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Toshiki Toma

Meeting Jesus, believing in Christ

17. apríl 2016

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. -Amen.

1.
One of the most important things in our lives as believers is, without doubt, to meet Jesus. Of course, since Jesus lived in Judaea 2.000 years ago, that Jesus whom we are supposed to meet is the Jesus who is resurrected from death.

Sojourner Truth was an African American lady who was born as a slave in the United States. She was born at the end of 18th century. There was still slavery in the United States at that time. Later she was freed and became an activist for women’s rights and freed slaves’ rights. Her speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” became very well known.

Sojourner was also very active as a preacher, and went around many states to preach the Gospel. Once she was asked how she got inspiration when she prepared a sermon.

She answered: “To tell the truth, I cannot read, not only the Bible but even a letter. When I preach, I have only one text with me and that is ‘When I find Jesus’. When I find Jesus, serving to others like me, like a slave, I can get all I need to preach”.

Kenneth Boulding was an English economist in the 20th century, and he made a great contribution not only to Economics but also political science, sociology and in the peace movement. He was nominated for both the Nobel Prize in Economics and the Peace Prize.

When he was still young, Kenneth Boulding became a Quaker. But during the First World War, despite being a peace-loving person, he could not get rid himself of his harsh hatred for German soldiers.

Then one night, he encountered Jesus while praying. Jesus showed Kenneth the wounds in his both palms and said to Kenneth: “Even though I shall forgive them, would you not forgive?”

After this encounter, he conquered his hatred against German soldiers. It’s the war that kills people, not soldiers. Kenneth became an absolute peace activist, and he made his works as an economist deeply related to peace, humanity and love.

2.
Thus, meeting Jesus has a profound impact upon people. It has power to change our direction of life completely, from right to left. Meeting Jesus could make each of us a different person. And in each of those changes, it is a positive change, it is turning to a better life, not in the secular meaning but in the real, human and spiritual meaning.

This might seem obvious, but knowing about Jesus is one thing, and knowing Jesus is quite another. If you read books about Jesus, then you will get to know about Jesus better. You will have much knowledge about Jesus.

But that knowledge doesn’t necessary bring any change in your life. What we need is not to know about Jesus, but to get to know Jesus himself, to encounter him. But how can we meet him at all?

Jesus’s disciples spent days together with Jesus before he was crucified. But they didn’t understand that he would die on the cross and would then rise from the dead.

For example, in today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “ ‘A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.’ Some of His disciples then said to one another, ‘What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?’ So they were saying, ‘ What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.’ ” (Jn. 16:16-18)

They could only understand what Jesus meant when the resurrected Jesus appeared to them. They saw the risen Jesus and believed. They all believed in the resurrection of Jesus, because they saw him.

But at that time, one of the twelve disciples, Thomas, was not there. He heard the other disciples’ testimonies: “Jesus has risen! We met him!”, but Thomas doubted. So the next time, Jesus appeared when Thomas was together with the others. Thomas saw Jesus, and he believed.

This episode is actually very important, because Thomas represents all who believe in Jesus, except the first disciples who were with Jesus, in every century in the whole world. Thomas was the first person, like all of us, who heard the testimony about resurrected Jesus, but had not seen him directly yet.

And did Thomas believe? No, he didn’t. Jesus said to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”(Jn. 20:29)

In this context, Thomas is our representative and he met the risen Jesus directly for us all. So Jesus’s words, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” are indeed meant for us.

3.
We might sometimes ask ourselves: “Why didn’t Jesus appear to Caiaphas, Pilate, or the Jewish high priests who had put him on the cross? Or to those people who had made fun of Jesus when he was crucified, after the resurrection?

Jesus could say to them: ‘Hey, look, I have risen from the death! Now what do you say?’ If he had gone to them directly, it would have been much easier to proclaim his Gospel to the world. Why didn’t Jesus do that?”

Looking back over the history of how God made contact with our society and life, we can say that God did not choose a way that he could be proven in a scientific way, or some way leaving no room for doubt about God’s existence. God didn’t choose that way, and neither did Jesus.

Why? Because God wanted to leave one choice of action in our lives, and that is “to believe”.

If the science proves the existence of God, or if Jesus visits RÚV and participates in Kastljós as a guest and says: “Hi, I’m the risen Jesus. How are you?”, then there would be no room anymore for denying God or doubting the resurrection of Jesus. But at the same time, there would be no room for belief, either.

When something is proven, it is no longer a matter of belief, but it is an object for knowing, recognizing or understanding. Our society and our lives are already based on thousands of things that have been proven, and there is no room for doubting them.

We know that the Earth is a spherical planet just like uncountable number of other planets. We recognize that a human person cannot live his earthly life for more than 110-120 years. We understand that some of the nations of the world don’t respect democracy or human rights and behave terribly towards their people.

Those are all facts, and there is no reasonable way to refute them. But as we can see, humanity does not stand still. People want to know more about outer space, they want to travel deep in the galaxy. People want to live longer without losing the pleasure of living. People want to put an end on dictatorship, and make their countries better places.

Things that encourage our endless urge to explore, develop, change or improve are not proven facts. The things that push us forward are our desires, dreams, our hope, our sense of justice, compassion and love. And those things abide with us because we know one thing, and that is “to believe”.

We can explore more because we believe we can. We can develop some system better because we believe it is necessary. We dare to challenge tyrants because we have belief in democracy and human rights. If we could not believe, everything would stop. It is important that we can believe.

4.
It is the same when we think about our faith. God has left the option of believing open for us. God didn’t become a part of “proven things”. Proven things become a part of our common sense and lose their creativity and motivational power.

But faith, believing in the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit, never fades away even though – or perhaps because - it has not been proven except in our faith itself.

The Bible says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”(Heb. 11:1) We can hope for something; and we can be convinced of unproven things because of our faith, believing. It is therefore true grace from God that we can have a faith in Jesus, that we can believe in Christ.

And because of this faith, we can meet Jesus just like Peter, John or Thomas met him. If we wish to meet Jesus, it is assured in our faith. We can be convinced of meeting Jesus.

As I have said once bears repeating. Meeting Jesus has a profound impact upon us. It can change the situation we’re in. It can make each of us a different person in a good way. And we can surely meet Jesus, only if we keep our faith in Jesus and wish to meet him, because Jesus is always with us.

The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Amen.

Texts:

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

John 16:16-23

“A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.” Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”

Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.

Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.

In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you
(New American Standard Bible: NASB)

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