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This is part of a series of teachings that began with Passover Crucifixion and Easter Resurrection – The Big Bang of New Creation (see my notes Part One and Two)
Then, Jesus Breaks Lockdown, Part 1 and Part 2
Then, The Resurrected King Changes Everything (see my notes)

These notes, on The Risen Lord Renews Our Calling: Fishing & Feasting, are reflections on John 21, the last chapter of John’s good-news story of King Jesus. I acknowledge drawing from Craig Keener, David Carson and Leon Morris in their respective commentaries on John.

The chapter has two parts (or ‘pericopes’), each with two internal subsections.
John 21:1-14, Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples on the shore: a) the fishing story and miraculous catch, and b) the breakfast story where Jesus feeds them. (Part One)
John 21:15-23, Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter as leader: a) his confession and commission, and b) his unfolding future call/leadership. (Part Two)

Renewal of Calling: Fishing & Feasting, John 21:1-14

The context: The life changing events of Jesus’ traumatic death and resurrection, and his appearances to his disciples (over a period of 40 days, Acts 1:3). John records two prior appearances of the risen Lord to Peter and the gathered disciples in Jerusalem (John 20:19-29). After that, Peter and six others return to fishing (their business) in the Galilee.  

Failing at business and life as usual (John 21:1-3)

In the aftermath of all that had happened in Jerusalem, Peter and 6 others return to ‘business as usual’. This fishing story shows the well-known tradition in the gospels of Jesus first calling fishermen to follow him, to make them “fishers of people”. The story echoes Luke 5:1-11 as a renewal of that initial calling to fish people for Jesus. 

The fact that John mentions seven disciples, the number of completion, could symbolize the uncertain mind and mood of all the apostles. Peter takes the initiative (as usual, a natural leader), “I’m going out to fish”. The others follow. But that night they caught “nothing”; the same word John uses in John 15:5, where Jesus says, “without me you can do nothing”. In other words, John emphasizes their failure in going back to business and life as usual in their own resources and efforts.

Jesus gives fish – renewing their calling (John 21:4-8)

“Early morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus…” A repeat of Mary’s experience (John 20:1f), early morning, seeing Jesus but not recognizing ‘the stranger’ (as with the two on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13f). It’s the early morning darkness of dashed hopes and human failure. Yet it’s the first light of a new dawn of new creation. Through their dark experience they see Jesus on the shore of resurrection – the other side of death, the coming age – from their boat of business and life as usual, in the untamed sea of the uncertainty of this age.

They don’t recognize Jesus. That ‘stranger’ takes the initiative and calls out, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No!” After a whole night of hard work! He makes them face and confess their own insufficiency of effort and resource (indeed, they can do “nothing” without Jesus, 15:5), so that they trust and obey his word: “throw the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some”. Some fish? They catch so many that they can’t haul the net into the boat, confirming Jesus’ miracles of ‘over the top’ abundance in God’s Kingdom come in him (John 2:1-11, 6:1-14).

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved” knew “it is the Lord”. He said (confessed) it to Peter. Revelation of who Jesus really is, the Risen King, is not only by the obedience of faith, and miracles, but also by the intimacy of love. John is “the beloved disciple” who is at Jesus’ side (‘bosom’, John 13:23, 21:20), as Jesus is at the Father’s side (‘bosom’, John 1:18) – that profound intimacy is the source of Jesus’ revelation of God. The others come to know/recognize later that it’s Jesus (at the breakfast, John 21:12), but dare not ask him “who are you?” This indicates that revelation unfolds differently for each person, with intuitive immediacy (John), with responsive action (Peter), or with timidity and doubt (Thomas and the others, John 20:24-29, 21:2,12). Jesus came to the world and it did not know/recognize him (John 1:10), but his own know him because he calls us by name and we recognize his voice (John 10:3-5, 20:16).

Peter’s response to the first miraculous catch of fish when he first met Jesus, in Luke 5:1-11, was to fall to his knees and say, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (v8). But Jesus responded, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch people” (v10) – their calling to work with him to fish people into God’s Kingdom. Now, seeing this second miraculous catch, he must be thinking, “I’ve seen this movie before!” His response this time is not to run away, but to clothe himself, dive into the sea and swim 100 meters to the shore – the impulse and passion of love to see his “friend” (v5) and “Lord” (v7), despite acute awareness of his failures. He swims over the water that Jesus walked on (6:19), crossing the unknown, from the uncertainty of business/life as usual to the shore of intimacy at Jesus’ side of resurrection.

Jesus gives a feast – confirming their calling (John 21:9-14)

Peter finds him making “a fire of burning coals with fish on it, and some bread” (a South African ‘fish braai’!) Jesus provides his own fish and bread to feed Peter and the disciples after an exhausting night that produced “nothing”. All who come to Jesus will not hunger or thirst (John 6:35). “Jesus came, took bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish” (John 21:13). The Resurrected Shepherd lovingly feeds his hungry sheep with his own life (John 10), with the bread of heaven (his body, John 6), with the waters of his Spirit (John 7:37-39), the power of new creation (John 20:22).

