We humans need "proof": signs; witnesses; documentation; references; experiences... (Sidebar: I should note that "proof" is also the measure of the strength of [alcoholic] "spirits"!) So, how does John prove that Jesus loves us, and what proof can we show that we love Christ back? 1. We know what love is because Jesus laid down his life for the lovable, AND for we the unlovable alike. (1 John 3:16 AND John 3:16) 2. We know we love him IF we in turn lay down our lives for the unlovable just as we would for our loved-ones. 3. There is NO love within someone who has material wealth who, seeing another in need, does not give material aid. 4. Love can NOT be shown with just "thoughts and prayers", but through truth and action. 5. We OBEY his commandments to love God and others, and to feed his sheep. This then is the proof we needed: that we know and show we abide in him by the signs of our deeds; and are reassured that he abides in us by the work of the Spirit within and through us.
"Peace be with you," he told them. Yet they were very afraid - his unexpected presence startled them and terrified them. They acted as if they'd seen a ghost! Most of us believe that we don't believe in ghosts - and yet, don't we act like we do anyway? Sometimes, don't we find it easier to believe in the sad ghosts of our past and in divine-punishment than in the glad joy of a new future and in divine-providence? Do we not believe more in palpable war and revenge than in intangible peace and forgiveness? Are we not haunted? "Why are you afraid?" he asked. Fear is the doubt of there being goodness in the future; so he showed them signs proving the reality of hope. Do we look right through our mental projections of an insubstantial idea of Jesus, or do we daily see Christ's stigmata of the flesh in those around us? Surely, they wondered how to interpret such signs? While in the midst of their joy, they still struggled to believe - they still wondered. One foot in the grave, the other in the kingdom, they were in a blessedly open state of amazed wonderment. They were now ready to let go and bloom. "Do you have anything to eat?" he asked. The sheep, who had been so often fed, gave food to their hungry King; their minds opened like dormant flowers in the Spring. They at last understood. The simple act of sharing food had made it all real. (Luke 24:36-48)
"Jesus commanded his church to go out and preach the gospel to all cultures, not to huddle inside and manage decline."
~ Leonard Sweet
The last three days had been a public-image nightmare! It had reached a climax just this morning. So tonight the church leadership held a closed-door meeting. The doors were locked and the windows were shuttered, for fear of the religious authorities - for privacy too.
What a mess! They had lost members in droves, revenue was down, and their public standing and social influence were at an all-time low. The head of the finance committee had brought about their downfall seeking money and worldly influence. Peter, the blustering would-be hero, was revealed to be first foolishly reckless, and then less than heroic. All the male "followers" looked more like "fleers"; the women had made them look bad. And worst of all, when their Master had returned, it had been to a WOMAN! What were they going to do?
One, standing unobserved among them, spoke up: "Peace be with you." In order to gain recognition from the council chairman, he showed them his hands and his feet. Then they passed an unanimous motion of rejoicing!
So, he said to them again: "Peace be with you."
"As the Father sent me to reconcile you with Him, so I send you out to reconcile others." Then, his breath filled them; "Receive the Holy Spirit. Do not sit back and judge, but go out and forgive! Those you forgive will be forgiven; those whom you do not forgive will not be forgiven."
But Didymus the Twin (aka Judas Thomas) was not at the meeting. Afterwards, the others gave him a copy of the meeting minutes, but he did not believe them (since it was April 1st). "I will only believe you if I see for myself the the nail-holes in his palms, if I put my finger into the hole in his palm, IF I SHOVE MY WHOLE HAND INTO THE GAPING SPEAR-WOUND IN HIS SIDE! Only then will I believe you foolers."
Next Sunday, they gathered together for another Council meeting. Due to the interruption, they had tabled all their business and not gotten any real business accomplished. This time, Thomas was there at the table. Again, the doors were locked to keep out unwanted input and interference. Again they heard: "Peace be with you."
He was standing there, right beside Thomas. "Tom, look at my violated hands. Put your finger through these holes like another nail. Insert your hand into my chest-cavity, and feel my heart beating. Don't doubt Mary, or your brothers; believe your senses - believe me."
Thomas muttered, "My Lord!"; and then shouted, "MY GOD!" Jesus laughed.
"So, now that you have experienced my return, do you believe it? Go. Bless all those who have not experienced it for themselves, and still believe it anyway."
PS: After that, Jesus did many other reinforcing signs before his disciples, which no one has written down. What I have written has been given to you that you too may believe.
I We Write to you What has been What we have heard What we have seen What we have studied What we have TOUCHED The Word of Life A Life Revealed to us Which we have seen We write to you Eternal Life With the Father Revealed to us We write about What we have seen What we have heard In full-disclosure fellowship In community-building For full fellowship With the Father and With the Son I We Write to you To complete your joy What we have heard From the Son We write to you God Is Light In God there is No darkness whatsoever If We say We are in fellowship With the Father Yet walk in darkness WE ARE LIARS We are not Truth-sayers We are not Truth-doers But If We walk In the Light In God We are in fellowship With other Light-walkers And the Blood Of Jesus the Son Purifies us Removes our darkness If We say We are without sin We fool only ourselves We are without Truth We are without Trust If We confess What and who we are He who IS faithful He who IS just Will forgive us for What we have done What we have been Removing our darkness Purifying us If We say We are without sin We say Jesus is a liar We say Jesus died A useless death The Word of Life Is not within us My little ones I We Write to you So that you may be Without sin But If Anyone does sin We have an Advocate Who stands for us Before the Father Who stands in the breach That we created Christ the Righteous One The Atonement For our sinfulness For our sin-filled-ness
For the while, the entire community were of one thought with one dream; none possessed anything of their own, but everything was pooled together for the public welfare. With great passion, the apostles among them shared their Spirit-filled testimonies as to the Christ they had personally known as Teacher and friend, and of the miracles they had themselves see. Not one person among them was in dire need! Any of them who had had real-estate interests or capital assets had sold them for the purpose of being redistributed to those who were poor.
(Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35)
"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!"