EASTER 5, B – May 3, 2015

 SCRIPTURES – Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 4:1-11; John 15:1-8; Psalm 145

 

[Jesus said:] “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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.” (John 15)

 

Recently I saw an unusual sight: a number of small branches from forsythia bushes that had been broken off and strewn across the ground by a day of strong winds were covered with flowers. Their buds still opened and blossomed. In fact, their beautiful yellow flowers looked even brighter and more beautiful because they were lying on bare ground. Their beauty was very fleeting, of course. Now they are bare and lifeless branches, and will eventually decay and become part of the soil.

 

“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you,” Jesus said to His disciples the night before He died on the cross. His words speak to us. God’s Word tells us, “God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [the payment] for our sins.” (1 John 4) Hear this! God loves you! He sent His Son to gain forgiveness for you by paying the price for your sins and being judged for them on the cross. Jesus brought forth a new life with God for you by rising from the dead. This forgiveness and new life was poured out upon and into you when you, like Alexandria today, were baptized. This very day, at the beginning of this Service, the Lord spoke His forgiveness and life over you through me, Christ’s representative. “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” Christ Jesus, our Savior, has made you clean and beautiful in Him!

 

Now, abide in Him. Take to heart the forsythia branches that I saw recently. We live in the midst of strong, dangerous winds of uncleanness that threaten to separate us from Christ; and I’m not only talking about obvious sins, like sexual lusts and lying and cheating and hatred and selfishness, that fill our world and threaten to corrupt us. A great danger to faith that is often ignored is the corruption of God’s Word. “Many false prophets have gone out into the world,” wrote the apostle John just a few decades after Jesus ascended into heaven. Today, with the incredible technological advances that enable nearly instantaneous sharing of messages and ideas throughout the world, false prophets and false teachings have exploded.

 

Who is Jesus, and what does His life mean? Well, you can find teachers today who say all kinds of things about Jesus.

  • Some say he is a god, but is not equal to God the Father. He is a lesser being whom God created and sent to us to help us become greater ourselves.

  • Some declare that he was a man whom God filled to enable him to do great things. Then, after he was arrested, God’s presence left him, so that only a man died on the cross.

  • Some teach that Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead. He only seemed to do so, as his spirit appeared to the disciples and inspired them to go forth with his message.

  • Some say Jesus was a great prophet of God who taught wonderfully about love for God and others, but whose life was tragically cut short.

  • Some say he was married to Mary Magdalene and with her intended to create a new people of God. Others say he never would have done this, for he was a homosexual and was in love with his disciple John.

    There are so many different and contradictory ideas about who Jesus was and what He taught. Who should you listen to, and what should you believe?  Believe what Jesus says about Himself: “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.” Jesus states that He is life. In Him you will live and have a fruitful life; apart from Him you are dead. You might not appear so now, but, as with forsythia branches that have been broken off of the bush, your life and beauty will be fleeting. There will finally be death and destruction. “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.” He speaks as God, the giver of life.

     

    How vitally important it is, then, to believe in Jesus as your God and Savior, and be joined to Him and have Him live in you! But, He is no longer walking upon this earth. Forty days after He rose from the dead He ascended into heaven. How can you be joined to Him?

     

    “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you… If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Christ has bound Himself to His words. They are His presence. Listen to Him and He will be joined to you and live in you!

     

    We are so blessed today. In Jesus’ day you had to be wealthy, like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, to be able to have even one book of the Bible. Today you can download the Bible onto your computer or phone or tablet for free. You can buy one for a few bucks. God has blessed you with His saving Word in abundance!

     

    Read it, learn it, and believe it; listen to those who teach it rightly; and Jesus with His forgiveness and eternal life will flow into you to help and protect you and bring forth great blessings through you. The Creator and sustainer of all life has promised this! Often the reason for confusion about Jesus and the meaning of His life is simple: His words are not known. The Bible is all about Him, the true God who has come to us in our flesh to rescue us from our sins. Jesus’ disciple John says, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.”

     

    The Spirit of Jesus is in His Word. Thanks be to God for His Word, through which He comes to fill us with His life! Learn it, and you will know Jesus, for it is all about Him. You will know Him as the eternal Son of God become man, who by His death and resurrection is your forgiveness and life. And, you will have His protection from every false teacher and deadly teaching. Christ will bring forth life, not death, through you, and bring you into eternal life with Him!