The breakfast he prepares symbolizes the Kingdom banquet/feast that he frequently enacted during his ministry. He invites the disciples to “bring some of the fish you just caught” – that he (also) provided! All we have is, literally, all from him! We are, however, invited to share what we do have, just like the little boy’s “five small barley loaves and two small fish” (John 6:9), that Jesus multiplies to feed the nations through the hands of his followers. The Kingdom is indeed a collaborative relational work with the Resurrected King, in his power, to reach all peoples, all nations. 

Peter gets up and helps the others to pull in the net. They count them: 153 fish! Commentators try to make the number mean “the nations” or all sorts of things! I agree with Keener: It was obviously so impressive that they remembered the number, and it simply suggests the great abundance of unlimited supply from the Risen Lord, at the table of The King (john 6:13-15).

John deliberately adds, “even with so many (fish) the net was not torn” (John 21:11) – in contrast to the net breaking with the first miraculous catch when they were first called (Luke 5:6). Is this a picture of the Resurrection Church, relationally joined and united as one (John 17:20-26):  God’s net to “fish the nations” into his Kingdom? And to bring them to the table fellowship of the Shepherd-King’s “abundant life” (John 10:10)?   

In Summary: Seven Lessons

1. After life-changing events like the crucifixion and resurrection – also the Corona Pandemic – we cannot simply go back to life and business as usual.

2. We must cross over to find the new normal, to live resurrection now.

3. Discipleship is hearing Jesus’ call, trusting and obeying his word, which releases his resurrection life and power.

4. The call of discipleship is to follow Jesus, to be formed into the net of his Kingdom, to fish people (the nations) for The King.

5. If we act on the revelation we have, we receive more revelation and enter the abundant fullness of the Kingdom.

6. Collaboration with King Jesus in all things, joining what we have with what he has, is the great enterprise of the Kingdom.

7. Fishing and Feasting with King Jesus is living Resurrection Now.

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The Resurrected King Changes Everything

Currently we are living between Passover and Pentecost. The period in which Jesus repeatedly revealed himself to his followers after his resurrection, in preparation for his ascension and coming of the Holy Spirit. In Church tradition, Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in the Gospels are preached at this time. Here are my reflections on the story of Jesus’ appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.

These notes are the basis of my video ‘homily’ presented Sunday 3 May 2020:

On ‘Easter Sunday’, when Jesus rose from the dead, Cleopas and his wife were on their way from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus. He met and joined them on the road, though they did not know/recognize it was him. Jesus heard their sad story and re-interpreted it in light of his suffering and death, and resurrection to glory. Later he revealed himself to them in the breaking of bread. And disappeared! They immediately made the 11 kilometer journey – now evening – back to Jerusalem to the community of followers. They told them,
a) “what had happened on the way” (v35, The Journey Out),
b) “how Jesus was recognized when he broke the bread” (v35, The Pivot Point),
c) and their overwhelming joy all the way back (The Journey In)

Pope Francis, in his homily on this story, contrasts the journey out and the journey in. I have added a few other elements.

The Journey OutThe Journey In
Journey away from JerusalemJourney returning to Jerusalem
In the daylight, mostly downhill, easyAt nightfall, mostly uphill, tiring
(after 11 kilometers of the day journey!)
A journey of sadness, away from painA journey of gladness, because of joy
They don’t walk alone, Jesus is beside them – but they don’t recognize/know himThey walk alone and don’t see Jesus, but feel him closer than ever – they’ve recognized him
They tell of “the (awful) things” that happened, disappointments, shattered dreams of death  They tell of “the (amazing) things” that happened, the risen Lord, eternal life.  
The stranger re-interprets their pain in light of Messiah’s suffering, death & resurrectionThey realized their hearts burnt within them as Messiah himself opened the scriptures to them
Their destination is safety in the lockdown of their home in EmmausTheir destiny is freedom in Jesus’ Family of Resurrection in the New Jerusalem

The Journey Out and Down – Three Movements

Receiving Jesus into their journey

Jesus came to Cleopas and his wife “on the way”, offering to join and companion them. They could’ve rejected his overtures because he appeared as a stranger – his identity was hidden from their eyes. Though they didn’t recognize/know him, where he was from or where he was going, they decided to let him walk with them. Perhaps, because they were so depressed, they needed someone to talk to beside each other. However, it was risky!

Jesus comes to us in the stranger, initially keeping us from seeing that it’s him in the ‘disguise’ of ‘the other’ (as Mother Teresa said, “Jesus comes to us in the distressing disguise of the poor”). Besides strangers, Jesus comes to us in friends, family, pastor, therapist, dreams, prayer, etc. He often comes when we are in need, offering to join us in our journey. Do we make ourselves vulnerable by inviting “the stranger to our pain” to walk with us? Hoping it might be Jesus? Or turn him aside in our isolation of inner pain? Some don’t want to talk, least of all when in pain. Then we live lonely and die alone. Only when we risk allowing others into our walk can we discover it is God helping us. How do you view ‘the stranger’? How has God come to you, to journey with you?   

Receiving Jesus into their conversation & pain

They took the next step of receiving Jesus into their conversation, which meant inviting him into their narrative of pain. Their story was of “the things” (v14,15,19) that had happened to Jesus, their hoped-for Messiah-King. Yes, they felt sorry for him. But they wanted him to save them, now he was dead! It was, ultimately, about themselves, their shattered dreams of disillusionment and despair. Jesus entered their conversation. Listened deeply. Asked questions that made them “stand still” (v17), stopped them in their tracks, stopped them from walking away from their pain, from suppressing it. “What are you discussing?” (v17), “What happened?” (v19), “How are you feeling?” “Why do you see it that way?” The questions drew out their story, to relive the trauma, to own their feelings and perceptions, to disclose their confusion and dashed hopes, the rumours of resurrection, what to believe or not believe, fake news or conspiracy theories!

