The coat of hiding

 

John 19 v5-7

“He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.”

As a child we are taught very early on how to hide. In fact the game hide-and-seek is one of the first games we are taught.

By the time we have reached adulthood we have mastered how to hide. We use it for all kinds of settings when it is needed. We have found we can hide our emotions. We can also hide where we have failed.

Why put a coat on when you have to jump in the water to run to shore 100 yards away? It will become heavy with the water and slow you down. Unless of course that coat was Peters pathetic way of covering up. The denial was still at the forefront of his mind and Jesus has not discussed this, in fact no one has talked about it since it happened. He just carries the failure in his life.

What did Adam and Eve do when they heard God’s footsteps? They dived for cover.

The accuser will always convince you to cover up.

There are many professional Christians pretending to be what they are not.

What are people seeing today? Is it true? Eventually make-up always runs. Are you trying to fit in? Who do you want people to see? Is you not enough? Eventually if you pretend enough you forget who you really were underneath that mask.

He knows. He knew where Adam and Eve were. He knew what was going on inside Peter’s mind. He knows you and me.

 

Simba

John 21 v3

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”

 

The whole world can be in a party, looking to the future but you can still be gripped with the failure of the past.

We know that post-lockdown some businesses will no longer be there. They were struggling before and they never made it through the lockdown. Not everyone that goes into the wilderness comes out. It is possible that when restrictions are eased and everyone is advancing again that we find some people will have already retreated.

 

Jesus has yet to say anything to Peter about his denial though he had met him a few times since the resurrection. Can you imagine what is going on in his mind? The embarrassment of his failure must have weighed heavy in his heart.

 

In the film Lion King – Simba, a young lion cub is the son of the powerful king of the Pride Lands. His father is killed trying to save Simba from a stampede of buffalo. The truth is Simba should not have been where he was when he was saved. Overwhelmed by guilt for his father’s death he is then confronted by Scar, his wicked uncle. Scar accuses Simba and exposes his shame. Simba cries out, “What shall I do?” The reply seemed the only thing he could do, but it was a message from hell “Run away, Simba, run away and never come back.” This young lion, born to be king, wanders off into the loneliness of exile, never to experience his inheritance, never to know true life again.

 

Let’s become fishermen again. Let’s go back to what we were before we met Jesus. Let’s return to what we know.

 

People have always run away from where they should be.

Hagar ran because Sarah was jealous of her illegitimate son Ishmael.

Moses ran because he was afraid of Pharaoh finding out about his murderous act.

Jonah ran because God asked him to do something that he couldn’t do.

For every kind of reason people find themselves running away.

They do it get geographically but more and more people do it thinking no one can see, for they run away from things that are private, from devotion to God, from enthusiasm for witnessing, from energy for worship, they back away from fellowship that’s too vulnerable. And yet even though they think only they know, the truth is eventually everyone knows.

Peter who replied when Jesus asked ‘Who do you say I am?’ “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”

Peter who promises “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Now says “I’m going out to fish.”

What about you?

Has the devil declared over your life “Run away, run away and never come back”? Running away because of people’s unkindness, running because of fear, running away from obedience, running because of guilt of your past failure.

It is possible to remain in the same place but have left a long time ago.

If that is you then don’t run anymore. Come back. There’s a man on the shore waiting for you.

Back to work

 

John 21 v1-4

 

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus.”

Here are 7 disciples hanging around in their post-resurrection blessing.

Things are not the same. What are they meant to be doing now? Their master was always with them but now He shows up when He wants to.

Peter went back to work. He went back to what he knew. “We can fish. Let’s fish.”

Are you one of those going back to work this week?

Type ‘back to work’ into Google and you can read websites dealing with:

What was it like for those who had to?

Shall I return to work? Your rights …

Do I have to go back to work after lockdown?

It may not be work but you will soon be going back to something that you once had or did.

There is much posturing on what life will be like post-lockdown living in a world with a virus which has yet no vaccination.

There are things we would run back to very quickly and perhaps some things we wouldn’t want to go back to.

Unless Jesus returns the world will most probably return to a new adapted norm which we will fit into and live again. Post 9/11 the world changed but we learned to live in that change and the same will happen. Come Lord Jesus. My hope is that we will have learnt lessons in lockdown that we will put into action which will make our world better. We will burst out of lockdown loving God more and loving each other in a way Christ loves.

One thing they were to soon realise which they hadn’t learnt. Jesus had told them that “apart from me you can do nothing” (15 v5). How often we fall into doing things without any thought of His presence? They were fishermen, they had the right skills, they were fishing at the right time, but they caught nothing.

