the historic fact of the Resurrection. The Jewish leaders claimed that the Lord’s body had been stolen from the tomb. This belief was absurd, because how would they have done it? The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers and the stone sealed by an official Roman seal.

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb the next day and found the stone rolled away and the body gone, she also thought someone had stolen the body. Even Jesus’ closest followers, including His disciples, did not understand that Jesus was to be raised from the dead, even though He had told them.

As Jesus began appearing to people, first to Mary, then to the Disciples and then to others; it gradually dawned on these grieving people that their Master was not dead, but alive! And what a difference it made when the full realization of His resurrection took hold of them! For Mary Magdalene it meant moving from tears to joy (John 20:1-18); for the ten disciples it meant going from fear to courage (John 20:19-23); and for Thomas it meant moving from doubt to assurance (John 20:24-31). With Mary, the emphasis is on love; with the ten, the emphasis is on hope; and with Thomas, the emphasis is on faith.

When Jesus first appeared to Mary in the garden, she thought He was the gardener. She asked him: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Then Jesus called out her name, “Mary.” Then she immediately recognized Him, and the realization of the resurrection was revealed and she believed. She turned and said, “Rabboni” My Master, my teacher. She then ran to tell the others as Jesus had instructed her to do.

Did they believe her? No. They had to go see for themselves. They wanted proof. Peter and John ran to the tomb. John arrived first and looked into the burial chamber. What did John see? He saw the grave clothes lying on the stone shelf without any evidence of violence or crime. They lay there like an empty cocoon, still retaining the shape of Jesus’ body.

Peter arrived and went into the chamber. The only way that those linen clothes could be left in that condition would be if Jesus passed through them as He arose from the dead. Then John entered the chamber and looked at the evidence. They both saw and believed!

It seems incredible that the followers of Jesus did not expect Him to come out of the tomb alive. After all, He had told them many times that He would be raised from the dead. Did He not raise Lazarus from the dead?

What kind of faith did Peter and John have at that stage in their spiritual experience? They had faith based on evidence. They could see the grave clothes; they knew that the body of Jesus was not there. However, as good as evidence is to convince the mind, it can never change the life. I sometimes think that the disciple Thomas was given a bad rap. He was the last disciple to see Jesus risen, and thus the last disciple to believe. The fact is, they all didn’t believe until they had physical proof and yet it was Thomas who was given the name of “doubting Thomas.”

Those of us who live centuries later cannot examine the evidence, for the material evidence (the empty tomb, the grave clothes) is no longer there for us to inspect. We probably can’t go down to the local cemetery and see our Risen Lord like Mary did; I am somewhat sure that Jesus is not going to appear before us this morning. But we have the record in the Word of God (John 20:9) and that record is true. In fact, it is faith in the Word that the Lord really wanted to cultivate in His disciples. Peter made it clear that the Word of God, not personal experiences, should be the basis for our faith (1 Peter 1:12-21).

After His resurrection, our Lord did not reveal Himself to everyone, but only to selected witnesses who would share the good news with others (Acts 10:39-43). This witness is now found in Scripture, the New Testament; and both the Old Testament and the New Testament agree in their witness. The Law, the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Apostles together bear witness that Jesus Christ is alive!

Mary not only shared the fact of His resurrection and that she had seen Him personally, but she also reported the words that Jesus had spoken to her. Again, we see the importance of the Word of God. Mary could not transfer her experience over to them, but she could share the Word; and it is the Word that generates faith (Rom. 10:17).

It is good to have faith that is based on solid evidence, but the evidence should lead us to the Word, and the Word should lead us to the Saviour. It is one thing to accept a doctrine and defend it; it is something else to have a personal relationship to the living Lord. Peter and John believed that Jesus was alive, but it was not until that evening that they met the risen Christ in person along with the other disciples.

What is the greatest miracle that God can do for us? Some would call the healing of the body God’s greatest miracle, while others would vote for the raising of the dead. However, the greatest miracle of all is the salvation of a lost sinner. Why? Because salvation costs the greatest price, it produces the greatest results, and it brings the greatest glory to God.

Many of you know that I grew up in the Methodist Church on Moody Street in Waltham. John Wesley was the founder of this Protestant denomination. John was a religious man, a church member, a minister, and the son of a minister. He belonged to a “religious club” at Oxford, England, the purpose of which was the perfecting of the Christian life. Wesley served as a foreign missionary, but even as he preached to others, he had no assurance of his own personal salvation.

On May 24, 1738, Wesley reluctantly attended a small meeting in London where someone was reading aloud from Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. “About a quarter before nine.” Wesley wrote in his journal, “while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” The result was the great Wesleyan revival that not only swept many into the kingdom, but also helped transform British society through the Christian faith.

Jesus left His disciples, and with us, the great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

It was a three stage process for the disciples: first bring the news of Jesus’ resurrection and salvation to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, then to the Gentiles. Jesus died for everyone; He took on the sins of the whole world by His sacrifice on the cross. The third day He rose again for our salvation. Salvation is offered to everyone. But then God, allows us to choose: to believe in Him or reject Him; to choose salvation or death.