Having entered their conversation, the strange Messiah-King changes their narrative. He re-interpreted all of it in light of his own suffering and death, as per God’s plan foretold in the scriptures, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” (v27). How can a suffering and dying King save anyone? Yet, as Isaiah 53 foretold, that was God’s strange plan that “will bring you peace”; but because they rejected Jesus as their King, it was “hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42). However, his resurrection vindicated the meaning and purpose of his death – now the good news of salvation made known to all – the revealed reality that Jesus defeated the powers of evil. He overcame human sin, suffering and death, including corona pandemic, by taking it into his own body on the cross, and rising again to give life!

So, why not take the next step? Invite Jesus into your conversation. Into your anxiety and pain. Hear his questions. Tell him your story. Let him re-interpret all you’ve been through, what you struggle with, what has broken you, in the light of his suffering and death on your behalf. He suffered what you suffer. He understands, knows, has compassion. The Risen King changes your narrative by reinterpreting your perceptions in his promises and (sometimes mysterious) purposes. Your story finds meaning and destiny to the extent it is caught up and changed in God’s conversation of redemption, in God’s meta-narrative of transforming love, of resurrection life. What is your story? What dominates your thoughts, emotions, words? Receive Jesus into your narrative and interpret it in light of his death and resurrection.

Receiving Jesus into their home

“As they approached the village, (the stranger) acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly to stay with them” (v28). Why did he act as if he were going farther? To see their response. A test. Were they happy to merely receive his comfort and counsel, his help in their time of need? Or did they want to go deeper? To host and feed him? Have him stay with them? To get to know him for who he is, not merely for what he can do for them? They not only invited, but urged him to come to their home, their safe and sacred place. He graciously accepted – did not presume or force himself on them. Little did they know, it was that third step, on “the third day” (v19, Resurrection Day), that would be the pivot, the turning point that changed everything for them!

Take this third step. Jesus is not reluctant. He’s quietly longing to be invited, to go deeper with you. Receive him into your most intimate space, your heart, the center of your being. Yes, he comes to help us when we need him. However, don’t use him for that purpose, as a means to an end. He is The End. Host him as King of your heart to “stay with” you, to get to know him for who he is, and not (only) for what he can do for you. Then…

The Pivot Point

It as “nearly evening” (v29). They prepare a meal and take their seats. Suddenly, it all shifts and turns around. The stranger takes the initiative, becomes the host. He makes it his table, his supper – by taking the bread, giving thanks (says the Hebrew blessing), breaking it, and giving to Cleopas and his wife. “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him!” (v31). It’s Jesus! He’s alive! The Lord is out the tomb! Suddenly, everything made sense. And in that moment, everything changed for them… forever!  

Perhaps they recognized him as he broke bread because they saw the nail prints in his wrists (his sleeves would have moved back from his hands). In all the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, he repeatedly identifies himself to his followers by the marks of the cross, marks that he will carry in his resurrection/glorified body throughout eternity, as witness of the unfailing everlasting love of God.

What has been your pivot point? Have you received Jesus into your heart? If you have, he then takes the initiative in all things. You are his home. Your table is his table. Your meal is the Lord’s Supper. He opens your eyes. Reveals himself to you. Shares his life with you, his body and blood. In so doing, he heals and transforms you, because he’s alive! He is risen in you, to make all things new!

The Journey Up and In – One Movement

Before they could do anything, Jesus disappeared! Wow! No worries! It simply adds to their overwhelming joy, now to be given to others. Immediately they journey up and in to Jerusalem, to their fellow followers, to say: “The Lord is risen!” All along the way they spoke of how their hearts burned within them, when Jesus opened and unfolded the scriptures to them. Step by step they recounted text by text, making sense of it all. Everything fell into place. And it was confirmed by their family of faith when they arrived in Jerusalem.


Two journeys.  Which one are you walking?

Two stories.  Which one are you living?

Two narratives.  Which one are you telling?

One pivot point.  Have you met the Risen Jesus?

Lord, stay with me!  Lord, stay with us!

Yes!  Here is my body, here is my blood.

BUT, go and tell everyone I’m alive!

I AM  The Resurrected King.

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The Big Bang of The New Creation – Part Two

This paper assumes and continues the content of Part One.

John tells the story of Jesus’ resurrection in a way that shows the new creation – new heaven & new earth – began in Jesus. As the sun begins to set on that Friday, after Jesus had died, his young broken body is taken down from the cross by two elderly sages. They tenderly wash and wrap it in cloth, with 30 kilograms of spices (very expensive, only done for kings), and place his body in a new tomb in a nearby garden (John 19:39-41).

Death entered the first garden of creation through human sin. There was no tomb in that garden, because God never intended humans to die (death is an evil invasion into pristine creation, hence the innate human fear of death – it’s our enemy). They were driven out and barred by angels from re-entering that garden. In contrast, death enters the garden near Golgotha, in Jesus’ human body. There was a new tomb in this garden, because God intended to use it to defeat death by resurrecting Jesus’ body – the body that atoned for sin on that ‘Good Friday’: The Sacrificial Lamb of God. That makes this garden a New Eden of New Creation that destroys death, that will empty all tombs (one day), that opens the way for all to enter, regenerating those who do enter with eternal resurrection life.

