A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

Easter 3

St. John, Book of Kells

Easter 3
Rev. Doug Floyd
1 John 1:1-2:2

During this Eastertide, I am reflecting on how the Apostles were changed after the Resurrection and after Pentecost in particular. The story begins on the day Jesus rises from the dead. We find the disciples behind a locked door, hiding in fear of the Jews.

Last week, our readings pointed to Peter. Jesus suddenly stands amid the trembling apostles. He is alive. He invites them to touch his hands and side. Jesus speaks the word of peace to his beloved friends. Then a few minutes later, He speaks the word of peace again.

Seven weeks later at Pentecost, these trembling men become bold witnesses of the Resurrected One in and through the power of the Spirit. In our first lesson today, Peter and John are called to address the Sanhedrin. The leaders are astonished that these common, uneducated men, speaking with such boldness and knowledge of Scripture.

Now I might point out, that Scripture refers to the Old Testament. At this point, there is no New Testament. The apostles defend the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by quoting the Old Testament Scriptures.

I think Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson might help us to think about the New Testament. He suggests that the writers of the New Testament are bearing witness to a divine encounter with the Risen Christ. The Old Testament, on the other hand, is the story of Israel, God’s Covenant People.

As the apostles write letters, deliver sermons, and tell the Gospel story, they draw upon this story of God’s Covenant People to point to Jesus Christ who fulfills of the covenant story of Israel and has called them personally by His Spirit to bear witness to His Good News for Israel and eventually all the families of the earth.

Our first lesson takes us through the Acts of the Apostles. Throughout Eastertide we will read stories of the original Apostles, the praying community in Jerusalem, and the various leaders who will play a role in the emerging church.

Our second lesson throughout Eastertide will take us through the letter of first John where he is bearing witness to the risen Jesus Christ who has gathered this community and is calling this new family to love God and love one another. John is also responding to people who have left the community because they believe they’ve had a deeper spiritual revelation. They’ve broken fellowship with the community while also denying that Jesus is Lord. In their rejection of the Gospel, John refers to these people as antichrists.

He is instructing this community and exhorting them to continue in the way of fellowship with Jesus Christ and with the community of faith. What we discover in reading John’s Gospel, John’s letters, or the Revelation of Jesus Christ is that John gives us a mature vision of Jesus Christ and His relation with the Father. Just as Peter’s sermon last week revealed his confession of Jesus as the one who fulfills the prophecies of Scripture and who is leading all creation to restoration in God. This week, we encounter John proclaiming Jesus as one who physically resurrected and who is the eternal life of God made manifest.

In all his writing, John sees Jesus as a glorious Word who is in communion with the Father, through whom all things were created, and who stands as the ancient of days judging and guiding His church into all life.

With this in mind, let’s look at what we read in 1 John 1. John opens his letter with a description of Jesus Christ and His relation to John and the apostles. He writes,

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. [1]

Jesus makes the very word of life manifest in the physical world. John says we have seen, we have touched, we have heard, and now we proclaim. Jesus who lives in communion with the Father was made manifest to the apostles. He became a human and dwelt among them.  This is not to say that the apostles understood what was happening. They knew Jesus was sent from God, but the Gospels make clear that they consistently misunderstood who Christ was or what he meant. They are still misunderstanding who he is when they encounter him after His resurrection.

But then by Pentecost, they are filled with the Spirit, are clearly transformed, and bearing witness to Jesus Christ. Notice what John does in these opening verses. He emphasizes that this word of life was with the Father. This is similar to the opening of the Gospel of John.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.[2]

Then also notice how John connects this communion to all creation:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.[3]

The Father and the Son live in perfect communion. Out of this perfect communion, God creates a world that will bring Him glory and that will become our home. We are not simply over and above creation. We are part of creation. So we were created out of the loving communion between Father and Son.

Now we return to 1 John 1:3. John says, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” [4]

The church has done an excellent job and making known that in the cross of Christ, we are brought into communion with God. Even as Jesus has communion with the Father, He has made a way for us to enter the sacred communion between Father, Son, and Spirit.

In 1 John as well as in the Gospel of John, chapters 13-17, we see that this Good News extends to our relationships with others. The cross of Christ has removed the barrier that separates humans. In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes that the cross has removed the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles. John will emphasize that the cross is root of all human relations.

Think about long-term relationships. Maybe marriage or long-time friends. Humans let down one another, We offend one another. We even betray one another. Years ago, I read an essay by Thomas Merton where he talked about the difficulty, we have in sustaining long-term relationship. He encouraged Christians to commit themselves to cultivating long-term relationships where they could begin to discover the meaning of commands like love one another as I have loved you.

I would suggest that what often happens in American Christianity is that people commit to building to friendships and churches for short spurts of time. Think of a hundred-yard dash. I fear Christians thought they were running a hundred-yard dash when in fact they were running a marathon.

John is writing his letter to a community that has suffered from people with short-term commitments. They stayed for a while until something more exciting came along. They turned from the true faith and even tried to persuade others to leave.

John says that if our faith does not take root in loving one another, it is not real faith. Here is a quote from 1 John 2:9-11.

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. [5]

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is calling us to a lived reality of loving one another. Think of it this way. We are living on mission in this culture. Think of yourselves as missionaries. How will this culture know we are on mission from God? In the Gospel of John, we read,

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [6]

Consider yourselves as missionaries in this culture who are proclaiming the reality of God by living in faithful love to one another. This means forgiveness, patience, growing in grace and truth. We can only do this by the power of the Spirit. We are growing up into Christ. At the same time, we are learning the reality of living in faithful love toward the people around by serving, giving, and even considering others better than ourselves.

This is not an invitation to be abused by other but to love faithfully and fully.

John is a living model of Spirit-filled love that transforms us and the world around us. Let us pray that we might also grow up into the reality of faithful lover. John records Jesus prayer in the Gospel of John chapter 17. Listen to this excerpt.

22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” [7]

May the words of Jesus prayer become a lived reality in our lives.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 1:1–3.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 1:1–2.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 1:3.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 1:3.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 2:9–11.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 13:35.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 17:22–26.


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