Text: 1 John 1:1-2:2
Epistle for the Second Sunday of Easter, Series B
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
What is it about meeting someone famous that makes people act like they’re winning the lottery? Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who was boasting about meeting someone famous? Maybe they had a wall full of selfies taken with celebrities. Any chance they get, they’re name dropping some important person whom they’ve met. Even ordinary people sometimes go crazy when meeting someone famous. Every famous person seems to have becomes a highly visible target for “groupies”, paparazzi, and fans claiming to be long-lost friends or relatives. Sometimes, fans will even rip off pieces of their clothes for souvenirs!
John’s Proclamation: True God and True Man
John begins his letter by claiming to have had such an experience. But, the person he met wasn’t a famous actor, musician, or politician, but Life! Incredibly, John is saying that he has heard, saw, and touched Eternal Life itself. That’s a big claim! How does someone meet “Life”? We wouldn’t think that Eternal Life is something one can see, touch, or hear. Unless… Eternal Life is a person. And that’s exactly the point John is making. Life, Eternal Life, is a being, a person whom John calls the Word.
This Word of Life was there before creation, the beginning of all things. In fact, this Word of Life has a special relationship with God. John says that the Word and God shared a common life together as Father and Son. So, before there was anything, the Son of God was already in existence with the Father. John’s carries us a step further. This Eternal Life, this Son of God, would mean very little to us, if we never came to know him. The Son who existed from all eternity in perfect fellowship with the Father, has been made known to John.
That Being, the Word of Life, became a flesh and blood man named Jesus. John is saying that Jesus is the eternal Son. Jesus is God. Along with being true God, he is also a flesh and blood man who could be seen and touched and heard. God has revealed himself; made himself known as a human male. Eternal Life isn’t just some abstract concept. Eternal Life is a true and physical man named Jesus. And John has seen him, heard him and touched him. In fact, they were friends.
That’s what our Gospel reading is about. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he could see him with his eyes and touch him with his hands. When Jesus appeared before him, what was Doubting Thomas’ reaction? He fell to his knees and proclaimed that Jesus was his Lord and his God! And John interrupts and explains “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” The same John in his letter gave his solemn oath as an eyewitness that this man Jesus is our Lord and our God.
John’s Purpose: Fellowship
What’s the point then? Why does this matter to us? John is writing this letter to tell us why this Son of God, the Word of Life, became a real flesh-and-blood man. And the purpose can be summarized in one word: fellowship. That fellowship is with both the Triune God and also with one another. What do we mean by “fellowship”? Fellowship means to share in a common thing. That’s what’s happening in our reading from Acts. The first Christians shared together all their goods. That thing we share in this passage is life. We share in a common life.
First, our fellowship is with the Father and the Son. You do not have your own, personal Jesus. Rather, together we share in something that is common: Jesus Christ and life in him. Through faith we come to participate and share in God’s own life. We are granted Eternal Life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” We are made part of God’s family and He shares all good things with us because we are his children!
Secondly, our fellowship is with one another. Fellowship involves all of “life,” not just the “fellowship hour” after worship or the activities that take place in the “fellowship hall.” When you come to faith in Christ, you are brought into the common life of the church. This is God’s family, God’s household. There is no such thing as being a Christian apart from the common life of the church. There are no lone wolf Christians. The Church is not supposed to be the place you go to for an hour on Sunday. It is your family, your community, where you share a common life together with your brothers and sisters, with all the saints in heaven!
John’s Warning: Hypocrisy
Though, there is something that can destroy our fellowship with God and common life together. That something is hypocrisy. If we claim to have fellowship with God, if we claim to be Christians, but deny that we are sinners, then we’re hypocrites. If we claim to be living the life that God in Christ has given to us, but then live only to please our own sinful desires, we are lying to ourselves and others about our fellowship with God. There is a real danger today to do exactly what John is warning against. Talking about sin has become very taboo and unwelcome in the world around us. It is seen as judgmental, unloving, or restrictive. We are tempted by society and culture today to deny that certain things are in fact morally and ethically wrong.
Think for a moment of a specific sin. Let’s say murder. There may be some who claim to be Christians who think that murder is not a sin. When they commit murder, they claim that have not sinned. Consider this though: Jesus died for our sins. They do not think that Jesus died for their sin in this case. Because they do not think murder is a sin, they do not think they need to be forgiven. So then, they are really unbelievers, because they are refusing the believe in what Jesus did for them. They are denying Christ. Now, that’s just an example, but does this really happen? YES! There are a whole bunch of sins we are tempted not to think are sins: practicing homosexuality, abortion, sex outside of marriage and shacking up before marriage, dishonoring our parents, getting drunk, adultery, just to name a few. There are Christians who would deny that these things are sins and would deny that they need to be forgiven. So, John warns us, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
John however, does not expect us to be sinless. But, even after we have come to faith and are Christians, even after we are in this community called the church–you and I still need forgiveness. We sin, we stumble and fall and stray from God’s path. We do things we ought not to do, and we fail to do the things we should do. Doesn’t that trouble you? Don’t you wonder how God can forgive you, even after you have messed up, time and time again? Well, here is the sure promise of God you can count on: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That is God’s promise to you, dear friends!
On what basis will God forgive you? Not because of how sorry you are. Not because you have tried really hard. Not because of anything in you. No, you can be sure God will forgive you because of what Christ has done. John says: “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” And again: “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Propitiation. There’s a difficult word. What does it mean? A propitiation is a payment you give to someone who is angry with you. By giving them the payment, they are reconciled to you and no longer angry with you. Guys, that’s like when you offend your wife, so you go out and get her flowers as chocolate to appease her anger. Because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, God is no longer angry with us!
John testifies that the same Eternal Life that was with the Father has been revealed in a way that can be seen, heard, and touched. We always seem to come back to the cross. The bloody death of Jesus has purchased for us the forgiveness of our sins, those very sins which would seek to destroy us. Jesus has defeated death and John testifies that he saw the risen Jesus with his eyes and touched him with his hands. This risen Jesus is Eternal Life itself. Through faith we receive that eternal life. Each one of us stands in absolute need of fellowship with our God! Each of us needs to be part of that great community of saints we confess we believe in – the Holy Christian Church! So, thank and praise God for bringing us into fellowship with his Son, the Word of Life, and giving us life. Amen.
And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.