The Resurrection (John 20:1-18)

“Early on the first day of the week, while it is still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (v.1). This is the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the next week, which is the eighth day of creation. For John, that eighth day is the first day of New Creation: The Resurrection of The Last Day that Jesus proclaimed in John 11:24-25, as taught in the Hebrew scriptures (Ezekiel 37:10-12, Daniel 12:2). Many Jews believed in The Resurrection, that it would mark the end of this age and the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom.

It’s no longer Friday, Sunday has come!

The phrase, “while it is still dark”, symbolizes human hopeless, entombed by the power of evil, to be shattered by the dazzling light of this new dawn. So, the story of this new dawn unfolds. Mary comes to the tomb, only to find it empty! Shocked, she runs to tell Peter and the others. They run to the tomb. It’s empty! The strips of linen lying there just as if Jesus’ body had simply come out of them! When the youngest disciple, whom Jesus specially loved, sees it, he believes. Jesus is alive!

But Mary remains outside the tomb weeping (v.10-18). Then looks in and sees two angels, one at the head and one the feet of where Jesus’ body was laid. She was dressed in black, in mourning. They were in white, connoting a different story. The glory of God that rests between the two cherubim on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, is no longer there behind the curtain, no longer in lockdown in a tomb, but is out and about in the garden, in the home, on the street, in the marketplace. The ‘missing body’ that lay between the angels is the Resurrected Temple, the new Ark of the Presence, giving mercy and forgiveness, “life from above” to all who “receive him” (John 1:12-13). The stone is rolled away, the veil is torn open, heaven breaks out on earth, new creation explodes in broken creation.

The angels ask, “why are you weeping?”
She answers, “they’ve taken my Lord and I don’t know where they’ve put him!”
She then turns to look away from the tomb and sees someone standing there.
He asks, “woman, why are you weeping?”
Thinking he’s the gardener of the garden, she answers, “if you’ve taken his body, tell me where you’ve put him.”
Then Jesus says, “Mary”.
Recognizing his voice calling her by name (John 10:3), she sees him for who he is – risen and alive – and she comes to life.
Surprised and overwhelmed with joy, she turns fully toward him and “clings”, crying out “rabboni!” The warm relational “my teacher”, as opposed to the formal “Rabbi”. He says, “don’t cling to me because I must ascend to my Father and you must go tell my brothers that I’m returning to my Father and your Father.”
She then runs to tell them all she saw and all he said.

In the way John writes this dramatic, tender, eye-witness account, we cannot but pick up its meaning in the symbolic echoes of the first creation story (I have italicized the key words). Jesus, like the first Adam, rose to life in a garden, in spring (northern hemisphere), bursting with blossoms and new life. He is the New Adam in a New Garden of Eden. He is the gardener who tends New Creation in broken first creation, looking for us, calling us by name, “Mary”. She can symbolize the church, all believers, who turn away from the tomb of death and despair – to see Jesus, to hear him identify us by name, and embrace him.  

However, the whole point of this story is not that we hold onto Jesus in a possessive way, for our own comfort and healing, but that he sends us out as witnesses of New Creation! He is the Last Adam who is a “life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45), reversing the first Adam’s “death-giving spirit”, which infected humanity with mortality, including creation. We who turn to the Last Adam, who believe and receive, become his sisters and brothers, born again with life from above by the same Father (John 1:12-13, 3:3-8). Nowhere in John’s gospel did Jesus call his disciples “my brothers”, and God “your Father”, till this resurrection day.

New Adams & Eves – New Creation Mandate (John 20:19-23)

Then John says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together…” Technically, he should say “on the second day of the week” – Sunday night was already Monday! His deliberate wording, however, emphasizes that what follows is still the first day in the Garden of Resurrection, the first day of New Creation.

The disciples are in self-imposed lockdown for fear of being arrested by the authorities. Suddenly Jesus walks in through the bolted door. He “came and stood among them”. What a shock! It’s the first time he appears to them, in John’s story, other than to Mary that morning. He greets them with the customary “Shalom alechem”, “peace be with you”. In other words: Hi, it’s me! Don’t fear! I’m here, I’m alive! Then shows them his hands and side, the marks of crucifixion. They are “overjoyed when they saw the Lord”.

He again pronounces God’s Shalom on them. Then commissions them, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”. With that he does an extraordinary thing: he breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”, and affirms his commission, mandating them with his authority: “if you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”.

Some explanatory observations arise from this story.

First, Jesus was resurrected in a ‘trans-physical’ body (N.T. Wright’s phrase), a ‘spiritualised’ body renewed and saturated by God’s Spirit (pneumatikon body, Paul’s phrase in 1 Corinthians 15:44-45). He walks through walls, appears, disappears, yet eats food and is fully recognizable as the person they knew. They touch him, feel his wounds, hug him – he’s not a ghost as they initially thought. We will recognize and know each other by name in our resurrection bodies when Jesus returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Jesus calls his resurrection body “flesh and bone” (Luke 24:39), different to the regular “flesh and blood” (Hebrews 2:14). “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50), because “the life of the flesh in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). In other words, blood is the principle of life in the mortal body. Spirit is the principle of life in the resurrection body – thus “flesh and bone” – transformed and governed by God’s Spirit, fully suited to eternal life and reign in God’s Kingdom throughout the coming ages.

