Thursday, 23 February 2012

If you’re really there God, why don’t you just prove it?

A primary school teacher was once walking around her class during art; most of the children were painting animals or their family or something recognisable. And then she noticed Scott’s rather shapeless yet extremely colourful creation, she stopped by his desk and asked; ‘That’s lovely Scott, what is it?’
“That’s God,” Scott replied.
“But no-one has ever seen God,” his teacher said.
“They have now.” Said Scott looking up at her.

That’s exactly what most of us do in terms of God, not with a paint brush but in terms of our thinking. According to the last census 82% of British people believe there is a God. But I think that what God was like would be different for so many people, for some he’d be the harsh judgemental headmaster who you try desperately to avoid displeasing because he’s just waiting for a chance to punish you, for others he is a slightly senile grandfather figure who is always comforting and ready with a hug no matter what you do, for others, well, they think God must exist but have no idea what he’s like and don’t give it much thought.

They can’t all be right can they? So if God exists why doesn’t he just prove it and show us what he is like. I believe that he has.  John 10:22-42. (Read)

Jesus is proof that God exists
As I read it did you notice the extraordinary claims Jesus makes? What are they?

“I give them eternal life”(28), “I and the Father are one.” (30), (38)“the Father is in me and I in the Father.”

Jesus astonishingly claims twice that he and God are one and the same, that he is God the Son, as well as claiming he can give eternal life. (33)The Jews understand exactly what he is claiming, he isn’t just claiming to be a good man, or a good teacher, or even the most important prophet he is claiming to be God. That’s why they are about are about to stone him, and by the way just so we are clear that is with stones, because “you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Jesus is claiming that he is God; there is no doubt about that. It’s the greatest declaration of the existence of God ever – Jesus is saying I’m God right here right now standing right in front of you in 1st Century Jerusalem. If you want to hear God speak listen to me, if you want to touch God I’m him, if you want to understand what God has to say to you and about you listen to my words, if you had any doubts about God’s existence I am here to dispel them.

And it isn’t just in this chapter of John, in ch14:8-9. Thomas, one of Jesus followers, asks Jesus to show them the Father and Jesus is a bit surprised by the question. Thomas if you have seen me you have seen the Father. Making that same claim again.

In John 8:58 Jesus makes another amazing claim to the Pharisees “Before Abraham was born, I am!” Jesus is saying he existed before he was born. Jesus consistently declares that he is God.

But I guess anyone can make a claim can’t they, the question is ‘what evidence is there to back up his claims?’

Exhibit A
When the Pharisees are about to stone him notice what Jesus says, he doesn’t issue a retraction or talk about being misquoted, or misunderstood. (34-39)He says look at the evidence, if the evidence backs up my claim believe in me.

What evidence is he talking about? He is talking about his work; if he is doing the work that God does they ought to believe.

One chapter later Jesus goes to his friend Lazarus’ house because Lazarus has died, it looks like a normal graveside scene as Jesus stands there and weeps(35). But Jesus is not ordinary (36)”Then the Jews said: see how he loved him! But some said “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

There is an amazing expectation – if Jesus had been there he could have healed Lazarus even though he was so ill that he died from that illness – Jesus could work miracles. It’s an astonishing expectation. But it’s a statement based on the evidence – already John has recorded Jesus turning water into wine, healing a sick boy, an invalid, a blind man, feeding 5,000, and walking on water. In fact even in books written by his opponents don’t doubt his miracle working they simply attribute it to sorcery.

Later on at the end of his book John writes “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book...” These miracles are a sampling, it’s no wonder the mourners say if he’d been here he could have kept this man from dying, Jesus does what only God can do.

And at the graveside Jesus is about to astound the crowd, because even death is no obstacle to God and therefore to him. (38-44)There is a resounding tone of realism isn’t there, no-one is expecting a resurrection. Even Martha the dead man’s sister when Jesus asks for the tomb to be unsealed says Lord he’ll stink, and you can imagine the dramatic pause after (43)as the crowd wait.

Jesus doesn’t resuscitate Lazarus he speaks the word of life to him conquering death. Jesus does the work of God with God’s power because he is God. The evidence backs up his claims, (11:25)”I am the resurrection and the life...”

But you may be saying the bible is bound to claim Jesus can do all these things. In fact from other sources those hostile to Jesus and Christianity like Josephus the Jewish leaders and Pliny and Tacitus you can discover that:

1. He was a Jewish teacher
2. Many believed he performed healings and exorcisms.
3. Some believed he was the Messiah
4. He was rejected by the Jewish leaders.
5. He was crucified by Pilate during Tiberius reign.
6. Despite crucifixion his followers believed he was alive.
7. Belief was widespread both geographically and socially.

God makes himself clear in Jesus.

Exhibit B
And it isn’t just what Jesus did, hundreds of years before prophets had written down that God would come to his people, across the centuries different prophecies built up the detail of how and where he would be born, how he would live and how he would die. Sometimes sceptics claim that Jesus deliberate fulfilled those prophecies so people would believe in him, now some of those prophecies Jesus could decided to deliberately fulfil but others were beyond Jesus control. For example he couldn’t determine or influence where he’d be born, or his parents taking him to Egypt when he was a toddler, or where he’d live on his return, or how he would die. Yet every single one is fulfilled in Jesus.

John’s gospel starts with just such a prophet, John the Baptist who described himself as “the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.” Later when John baptises Jesus he says “I have seen and testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” This is the one I was telling you to get ready for, this is the Lord! Jesus is God made flesh, God making himself clear to us

If you’re really there God why don’t you just prove it?

It strikes me that God has done just that, physically, tangibly, with evidence to back up his claims. God made man revealing God to us. But he does more than just reveal God to us. If Jesus is God his words will be the most important that you will ever listen to. So what does he tell us, two key things:

1. The problem is more serious than we could ever imagine
Jesus says the problem of sin, of our rebellion against God, of our living life with us at the centre are so serious we face eternity cut off from God, now if everything good is from God, then somewhere without God will be the opposite and that is hell. And God’s justice means that is the reality we face. Jesus also tells us that we can’t make it up to God by being good.

2. We are more loved than we ever dreamed
But brilliantly Jesus shows us not just the problem but the amazing solution. We can’t live a perfect life but he does it for us.

‘I want to stand where you’re standing’, those are the words on a gravestone in America and underneath is the story behind those words.

During the civil war, a group of confederates were lined up to be executed when a 19 year old Yankee soldier recognised the man he was about to shoot. He marched over to his senior officer and said ‘Sir, I cannot shoot this man. I know if I shoot him I end the lives of his wife and young children too.’

That young man walked over and stood before the condemned man and said those words, ‘I want to stand where you’re standing’, he took his place and the confederate soldier left to go home to his family, and that 19 year old was executed in his place. I want to stand where you’re standing.

That is Jesus message – I want to stand where you are standing, he pays for our rebellion and we get credited with his perfect record.

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