Year B 2nd Sunday in Easter: 1 John 1:1-4
We all use our five senses to some degree or other. At the start of his first letter John writes to confirm the truth of Jesus. He does this to give confidence and joy to those who are Christians. He refers to this man Jesus whom he has heard, seen, and touched ( verse 1 ).
But he doesn't start there. He refers to "that which was from the beginning". Talking of Jesus, "the Word of life". There is a parallel with the first chapter of the gospel of John here. Speaking of the Word.
Has anyone started their Christmas preparations yet!?
God the Father started preparing for the first Christmas before he created the universe. Isn't that an incredible thought ! Yet Jesus was from the beginning, verse 1, and there is nothing before the beginning. He is eternal, verse 2. Outside time and space. He has been waiting in the wings, if you like, ready to make his entrance at the right time. Right on cue.
Yet his cue comes from God. It was God's initiative, under his control. Christmas began in eternity. This truth gives us great assurance and confidence, because it contrasts to our Christmas celebrations. We spend weeks or even months preparing for Christmas, are very busy leading up to and on Christmas Day, then it is all over. We may well think "Was it all worth it" as we go back to work, and as we review our bank balance or credit card bill.
Verse 2 speaks of "eternal life". This is talking about the duration of the life that Jesus has, and that he gives. But it is also talking about the quality of life. An abundant life that comes from us having a right relationship with God through Jesus' death for us on the cross. A life lived with God as our best friend having had all the rubbish removed from our lives. Rubbish that can only block our relationship with him.
So Christmas begins in eternity, but it is rooted in history. You and I may have pipe dreams. What we would do if such and such a thing happened. But God's plan came true in history through the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to us as a man. Someone we could understand, relate to. Not born to royalty in the warmth and security of a palace, removed from everyday life by a privledged position. But born in a stable, growing up as a child in a normal family, learning a trade from his father. An everyday life in so many ways.
We live in a scientific age. Where things have to be proved, by sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell. John refers to Jesus who has been heard, seen, and touched. Heard speaking in a way that no man has spoken before or since. Teaching with authority. Speaking words of compassion to the sick, and words that exposed the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Seen walking on water, turning water into wine, a picnic lunch into a banquet. Seen bleeding, dying, suffering on a cross. Seen in resurrection power and glory three days later. Touching the tongue and ears of the deaf mute, putting mud on the eyes of the blind man, touching those who had leprosy.
Jesus is an historical figure. He was flesh and blood like you and me. He was seen, heard, touched, witnessed by thousands of people. Encountered by people then. Encountered by people today. He rose from the dead, something we celebrate and proclaim every Sunday, but especially last Sunday. Because Jesus is alive we can, and in many cases have met the Lord Jesus. This leads to telling others. Three times in the first three verses John writes "We proclaim..."
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army said "How wide is the girth of the world ?"
"Twenty five thousand miles" came the reply.
"Then," roared Booth "we must grow until our arms get right round about it."
Proclamation leads to growing. Christmas and Easter makes a difference today.They make a difference when we see how the facts of history are relevant to us today. When we come to trust in him who is trustworthy. To believe in Jesus. To rely on him to give us everything that we need to live for him.
When we come to that point, says John, it will transform our relationship with God. And it will transform our relationship with others.
A missionary named John Paton was trying to translate the Bible into the local language of the place where he ministered. Yet there was no word in their language like faith or believe. One day whilst working on the translation a native entered the room and tired out flung himself down on a chair. He put his feet upon another and declared how good it was to 'lean his whole weight' on the chairs. John Paton noted the word that he had used for 'lean his whole weight' to translate the word 'believe'.
Just as we put our whole weight on a chair, or pew, perhaps without really thinking about it, so Jesus calls us to rely upon him. For everything and in everything.
I am sure that many of us have had someone say to us "I believe in God". Yet unless it involves a personal trust in Jesus unless it affects their lives such a statement carries no weight in eternity.
Similarly, our proclamation, our words about Jesus must be backed up by our lives. People must see that our relationship with Jesus affects us. Indeed, this may lead them to want that life for themselves.
Part of this involves the way that we relate to other Christians. Read verse 3.
John talks of fellowship. The Greek word 'koinonia' is about sharing something that is common to believers. Sharing in trusting in Jesus, sharing a love received from God and implanted on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This is a theme that runs through the whole of this letter. It is something that links us to one another today. It links us with our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world today. It links us with Christians throughout history. Christians who have believed and proclaimed to others who have believed and proclaimed throughout history. United in our knowledge, devotion and service of Jesus Christ.
Our fellowship with others is not possible without our fellowship with God the Father. Later John goes on to say that if we do not love other Christians then we cannot love God (4:8).
Our fellowship with God and with other Christians should lead to joy. There is a divine order : proclamation and belief; fellowship with God and others; resulting in joy.
Joy comes from God. I remember a minister in Peterborough saying "happiness comes from things, pleasure comes from people, and joy comes from God."
Joy in the Bible is not a feeling, although it does involve the whole of oneself. It is often linked to God's revelation and salvation and is linked to proclamation and sharing. It flows from and is closely linked with love. Remember the fruit of the Spirit starts with love, and joy.
We may know something of this joy in our lives today, although we live in a sinful world, and are sinners ourselves, and this will mean that we will not enjoy complete joy all of the time. So verse 4 also looks forward to the time that we will all be with Christ, when sin has been banished and will not hinder our relationship with God and with others.
Principal Rainy, of whom a child once remarked that she believed he used to go to heaven every night, because he was so happy every day said "Joy is the flag which is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there."
Let us reflect upon a God who has come to this planet. He lived, died, rose again and ascended back to heaven. Let us rejoice, let us tell the good news to others with our lips and our lives, and let us enjoy our fellowship with God and with one another.