Apr 252014
 

Rabboni “11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:11-18)

Last week we finished with the ‘I am’ names of Jesus, but continuing with the Easter theme I want to touch on another name Jesus was called: Rabboni.

The name Rabboni is only used twice in the bible (also Mark 10:51). The meaning is not fully clear but it is generally translated as ‘beloved teacher’. It seems funny to me to put those two words together because I don’t think I thought of any of my teachers like that at school! I tolerated a few of them, but no more than that.

Jesus of course is altogether different. Jesus was also called ‘Rabbi’ on a number of occasions which is the usual title for a spiritual teacher. However Rabboni means a bit more than that. A Rabboni was someone who didn’t simply teach but also produced teachers. Jesus was a great teacher, but more than that, His whole mission was to pass on His teaching to His disciples and then on and on throughout the generations. I think we can safely say He has achieved that mission.

Another aspect of this name is that it came from the lips of Mary Magdalene, a woman who had been constantly scorned and rejected throughout most of her life. She had a chequered past but Jesus had forgiven and accepted her and now she experienced the unbelievable privilege of going to the disciples as the first witness, ‘teaching’ them what Jesus had said to her. This would have been highly unusual in that society and further shows the value and trust that Jesus places on women.

I don’t know if you are a person who easily disqualifies yourself, but take heart from this example of Mary Magdelene, a person who had every reason to disqualify herself but was wonderfully taught and discipled by Jesus. Many would have thought “why is Jesus wasting His time teaching her?’. But Jesus didn’t consider it a waste of time at all and it would seem she went on to grow into a leader of women amongst Jesus’ disciples.

There has been plenty of nonsense written about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, with suggestions made that they were lovers etc. The above verse I think clearly says otherwise. Lovers don’t refer to each other as teachers, especially using this formal term. There was clearly love between them but a pure sort of love that I sometimes think the world is incapable of understanding. She loved Him dearly as her teacher but that’s as far as it would ever go.

The lesson that I think we should take from this passage of scripture is to not disqualify ourselves, but rather to continue learning from the greatest teacher who ever lived and whose words are still available today. Let us make the most of them.

 April 25, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus, Resurrection No Responses »
Apr 182014
 

The_Resurrection_And_The_LifeSometimes when people proclaim great names over themselves they have a hard time proving it. For instance, Muhammad Ali called himself “the greatest”. Now there is no doubting he was a very good boxer, but he did lose on quite a few occasions. When Jose Mourinho (the newly appointed Chelsea manager) labelled himself “the special one”, he did prove to be quite good, but has failed to conquer all before him and be really ‘special’.

When Jesus labelled Himself with a name He went on to prove Himself as well worthy of that name. Have you noticed how often, when Jesus says ‘I am’ something, He backs it up with hard evidence? When He said “I am the bread of life” He had just fed 5,000 men (probably up to 20,000 if you include women and children) with a few loaves and fish. When He said “I am the light of the world” He proceeded to bring sight to a man born blind. And when Jesus stated “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) He went on to demonstrate His mastery over death by raising Lazarus to life after being dead for 4 days.

Little did anyone realise as Lazarus was being unwrapped from his grave clothes that Jesus would further demonstrate His power over death in just a few months time, during these momentous days of the first Easter.

Eventually Good Friday would come, and even though the disciples had witnessed Jesus commanding Lazarus to come out of the grave just a short time previously, they struggled to see how this dead body on Good Friday could raise itself from the dead. But this is the wonderful truth we celebrate at Easter.

Jesus Christ is alive and He has defeated death for all time. In the book of Revelation, John meets again the glorified, risen Jesus: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’”. (Revelation 1:17-18).

Jesus is The Life. He gives life to every living creature. Every one of us has breath in our bodies because He says so and when He allows it, that breath will be taken away from us.

If you are a Christian you have been transferred from the kingdom of death and darkness to the kingdom of light and life.