Second, to show one’s wounds in a court of law, as proof of what took place, was common in those days. This thought as two applications:

a) Jesus chose to first reveal himself to women (in all four gospels) – the first witnesses of his resurrection. Why women? Their testimony was not accepted in Jewish courts as they were ‘unreliable witnesses’ because they ‘deceive and lie’ (male prejudice). Mary earlier told the men apostles she saw, heard and touched the Risen Lord. But only when Jesus gives them the irrefutable evidence of his wounds, do they believe and are “overjoyed”! Can you believe it? Yes, sadly, I can! This was, perhaps, Jesus’ most empowering act for women, and most rebuking act for men – to transform both!

b) Jesus identifies himself by the marks of the cross. There is a nail-pierced resurrected and glorified human body not only in heaven, but in the Godhead. In some sense the Trinity is forever ‘changed’! The Crucified and Resurrected God, bearing the marks for eternity. How do you ‘self-identify’? What identifies you? What marks do you carry? Jesus told us to take up his cross and follow him, meaning, lose your life to find real life. To the extent you die to self you live in resurrection power. It’s not a triumphalist gospel for winners, but a theology of God’s power made perfect in human weakness.

Third, Jesus’ commission and breathing (his) Holy Spirit – fresh from the resurrection – into his disciples, is a direct reference to the Genesis story. Two last explanations:

a) John uses the same words, “he breathed on them”, from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) in Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:9-10. Both texts speak of God breathing (new) life into bodies: first, Adam in the garden, then Israel in prophetic renewal. Here the New Adam breathes his Spirit of Resurrection Life into a new humanity of born-again Adams and Eves. Here Israel’s Crucified but Resurrected God breathes his Ruach ha Kodesh into the new Israel, fulfilling Ezekiel’s vision. The new humanity and new Israel are the same – all who experience John 1:12-13 & 3:3-8.
John might also see Jesus’ breathing his Spirit on them as the church’s empowerment of the Spirit – their experience of John 7:37-39 and Jesus’ teaching on the Spirit in John 14 – 16. Empowerment for the New Creation Mandate. Most biblical stories tell of God’s leaders commissioning and empowering their followers before the leader dies. John’s version of Spirit-empowerment is different to Luke’s version of Pentecost. Rather than contradict, they complement each other. It’s both/and, not either/or.

b) Before and after Jesus breathes Holy Spirit into his disciples, he commissions them, sending them as the Father sent him. In the context of this resurrection story, and in the entire context of John’s gospel, this is the renewal of the creation mandate in Genesis 1:28. Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth with Eden, rule over the creation God entrusts to you. In John’s terms, the born again and empowered church of new Adams and Eves are to take God’s Kingdom of New Creation to the ends of the earth: “Go and do what I’ve been doing, forgive sins, do miraculous signs & wonders (greater than what I did, John 14:10), bring light and life by speaking my creative word, re-Shalom the earth!”

The Conclusion (John 20:26-29)

John’s conclusion comes exactly a week later in the same house; in other words, another first day of New Creation. Jesus appears to doubting Thomas and irrefutably reveals himself as resurrected. Thomas’ response is the closing climax of the entire gospel, “My Lord and my God!” (v.28). This takes us back to the beginning, “The Word was God… and became flesh” (John 1:1,14). Jesus is indeed the Enfleshed, Crucified, Resurrected, Glorified God.

Therefore, the death, and more so the resurrection of Jesus is the Big Bang of New Creation that happens in human history. It explodes and exponentially expands God’s eternal life, the coming age, within this age, transforming broken creation. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And most important, we are called to take that New Creation to the ends of the earth.

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The Big Bang of The New Creation – Part One

Jesus’ death on the Friday was an enactment in his own body of the Passover meal that he celebrated with his disciples the night before – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, all biblical quotes are NIV). Jesus is the New Exodus out of the oppressive rule of sin and death, through his death and resurrection, into God’s liberating reign of forgiveness and life.

Jesus’ bodily resurrection vindicated the meaning of his death, proving him to be “the Son of God in power by his resurrection” (Romans 1:4). The gospels show, particularly John’s gospel, that Jesus’ resurrection was the ‘Big Bang’ of the New Creation (my phrase. Don’t let this phrase put you off if you disagree, read it as a metaphor). Matthew’s gospel speaks of earthquakes when Jesus died and rose again, with the Temple curtain torn open and bodies of holy people coming out of the tombs. In other words, creation convulsed in anticipation of its liberation from bondage in Christ’s death and resurrection – the New Exodus of the renewal of all things. I will, however, focus this article on John’s gospel. Beside my own insights, I have drawn on N.T. Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God.

John’s Good News Story

John sets his themes in the prologue to his ‘theological biography’ of Jesus: Creation/New Creation (“In the beginning”, John 1:1 echoes Genesis 1:1)… in the Word/Life/Light that defeats darkness (1:3-9)… regenerating/resurrecting all who receive him (1:10-13)… God’s enfleshed Temple full of glory/grace/truth… all revealing who God is (1:14-18).

The Temple theme is the (new) creation theme. Eden was a garden cathedral where heaven and earth joined. Adam & Eve, God’s human image, were priests and kings over creation on God’s behalf. The later tabernacle and Temple were full of depictions of angels as the place of heaven on earth: God’s house where God lived in the Holy of Holies among his nation of royal priests (Exodus 19:6).  

John’s prologue (John 1:1-18) is the opening of an ‘inclusio’ that closes with Jesus’ resurrection and appearances (John 20:1-21:25). The structural centre of the gospel is chapter 11, Lazarus’ return from death. And the centre of that story is Jesus’ profound statement (John 11:25-26):

“I am The Resurrection and The Life. S/he who believes in me will live, even though s/he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”   

To sew these themes into a seamless story, like Jesus’ garment (John 19:23), John speaks of days and times: “The next day…” (1:29,35,43), “the third day” (2:1,19), “the time is coming and has now come” (5:25), “the last day” (6:39,40,44,54; 11:24), and so on. It’s his symbolic way of showing that the end, the future age, has happened in Jesus of Nazareth, especially in his death and resurrection, inaugurating the new creation the Hebrew prophets predicted.

So, John says (2:1), “On the third day” there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jewish readers would have noted the reference to the third day – beside the symbolism of the end-time marriage feast of God and his people when “the finest of wines” is brought out and does not run dry, when God will “destroy the shroud of death that enfolds all people” (Isaiah 25:6-8). John repeats and explains “the third day” in the next story (John 2:13-22), clearly referring to Jesus’ resurrection. The other gospel writers have this story (Jesus’ enactment of judgement on the Temple) at the end of his ministry, after he enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. John puts it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, referring to his body (the Temple) being destroyed (his death), which he will raise up on the third day (his resurrection).

The wedding feast is the first of seven “miraculous signs” to “show his authority” (2:18) and “reveal his glory” (2:11, God’s Shekinah returning to Israel in the Temple of Jesus’ body). Each sign points to and is a foretaste of The Big Bang of New Creation. Sign two, healing the official’s son (4:43f); three, healing the paralyzed man (5:1f); four, feeding the 5,000 (6:1f); five, healing the man born blind (9:1f). Sign six is Jesus’ defeat of death in raising Lazarus to life (11:1f) – the center of the gospel that points to its climax: a resurrection of an entirely different order (20:1f). Clearly, John’s theology of Jesus is embedded and communicated in his stories of Jesus. The signs & wonders are the enfleshed Word speaking Life and Light into the darkness of broken creation. They defeat evil, “the prince of this world” (12:31, 14:30, 16:11), bringing order out of chaos by the hovering Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2) – the new creation that regenerates and reorders all who “receive and believe him” (John 1:12).   

The signs culminate in the seventh, the number of completion and perfection: Jesus’ death & resurrection. It begins the second half of John’s good news biography of Jesus, 12:1, “Six days before the Passover Jesus arrived…” In other words, Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem is the final countdown to actual New Creation.

The Crucifixion (John 19:1-37)

On the sixth day of that final week, Friday, Jesus is crucified. On that day, early morning, Pilate twice presents Jesus to the people.

First, “Behold, the man!” (19:5). This echoes the sixth day of creation, humanity unveiled as God’s image, to rule the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). “The man” who Pilate reveals – in whom he finds no fault (19:4) – is a beaten and bloodied man, having been flogged to within an inch of death. The people are looking at the Second Adam, who represents brutalized humanity made in the image of sin and death. This man, God in human flesh, absorbs all humanity’s violence in his own body, thereby defeating the powers, “the prince of this world”, behind the chaotic darkness of broken creation. See God’s glory shining brightest in this image-bearer: Jesus is “glorified in this hour” of suffering and death (12:23).  

Then, “Behold, your king!” (19:14). This echoes Isaiah 52:13f, where God’s Servant-King is presented for all to “SEE… he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted”. These are the words Isaiah uses to describe Yahweh in his vision in the Temple (Isaiah 6:1), which John refers to as “Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of him” (John 12:41). When the Jews look at Jesus presented as “your king”, they see him (ironically, their REAL King) mockingly dressed in a purple robe with a crown of thorns thrust on his beaten brow. They were “appalled at him – his appearance was do disfigured beyond that of any man, and his form marred beyond human likeness – so he will sprinkle many nations, their kings will shut their mouths because of him” (Isaiah 52:14-15). Jesus not only memorized Isaiah’s prophetic songs of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, but he became their living fulfilment.

On both occasions the people respond by chanting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” So, they take him to Golgotha and crucify him. They put a sign on his cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. By mid-afternoon, “knowing that all was now completed… so that the scriptures be fulfilled” (19:28), Jesus cries out, “Tetalestai”, “It is finished!” (all three italicised words are the Greek root telos, “the end” – the end goal complete). He then bows his head and gives up his spirit (v.30). John immediately mentions the Sabbath (twice, v.31,32), the seventh day that begins when the sun sets that Friday.

In all of this John is saying: the work of (new) creation of “the Word made flesh”, over the six days, in the six miraculous signs, through the entire ministry of Jesus, is now completed in his seventh sign – his death on the cross. Thus, his work now finished, he surrenders his spirit to God. And bows his head, entering rest, in hope of resurrection. Jesus died in faith of God’s vindication of his mission, trusting God would raise him from the dead. Not like Lazarus’ resuscitation, who died again. Jesus believed he would be first – the “first-fruit” – in The Resurrection spoken of by the prophets (Ezekiel 37:10-12; Daniel 12:2). His Sabbath has come, he rests as God and all creation rested after the six days of work of first creation.

