As part of Christian Union Sunday, Steve Blyth from CU preached from Matthew 11:1-15. In this passage, John the Baptist introduces Jesus to the world but is a confused messenger. He asks to check if Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for and what he has come to do. Jesus reassures him from the Old Testament prophecies concerning himself and commends John’s message as he prepared the way. Yet we now have a greater perspective than even John as we live on the other side of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection. We have the privilege of introducing Jesus to others as we share the hope that we have in him.
Throughout the history of time, people have always been weighed down by some kind of suffering. In Jesus’ day this was no different. in Luke 13:1-21 we find that the sudden deaths of some people who were killed by a murderous Pontius Pilate or by a falling tower, caused some people to approach Jesus and share their concerns with Him. In response, Jesus told them that the problem of suffering is caused by sin in the world, that the solution to the problem of sin is something that only He can deal with and the great incentive that believers look forward to is found in the coming of His Kingdom.
Luke 24 speaks about the great news of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, has a strong theme of ‘open things’. For one thing, the tomb was open and Jesus was no longer dead inside it! This is the strong hope that believers share and sets Christianity apart from other religions. Our founder is still alive and death could not hold Him! Then it speaks of ‘open minds’ as it tells us how Jesus opened the understanding of the disciples with regard to the purpose and message of the Scriptures. Then also it speaks of an ‘open heaven’ into which Jesus returned, but before doing so, challenged his disciples to go out into the world proclaiming the wonderful message of forgiveness of sins in His name.
After Jesus had fed 5,000 in the desert, many followed him for another free feed. To this crowd, Jesus made the claim that he was ‘the bread of life’ and that he offered food that would really satisfy. By this claim, found in John 6:22-71, Jesus offered to those who would believe in and follow him, security, an eternal destiny and a true sense of identity. When crowds starting leaving Jesus because his words were hard to take, Peter said on behalf of his disciples that Jesus alone has ‘the words of eternal life’. We would be foolish not to follow him!
Have you ever had someone tell you that you’re not quite there as a Christian, that you need to do something else, fulfil some extra requirement, maybe have some sort of extra experience? if you do that then you’ll be a real Christian! In preaching on Colossians 2:6-23, Steve Blyth points out how the Apostle Paul says very clearly that authentic Christianity is all about Jesus. If you have Him – you have everything you need. It’s through keeping Jesus at the very centre of our focus that we grow in the way God wants us to and become the type of people He’s created us to be. Beware of people who tell you otherwise.
Jesus may be marginalised from parts of the public sphere but Colossians 1:15-20 reminds us that we always need to move towards Jesus! He is God himself, creator and sustainer of all. He came to reconcile to God those who rejected him. Our purpose is to have Jesus as Lord of our lives since he has saved us from death.
Both Christians and non-Christians alike seem to drastically underestimate the significance of the Christian faith in our world today. In Colossians 1:1-14, Paul seeks to rectify such false conclusions by showing us not only the eternal significance of God’s saving purposes through His Son Jesus, but also how such salvation significantly transforms Christians in the here and now, setting them apart to fulfil God’s purposes in God’s world.
Steve Blyth spoke from John 14 about Jesus’ love of others – even hours before his own death. With the crucifixion in view, Jesus promised to send his Spirit to prepare them to live well in the world. A selfless bucket-list, but if he could give them anything, why not world peace or an end to poverty? All these things require a change of heart that only the Spirit of truth can bring. As we receive the truth, it brings assurance of peace, a joy in all circumstances and faith in a God who is in control.
In John 11, when his friend Lazarus falls ill, it seems strange that Jesus does not go to heal him immediately. Jesus is confident in his father and knows the glory will go to him. For us, we see that in the face of death, though God might feel distant (1-16), Jesus draws near to us (17-37) and conquers death (38-44). So even as we face death now, we can grieve with hope in Christ.