Let’s expand today’s passage even further. After Jesus had declared He is the resurrection and the life He then says: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

You see, for the Christian, the sting of death has been completely taken away. Even though we will die physically, we will continue to live beyond this life. The New Testament on many occasions speaks of Christian death as falling asleep. I don’t know about you but I quite like falling asleep; there is certainly nothing to worry about. That is what Jesus has won for us and what He proved when He said He is “The resurrection and the life”. What a wonderful thing to celebrate this Easter!

 April 18, 2014  Posted by at 7:30 am Names of Jesus, Resurrection No Responses »
Apr 112014
 

Vine and branchesImagine the scene: Jesus and the disciples have just finished the last supper. Judas has been released to go and do what he has to do (the disciples are not aware of what will happen yet). They are walking from the upper room where they have just eaten, to the mount of Olives. There are many vines on the way and Jesus uses another metaphor to reveal more about Himself. He has recently talked about His closeness with the Father and His true believers being close with Him (John 14), a very close and inclusive relationship, which He will do everything to protect.

He now looks at the vines and continues the theme:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)

Jesus knows His time is nearly up so He wants to highlight again the importance of staying close to Him, not physically because He will soon leave, but spiritually, so we can connect to Him in the same way as His disciples.

This message is simple but profound, as so many simple messages are.

Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Just as the branches not attached to a vine will die, so we branches will die unless we stay attached to the vine. We receive all our sustenance and life from Him. We will not produce any fruit unless we are attached and fully connected. And we remain connected through bible reading, meditation and prayer and spending time with other branches (the church).

Another aspect of vines is that they are very heavily pruned. Some years ago I pruned a bush (not an actual vine but similar) for my Grandma. I cut it back so far that I was sure I had killed it, but she knew that in the spring it would come back to life again, which of course it did and indeed flourished. This is such an important lesson for us. We should never worry when going through trials. The Father as the vinedresser will cut and lop off any branches that are in the way so that we can produce the maximum amount of fruit. This can be so painful at the time but in due season we will reap the rewards.

The words of Jesus don’t “abide” without effect. When they take root, they produce faith and holiness. “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus says; “your word is truth” (John 17:17). So when His words abide in us, sanctification happens. We are transformed. Holiness, Christlikeness, happens.

It’s pretty simple isn’t it? Spend time with Jesus and produce more fruit. We tend to try and make it more complicated than that but it really isn’t!

 April 11, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Names of Jesus No Responses »
Apr 042014
 

way truth lifeToday we reach number 6 of the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus. I am leaving number 5 ‘the resurrection and the life’ until the end because it will then really conveniently fall on Good Friday (unplanned but very appropriate).

Number 6 is possibly the statement which is most likely to get people hot under the collar; most people today would call it intolerant and bigoted. If you consider yourself ‘post modern’ this statement really sticks in the throat. Let’s have a look at the passage:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6)

I bet you that if I were to go out onto the streets now and ask the general public their opinions about religion, most people would say that all religions are basically the same; it doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as you are sincere etc etc. I am horrified at how seemingly sane people can believe that all religions are the same. For one thing most religions contradict each other; how then can they possibly all be right?

Some people have tried to use the analogy of an elephant: each religion is like a blindfolded person feeling a different part of an elephant (ears, tail, trunk, legs etc). They all have different views as they are all experiencing different parts of the same thing. It is one elephant but they can’t see it because they are blindfolded. How condescending!

Another illustration is that God is at the top of a mountain and there are all sorts of different paths to reach him.

The people who use these illustrations are demonstrating breathtaking arrogance in their assumption that they actually know that all paths lead to God. The only one who could know how to get to God must be God Himself, no-one else could possibly know no matter how marvellous their explanations sound.

Jesus said ‘I am the way’. He didn’t say ‘I know the way’ or ‘I can point you in the right direction’. He is the way in Himself. If Jesus was not God and yet made this statement, He should be considered deluded or, even worse, mad. But everything Jesus did and said points to the fact that He was and is God and so this statement today must be taken seriously.

The stark question staring you in the face today is ‘what are you going to do with Jesus?’ If you reject Him there is no other way to God. But if you accept Him, the way is open to have a relationship with your heavenly father. It’s a simple choice but the most important choice you will ever make.

 April 4, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Names of Jesus No Responses »