The King sleeps. Let all the earth be silent!

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!  In Part Two – in three days!

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Living Resurrection Now

“Live Resurrection Now”

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do YOU believe this?
(John 11:25-26)

On Thursday night we celebrated the Passover with Jesus and his disciples, and relived his Gethsemane agony in the garden. On Friday morning we re-membered ourselves to the crucified Christ, meditating on his seven sayings from the cross. Now Easter Sunday! We celebrate his bodily resurrection. If Jesus had not physically risen from the dead, our faith would be in vain. And his amazing words above, that he spoke before he raised his good friend, Lazarus, back to life (was dead for four days), would mean nothing. Jesus’ bodily resurrection vindicates him in all his claims, in all he did, and especially in his sacrificial death on the cross for our sin and death. He was indeed the Son of God! God in Jesus defeated death, the grave, sin, sickness and all evil. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection was the ‘Big Bang’ of God’s new creation, in the midst of the old creation! If you are in Christ, you are not only a new creation, but you participate in it’s exponential expansion to the ends of all (created) reality, to rule & reign with him over his new (and old) creation.

The story of Jesus defeating death in his ministry by raising Lazarus back to life was only possible – in retrospect – due to Jesus’ later bodily resurrection. The story of Lazarus’ raising and of Jesus’ resurrection is the message of LIVE RESURRECTION NOW!

The Text: Jesus The Resurrection

“I AM…” John records seven times Jesus using God’s holy name, “I AM”, from Ex 3:14-15. “I am the bread of life… the light of the world, etc” (John 6:35, 8:12,58, 10:7-8, 11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1,5). Jesus is God in human skin. He is all who and what we need in every way!

“I AM the resurrection and the life… you will live, though you die… you will never die.” The Hebrew understanding of eternal life is embodied life; i.e. not an immortal disembodied spirit/soul set free from the body through death (Greek idea); rather a resurrected bodily person filled with God’s eternal kind of life, to rule and reign with him forever. To receive and to trust Jesus is to receive his resurrection, his eternal kind of life. Though we will physically die, we already have eternal life – we live resurrection now – with the guarantee that our bodies will rise again to enjoy consummated eternal life.

“The one who believes in me… by believing in me… do you believe this?” The key to ‘living resurrection now’ is faith in Jesus. To believe him is to trust, rely, depend on him. As we place our confidence in him in full trust, we discover that what he says he does, he is!

The Reality of Death

We know from the Hebrew scriptures that death is the enemy of humankind. Also from experience: we all instinctively fear death. It was a foreign intrusion into God’s pristine creation due to Adam & Eve’s sinful rebellion against God – trusting evil (the serpent’s word) over God (against God’s word). “Death” in Hebrew & Greek means “to separate”. Physical death separates us from our bodies, from our family and friends, causing great grief and pain, as seen in Martha and Mary when their brother Lazarus died. Spiritual death separates us from God. We go through various psycho-emotional deaths from time to time. There is the extreme pain of marriage sickness and eventual death – called divorce. And dysfunctional and broken family relationships leading to ‘family death’.

The cause(s) of death, in scripture, is sin and consequent sickness. Sickness is a foretaste of death: the mortality and corruption of our bodies. We all struggle with it till death, to await resurrection. Healing is a foretaste of resurrection: a power-surge of our future bodily resurrection made real here and now, a grace from God. But human nature – as with Martha (v. 21) and Mary (v. 32) – is to blame it on God: “if only YOU had been here he would not have died”. Our many “if onlys…” against God. Satan always seeks to separate us from God by blaming him, questioning his integrity. John says Lazarus died because of sickness, not because Jesus was not there! BUT Jesus DOES come to us in our death. He came to Lazarus after he had been dead for four days – the body stank with decay – showing that it’s NEVER too late for God to do the miracle of resurrection!

The Reality of Resurrection… Now!

In Martha’s hopelessness and blaming Jesus for the reality of Lazarus’ death, Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again” (vv.23f). She responded, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Then Jesus replied, “I AM that Last Day, I AM the Resurrection standing here in front of you! Do you believe this?” Jesus raised Lazarus there and then. But specifically how did he do it? And therefore, how do we receive and ‘live resurrection now’ in the death we are currently experiencing, and entombed in? Jesus went to where they laid Lazarus to take his stand before death…