I found an article in a Leadership magazine that I would like to share with you:

Little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls. Typical of that age, the children did not readily accept Philip with his differences. But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully. The Sunday after Easter the teacher brought in some Leggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large eggs. Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Back in the classroom, they would share their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion.

After running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether flower, butterfly, or leaf: the class would ooh and ah. Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The children exclaimed, “That’s stupid. That’s not fair. Somebody didn’t do their assignment.” Philip spoke up, “That’s mine.” “Philip, you don’t ever do anything right!” one student retorted. “There’s nothing there!” “I did so do it.” Philip insisted. “I did do it. It’s empty, the tomb was empty!” Silence followed. From then on Philip became a full member of the class.

Philip died not long afterward from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off. At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar not with flowers, but with their teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose egg. The tomb is empty!
Jesus Christ Lives! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Let us pray:
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Crucified, Dead & Buried

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 29, 2013 – Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, John 18:1-19:42

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

The private ministry of our Lord with His disciples has now ended, and the public drama of redemption is about to begin. Man will do his worst, and God will with His very best. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).

Human history began in a Garden (Gen. 2:8ff), and the first sin of man was committed in
that Garden. The first Adam disobeyed God and was cast out of the Garden, but the Last
Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) was obedient as He went into the Garden of Gethsemane. In a
Garden, the first Adam brought sin and death to mankind; but Jesus, by His obedience,
brought righteousness and life to all who will trust Him. He was “obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).

The Apostle’s Creed states it without embellishment: “He was crucified, dead, and buried.” These three momentous events we should understand not only from the historical point of view but also from the doctrinal. What happened is important; why it happened is also important, if you hope to go to heaven.

Pilate delivered Jesus to the chief priests; and they, with the help of the Roman soldiers, took Jesus to be crucified. It was the most cruel and shameful of all punishments.

Crucifixion probably had its origin among the Persians, but it was the Romans who made special use of it. This mode of capital punishment was reserved for the lowest kind of criminals, particularly those who promoted insurrection. Today, we think of the cross as a symbol of glory and victory; but in Pilate’s day, the cross stood for the lowest kind of rejection, shame, and suffering. It was Jesus who made the difference.

Jesus knew what was going to happen; He was fully in control as He obeyed the Father’s will. He knew He was going to die! He was enduring real physical suffering, for He had a real human body. He had just emerged from three hours of darkness when He felt the wrath of God and separation from God (Matt. 27:45-49). When you combine darkness, thirst, and isolation, you have – hell!
Jesus was not murdered in the strictest sense; He willingly gave His life for us. His death was an atonement, not just an example. He actually accomplished the work of redemption on the cross.

His death was voluntary: He willingly dismissed His spirit (John 19:30); He “gave Himself” (Gal. 2:20). He offered Himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45), as a sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2), and as a propitiation for sin (1 John 2:2).

Two groups of people were involved in our Lord’s burial: the Roman soldiers and the Jewish believers. It was not unusual for victims to remain on the cross in a lingering death, so the Jewish religious leaders did all they could to hasten the death of Jesus and the two thieves. However, our Lord was in control; Jesus spoke His last words: “It is finished!” Then He dismissed His spirit at “the ninth hour,” which was 3 pm.

It is remarkable that the Roman soldiers did not do what they were commanded to do – break the victim’s legs – but they did do what they were not supposed to do – pierce the Savior’s side. In both cases, they fulfilled the Holy Scriptures! The bones of the Passover lamb were not to be broken (Ex. 12:46). His side was to be pierced (Zech. 12:10).

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” this meant the whole debt was paid. Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice, in contrast to the imperfect sacrifices that were offered under the Old Covenant. Our Lord’s superior priesthood belongs to a better order – Melchizedek’s and not Aaron’s. It functions on the basis of a better covenant – the New Covenant – and in a better sanctuary, in heaven.

Sin, of course, is man’s greatest problem. No matter what kind of religion a man has, if it cannot deal with sin, it is of no value. By nature, man is a sinner; and by choice, he proves that his nature is sinful.

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we have a gracious invitation: “Let us draw near….Let us hold fast…Let us consider one another.” This threefold invitation hinges on our boldness to enter into the holiest. And this boldness rests on the finished work of the Saviour. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest could not enter the holy of holies unless he had the blood of the sacrifice (Heb. 9:7). But our entrance into God’s presence is not because of an animal’s blood, but because of Christ’s shed blood.

This open way into God’s presence is “new” and not a part of the Old Covenant. It is “living” because Christ “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). Christ is the new and living way! We come to God through Him, our High Priest over the house of God. When His flesh was torn on the cross, and His life sacrificed, God tore the veil in the temple. This symbolized the new and living way now opened for all who believe.

With this in mind let us pray:
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN †