Resurrection – what are the consequences?

Gordon MackleyPosted on Monday, April 15, 2013 by Gordon Mackley

Resurrection appearances to some of the disciples on Lake Galilee (John 21) and to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9)

These represent two appearances of the resurrected Jesus at different times (the disciples first) in different circumstances and to very different people. We need to consider what however is the same, as well as what is different and most important of all what lessons there are for us today.

At Lake Galilee

In the case of the disciples, there are two main characters, Peter and John. Peter is a man who was once described as a man who only opened his mouth to change feet, but we need to always remind ourselves that he was mightily used by God, despite his weaknesses and his mistakes. This is something that should console us who also have our own particular weaknesses and who have made and continue to make, our own mistakes.

Previous to his crucifixion, they had spent three years with Jesus. He had told them that He would be killed and that He would be resurrected. He also told them what was expected of them. They should have had a reasonable idea of what to do. However what they actually did, for whatever reason, was to go back to what (at least some of them) did before. They went fishing on Lake Galilee (also called Sea of Tiberias or Lake Kinneret – all the same place).

They went fishing at night but these professional fisherman caught no fish at all and as the dawn was rising, a voice from the shore asks them about this and then says,

“Cast the net on the other side…”

It is interesting to note that the word often translated as ‘friends’, used by the person we know (but they did not know) was Jesus in verse 5 is actually quite an intimate greeting in the original Greek and could be translated as ‘lads’ or ‘mates’. Even so the disciples do not recognise Jesus (as of course originally, neither did Mary Magdalene or the disciples on the road to Emmaus).

We can imagine Peter, who described himself as being quite foul-mouthed, muttering some words under his breath about this person calling from the shore who was telling the professional fisherman how to catch fish. Nonetheless, they do as Jesus says and as we can see from the passage, catch a large number of fish (153).

At this point John comes into the story. Now if Peter is of the ‘ready, fire, aim’ type of person, John is the reflective one who thinks about what is happening before acting. He remembers a similar incident when they were fishing and caught nothing, but when Jesus tells them to cast the net, they miraculously and contrary to all that they would have expected as professional fishermen, get a huge catch (Luke 5).

John makes the connection that this is again miraculous and that therefore, this must be the Master (Jesus) on the shore. As you might expect, it is then Peter who jumps in the water to get to the shore first.

Jesus still acts the same way as a servant and cooks breakfast. He then very firmly, but quite gently, steers Peter towards his task ahead. He does this by asking him three times whether Peter loves him – reminding Peter of how much he failed by denying Jesus three times just before the crucifixion. (John 18).

Peter was probably feeling very unworthy at this point when reminded of what he did and although he does not like to be reminded, Jesus does not chastise him for his past failure, but builds him up as he gives him his tasks, which would end in his martyrdom (which he of course had been previously so fearful of).

Throughout this, we can see that Jesus is unchanged with the same gentle servant heart (as indeed we might expect, as God does not change). However, the disciples’ attitude has now changed. Whereas when he was previously with them, they asked Jesus many questions about who He was, now we see in verse 12, that they dare not ask him who He was.

After all that had happened, they knew he was God and they were now in awe of Him.

In old translations, this type of awe or reverence is often described as ‘fear of the Lord’, but we must not confuse giving God due reverence as the creator and sustainer of the universe with being afraid of Him, as if He were likely to do nasty things to us at any moment. This latter view is a pagan view of god (or gods), not our God. Our God is patient, loving, kind and merciful, just as Jesus is here. As Jesus said,

“Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9)

On the road to Damascus

The second passage (Acts 9) involves a very different person, Saul (later Paul). Saul, of course, was not one of the original disciples of Jesus. It is possible that he met Jesus and in fact if you agree with Dr. Bradford’s hypothesis of Jesus being trained as a Rabbi and ‘Teacher of the Law’, it is quite possible that Paul and Jesus were trained in the Law at around the same time, with Paul the younger of the two. (‘The Jesus Discovery – Another Look at Christ’s Missing Years’ by Dr A. T. Bradford – Templehouse Publishing)

To understand Saul’s attitude, we need to consider the theology of the religious leaders of this time in Judea.

Saul was a Pharisee. He was a very learned man and had been trained not only in what is now our Old Testament, but also in the whole of the Law (the Torah). This included all that which at the time was only oral. He would have known all 613 Commandments (a few more than the 10!). The theology of these learned Jewish religious leaders was that to be ‘righteous’ or ‘justified’ before God, you needed to carry out all the minutiae of the Law. To do this, you needed to know all of those minutiae.

Only those trained would be so able and therefore, the ordinary people could not carry out all the requirements of the Law, because they simply did not know what they all were. The technical term for these people, who could (in this theology) never be considered ‘righteous’, was ‘sinners’.

When Jesus was preaching, he stated that this was not correct and in Luke 18 vs9-14 He quotes to these religious people the Parable of the Pharisee and the ‘Publican’. The latter in Jesus’ time meant a tax collector who worked for the hated occupying Romans.

In this parable, the Pharisee declares how glad he is to be superior to everyone else, whilst the publican or tax collector cannot even go near the Temple, but simply asks God to have mercy on him, as a sinner. Jesus declares that it is the tax collector who is justified before God and not the Pharisee.

This would have been complete anathema to Saul and, as a Pharisee himself, you can see why he would have hated Jesus and wanted to stamp out this new religion, which was contrary to everything he had learned and believed, and now there was this new ‘heresy’ that Jesus had risen from the dead. The new believers called themselves followers of ‘The Way’ (from John 14:6. Jesus answered,

“I am the way, the truth and the life…”

So Paul gets the various documents and goes off to stamp out this religion; firstly in Damascus.

Now God could simply have stopped this from happening. He could have struck Saul down. If you had God’s power, would you have done that? God does not do that because however nasty someone is and however bad their past, God can turn that experience into good and use it for Kingdom growth, as we know happened for Saul (later as Paul), but in a different way can also be true for us as well.

The journey from Jerusalem to Damascus required travelling over the mountainous region to the north of Galilee. Electrical storms were (and still are) common here so blinding flashes of light would not have been unusual, but a clearly audible (to Saul at least) voice speaking from the midst of one and declaring himself to be Jesus would of course have had to have been supernatural, rather than natural.

Notice how Jesus, in speaking to the disciples in the earlier passage, met them where they would recognise him by repeating a fishing incident. Here, when meeting the learned theologian fully conversant with scripture, he meets Saul in a scene which Saul would have immediately connected with Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10. Saul now knows with the background of his great theological knowledge that Jesus was who He said He was, at the same time ‘the Son of Man’ (an Old Testament expression for being human), the Messiah and to be in control of death; God Himself.

Saul’s great error was that despite all his learning, he had ignored two of the most key parts of scripture, referred to by Jesus in Luke 10:

25 On one occasion, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?’ He replied. ‘How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ”
28 “You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.”

The expert in the Law had correctly put together two Old Testament instructions from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Saul would have known these passages, as well as all the other scripture. But in his zeal for his own brand of theology, he had chosen to ignore them.

Later, as this type of religious hypocrite himself previously, he could reflect on this form of religious hypocrisy where the religion itself became more important than love and we can think of 1 Corinthians 12 about gifts of the spirit, immediately followed by that great chapter extolling the virtues of love, 1 Corinthians 13.

Saul’s later exploits as Paul are well known and thus by this resurrection appearance, and that to the disciples, the foundations were laid for expanding the Kingdom amongst both Jews and Gentiles (i.e. us), not by coercing people or punishing them, but by love redirecting their energies towards the correct direction.

So what about us? What can we learn? When things change and we do not know what to do, do we go back to doing what we used to (perhaps even before we knew Jesus)? What we should be doing is praying for guidance, speaking to God and most important of all, listening to what He says.

How do we view God? An old man with a long beard waiting to strike us for the things we get wrong? This is not our God. He is merciful, gracious and loving. He can be forceful and may need to be but His actions are done with love and not malice. Do we think that we have done such bad things and/or are so unworthy at the moment that God cannot use us? The enemy would like us to believe that, but the truth is that God can use us whatever we have done and whatever we are.

Do we love religion and consider those with different views or less knowledge less worthy than us? We know there are plenty of people in cults, religions and denominations that think that way. Are we some of them? Clearly there are things that are true and therefore things that are not true, but in our dealings with people, we must not lose sight of love.

John, (the thinker in the boat) reminds us in his letters of the connection made by the Teacher of the Law. If we do not love our brother who we can see, then we cannot love God who we cannot see. To believe otherwise is delusion. We can preach the most wonderful sermons, know the Bible back to front, but ultimately, it is love that is where it’s at!

Amen.

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