  1. By Jesus’ compassion: He was moved by Mary’s weeping, and those who had come to comfort her and Martha… then “Jesus wept” (v.35, the shortest verse in the Bible!) His compassion on them in their loss, mixed with anger at death taking their beloved brother, moved him to action, to confront death. Jesus weeps with YOU in your death.
  2. By Jesus’ communion: He was in communion with his Father throughout Lazarus’ sickness and then death (vv.41-42). Jesus prayed for him. He prays and intercedes for us continually at the Father’s side (Heb 7:25). Jesus is praying for you right now!
  3. By Jesus’ command: He first asked for the stone in front of the tomb to be removed (v.39). We must remove any obstacle that prevents us from receiving resurrection now. Then he commanded: “Lazarus, come out!” This rebuked death and spoke life. Jesus stands before you in your sickness and death, and calls you by name, “…. come out” from the particular darkness, despair and death, that you’re going through, that entombs you. If you hear his voice (John 5:24-25) respond in faith: step out in trust. Act on his call, his command, as if it is true, and discover it to be so. Memorize Jesus’ words of healing and they will give life to your mortal body (Prov 4:20-22)
  4. By Jesus’ community: When Lazarus came out of the tomb, ALIVE, he was bound in his body and face by the strips of burial linen. Jesus told those present, including Mary and Martha, “take off the grave clothes and set him free” (v.44). Receiving resurrection now is a gift-miracle from Jesus, but living resurrection now involves community to complete the process of wholeness. I.e. you must (further) trust Jesus in and through his people, the local church to which you commit and belong, to complete your journey to healing and freedom. Some of our brothers and sisters, of course, try to take off our bandages rather roughly and insensitively, while others are tender and sensitive, exercising Jesus’ compassion. Either way, our coming out of death into life, and growing wholeness and freedom, involves yielding ourselves to Jesus’ community, trusting him as Head of his Church for his best.
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Post Resurrection Encounters in Following Jesus – Peter’s Call Renewed (Part 1)

The audio is available to listen online or download with notes.

The text: John 21:1-23 (following it over two weeks)

This story of Jesus’ encounter with Peter is but one of Jesus’ appearances over a 40 day period (Acts 1:3), proving his bodily resurrection, restoring his followers and weaning them from his physical presence – for them to depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit.

First, note the broad features of this most tender encounter:

  • The setting on the shore of the sea of Tiberias (Galilee) and the miraculous catch clearly connotes Peter’s original call in Luke 5:1-11 (read it and compare)
  • And by making a fire on that cold early morning and asking Peter three times if he loved him, Jesus recreated and reversed Peter’s threefold denial, which took place around a fire (see John 13:36-37, 18:10-27)
  • The implication: Jesus comes to each of us at critical times to restore and heal, often by recreating and reinterpreting what happened (our disillusionment and death), leading to a deeper honesty and self-knowledge, with a profound renewal (resurrection) of our followership and calling to minister (love) in his name

Second, meditate on the details and layers of meaning in the first story (John 21:1-14):

John 21:3 – Why did Peter go back to fishing? What do you ‘go back to’ when disillusioned… ? Continue reading Post Resurrection Encounters in Following Jesus – Peter’s Call Renewed (Part 1)

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Post Resurrection Encounters in Following Jesus – On the Road to Emmaus

The audio is available to listen online or download with notes.

Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection over a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3), proving that he was alive, restoring them from the trauma of his death (renewing faith and following, e.g. Thomas: “my Lord and my God”). The encounters and disappearances weaned his followers from dependence on his physical presence, so that they live by faith in his invisible presence – the indwelling Holy Spirit. The post resurrection stories are paradigms of how Jesus encounters us today by his Spirit, to restore and heal us.

The Two on the Road to Emmaus
Read this beautiful story in Luke 24:13-35 as an exercise in “Lectio Divina

  • Lectio: Read the story slowly and prayerfully, asking God to speak to you… then…
  • Meditatio: Meditate on what God says to you through the reading – whatever ‘grabs’ you, a word or phrase that speaks to you, or an image that fires your mind… then…
  • Oratio: Pray orally (or mentally) about your meditation on the text; i.e. respond to God by praying about what he says to you in the text via your thoughts, feelings… and then…
  • Contemplatio: Contemplation is the last step in Lectio Divina, moving from mediation and prayer to complete silence – beyond thoughts, images, words, feelings – to the still point of simply resting in God’s most intimate and loving embrace.

To help you ‘feed off’ this story – and for discussion in your home group – here are some pointers for meditation (the best is to relive the story in your imagination):

Reconstruct the context in your mind: it’s the Sunday that Jesus rose, they are walking home depressed, traumatized by Jesus’ death, confused by reports of him being alive… their Kingdom hopes utterly dashed. How have you been disillusioned? Continue reading Post Resurrection Encounters in Following Jesus – On the Road to Emmaus

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Post Resurrection Encounters in Following Jesus – Thomas’ experience

The sermon audio is available to listen online or to download (updated).

Last week we remembered and relived the resurrection in John 19:38-42;20:1-23 (Pope Francis said in his ‘Resurrection Homily’ that Mary’s tears at the empty tomb were her “glasses” through which she saw Jesus ever more clearly. Our tears of sadness, loss, trouble, pain, etc, are a gift to see God ‘in all things’).

Mark (Mark 16:9-14), the earliest Gospel, says Jesus appeared to various people after his resurrection, re-affirming the call and commission to follow, form and fish.

Luke says (Acts 1:3) the risen Jesus revealed himself to many over a period of 40 days (before He ascended to heaven) teaching them about the Kingdom of God. He was weaning them from dependence on his physical presence, to live by faith (not by sight) in his invisible presence: His indwelling Holy Spirit.

Thomas’ encounter with Jesus (John 20:24-30)

Firstly, what is the significance of his followers recognizing and identifying Jesus by the marks of crucifixion – His scars (that he will have throughout eternity)? Continue reading Post Resurrection Encounters in Following Jesus – Thomas’ experience