In a beautiful scene that we will discover over this next week Jesus stands on the shore waiting for them as they come back with nothing.

As we emerge from lockdown in the next weeks and months to come let us go back with the presence of God. For without Him there is nothing to go back for.

Maybe that is how you describe yourself now. You have nothing. You have tried. But your hands are empty. You have nothing to show for your efforts. Jesus specialises in these moments. Meeting people with nothing in their hands is the moment Jesus is about to give them something. If you look across the shore there is someone waiting for you. Don’t miss Him.

Locked down with Jesus

 

John 20 v 19-29

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” …  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” …  Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”…

 

Have you had a conversation on the phone with someone during lockdown and asked what they had been doing? You have had more exciting conversations perhaps because one of the major difficulties for many is the mundaneness of life. Each day there seems to be repeated activity.

On the evening of the Resurrection day Jesus had supernaturally appeared at a disciples meeting in a certain house that was locked down because of their fear of being found. These soon to be super-apostles were not looking good.
His words were “Peace be with you”. He showed them his nail prints in his hands and side and AGAIN said “Peace be with you” before commissioning them.
A week later, the disciples met AGAIN. They were AGAIN in the same house. They AGAIN locked the doors. AGAIN Jesus supernaturally stood among them and yes AGAIN He said the same words, “Peace be with you” before encountering doubting Thomas.
(John 20:19-29)

Often our lockdown days are AGAIN moments.
We struggle because we want long for different, spontaneous, exciting moments … again!

Invite Jesus to come to today and to declare over you AGAIN: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you, Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (v21-23)

BE AT PEACE; BE SENT; BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT; BE A FORGIVER.

Lockdown is an opportunity to settle the anxieties of your life and to be at peace with yourself and with God. Receive HIS PEACE today.

It is a moment to be re-commissioned, we will be out of our homes soon and when we do we will have new relationships to maintain, the people in our street for example who we spoke to for the first time at the Thursday 8pm clap.

We now have time to seek HIM and for the SPIRIT to overwhelm our lives with the presence of God.

Lockdown is an opportunity to reflect on our relationships too. To let the prisoners go from our lives. To forgive. To release them so that we are free.

Come Lord Jesus!

In your darkest hour there is a garden

 

 

 

John 19 v38-41

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.

 

God planted a garden and waited. God created a new tomb and waited. God placed a cross and waited. In your darkest hour there is a garden with a new tomb waiting for new life.

If only those women at the foot of the cross had looked to the right or left. If only they had seen the garden with a new tomb. If only they had known that opportunity and provision lies in the middle of a crisis.

John brings onto the scene 2 men as the other gospel writers do. Both are secret disciples and one, Nicodemus, we have met before as he came to Jesus by night.

God always has someone/something in the wings ready at the right time to come onto centre stage of your life. Joseph had previously cut into the rock a new tomb (Matthew 27:60) which was in a garden at the place where Jesus would die.

What came first? The cross, the new tomb or the garden? It certainly wasn’t the cross. Within the experience of pain lies divine encounters that have been prepared beforehand for your future.

The people you meet today may be the provision you need for tomorrow. You moved into that neighbourhood a few years ago and you began living next door to that neighbour and you built a relationship and then covid-19 strikes and you are now praying for them in their darkest hour. God positions, places and plants for His provision.

The Bible is full of stories of plants, trees, vineyards, fields, sowing, harvesting and bearing fruit to reveal spiritual truths. The story begins in a garden in Eden but comes to a conclusion in a garden with a new tomb. The first garden sin appears and the last garden sin is defeated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

You may wake today to the image of a cross. You may be battling Covid-19, you may have suffered loss from the virus already. You may be grieving and bearing the weight of pain. I encourage you to lift your head. In due season winter will change. Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. Your cross is in a garden. Nature springs to life after death. Death, then resurrection. Death gives way to life.

A new song by Elevation has these lyrics

You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory
You’re the only one who can

You turn graves into gardens
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can

Beauty lies alongside the ugliest parts of life. Look up, you will see it eventually. Wait for God. He has got it all ready. He has prepared a table in the presence of our enemies and knowing this is how we fight our battles. When we know He surrounds us then we can carry the cross.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6 v16-17)

Towards the end we do walk alone, but it’s okay.

John 19 v31-37

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”] 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

 

Of course these verses show us that Jesus really did die (as opposed to Surah IV:156-157 where the Quran says he didn’t and that at the last moment Jesus was swapped for a disciple who looked like him, so that Jesus wasn’t ever on a cross). To suggest that the Roman soldiers had crucified the wrong man is ludicrous. The Chief Priests had got their man. The women around the cross could see he was their Lord. John in order to confirm his death says that because of their devotion to God the leaders wanted the bodies taking down from the cross. The crucified would often still be half alive for many days pushing themselves up in order to breathe. Pilate agreed and the soldiers broke their legs and they died within minutes. They came to Jesus and he looked like he had already died. To make sure they stuck a spear into his side and the substance that came out confirmed that he had already gone. So they didn’t break his bones. Looking back John sees again that all this had been mentioned in Scripture. Exodus 12 v46 gives instruction that the Passover Lamb should not have its bones broken. Zechariah 12 v10 says the Messiah will be pierced.

But these verses show us something else which until now I hadn’t seen.

Jesus died before the other two criminals. Why is that important? Remember what Luke said in 23 v43, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?

One of the thieves on the cross had been given a promise for that day. Then he saw Jesus die. “Your death won’t take days to come it will be today,” and the thief had to do what we all have to do and that is to hold on to the promises of God that when we die we will be with Jesus in Paradise. The place that the apostle Paul experienced in a vision (2 Cor 12:3) and the place that was promised to the church at Ephesus in John’s Revelation (2:7). The followers of Jesus all have to hold on to the promise that when their Today comes they will be with Jesus on that day. For some that may be a battle of faith in itself. How can you believe in a place where you have never been? How can you know you will qualify to be there? It seems the more we follow, the journey may be anxious, but the destination is assured in us.

One final thing is of course that Jesus went alone, so did the thief and so shall we. We have all been moved by the stories of the caring professionals stepping into the place of family members as they sat and held the hands of those dying recently. The thought of anyone dying alone is something that we see as an injustice in every culture of the world.

I’ve held the hand of many and tears flow easily when I think of the hands of my friends. There is always some tug-of-war going on. To survive is our instinct that we have for others as well as ourselves until ‘we let them go’; ‘they’ve gone’; “passed away”; “departed”; “slipped away”; “went home” “went to a better place.” There are so many euphemisms and many are so helpful but one thing remains the same, we go alone. Jesus doesn’t take us, he waits for us. Those that prepare for that journey in their hearts and minds now are better equipped for when it does come. We live in a safe neighbourhood and at the top of our hill is a lovely forest where I walk a lot. My daughter says she would never walk their alone. She doesn’t need to because we walk together. “You’ll never walk alone” sing fans of a certain football club who didn’t win the Premier League in 2020. But we will walk alone and that’s okay because we have encountered Jesus, even if that was as a thief and at our lowest ebb, we met him, he gave us a promise and we go alone holding onto that promise that he will meet us when we die.

It is finished

John 19 v28-30

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 

John is keen to show how everything was aligned to the Scriptures, Psalm 69:12 “(They) gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

He tells us that the hyssop plant was used to give the vinegar to Jesus: Exodus 12:22 “Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe.” The reader realises that we have come full circle, Scripture has been completed; Jesus is indeed the Passover Lamb of God which didn’t cover over but took away our sin.

That is why John uses the same word on two occasions in this short section. He uses one word which is translated for us as ‘It is finished’.

The job is done! Everything that had to be done has been done! It is finished!

All that is left to do is for you and I to put our faith in that finished work of the cross and follow that Lord who died and rose for us.

John is the only gospel to have originally been written in Greek and the one word that is used for ‘it is finished’ is tetelestai.

I am sure many of you have heard thousands of sermons on this one word with wonderful explanations of what it means. Perhaps we just need to meditate on the word as I have been doing this morning. Let it fall into our minds and hearts. We may never fully comprehend this word but we must let it rule our lives. C.H. Spurgeon said, “It would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it. “It is finished” is the most charming note in all of Calvary’s music.” That quote in itself is beautiful.

It is finished and so I don’t strive to be a better person, God says I am already.

It is finished and so everything that comes my way, whether fear or guilt, shame or judgment falls to the ground, whether or not I feel it or believe it, it matters not, it is a contract binding in the blood of Jesus, it is true.

It is finished and so I don’t need to question what God thinks of me and I don’t need to ask whether He is angry with me.

Some of the most miserable people are Christians who are trying to be holy. They haven’t understood the words It is finished.

Some of the most miserable people are Christian moralists. We need moralists to practice good morals but we don’t need moralists who condemn the immoral simply because they have never understood the words It is finished.

Some of the most miserable people are the Christians who are more aware of them doing the work of God than the Spirit doing the work of God in them. They haven’t understood It is finished.