Barclay Viewforth Church congregation on Blackford Hill

Can you believe it?

‘If He’s real, why doesn’t He let someone come back and tell us?’ This was my beloved Grandpa’s question, or something like it, not long after our ‘Nan’ died of cancer, 32 years or so ago. With all the assurance (-and,I’m sorry to say, a good deal of the insensitivity) of the new Christian,I told Grandpa that He has:Jesus came back.

Of course my Grandpa wasn’t the first to ask it or something along the same lines. ‘Make it obvious, show us clearly and we’ll believe’. 2000 years previously, the Pharisees asked Jesus for a ‘sign’ to prove He was who He said. He’d already given them plenty. Fed 5000 people with just a few loaves and fish, healed people, told people about God in a ‘real’ way (‘with authority’) that was quite unlike any religious teachers they were used to hearing. Jesus replied that no sign would be given them. Not the kind of sign that would convince them at least because nothing would in fact convince them. They’d already made up their minds and they were only looking for evidence to convict Him. The sign that would be given sounded pretty obscure, ‘the sign of Jonah’. Not to these people though who knew about the prophets and law. Jonah was a prophet of the Old Testament, thrown overboard at his own request by the crew of a sinking ship, swallowed by a whale but spewed up 3 days later to take God’s message to a people who needed to hear it. So Jesus would be 3 days in the belly of the earth – dead in fact – but would rise again. But would they believe Him even then?

So, same question being asked then as now. Will the same answer do for us? But then as now, no ‘signs’ will be enough for anyone who isn’t looking out for them or prepared to try to make sense of them. Far less for the person who has already made up their mind and is just looking for evidence to ‘convict’. Where do we look for the ‘signs’? Try the 4 books of the Bible that tell us about Jesus for a start – the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Does the Jesus you read about there ring true to you? How about his followers? Does the self-seeking, misplaced zeal, failures to ‘get it’, even downright betrayal of Jesus look familiar with what you know of the church now? Make sure you read on though and see what became of some of those people! Be prepared also to get to know us, his followers today and us you. We’re keen to make the love of God known as He calls us to do. We make no claim to be perfect, though we are restless after the kind of relationship with our Heavenly Father of perfect trust, no matter what, that Jesus showed us and invites us to share.

What about those of us who have accepted Jesus? In that same account, just after Jesus’ encounter with the self-righteous, self-assured, unbelieving pillars of the community, he gives a warning to his ‘disciples’ (followers). They are preparing to set off and are fussing about whether they have enough supplies for the next stage of their journey with Jesus. These are the same people who saw Him feed a huge crowd a short while previously. ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees’, Jesus says. Unbelief. Not taking Him at His word. That’s not to say that once we do, we’ll have an easy time of it once and everything will work out as we’d like, just as things didn’t work out as the first disciples expected. It came as a shock to them when he started talking about his death;they couldn’t cope when he was taken away,stripped, beaten, humiliated. Pain and suffering are a reality even for a perfect man who has done nothing wrong and everything right. If we’re being made like Him, we can expect our share. So too our share of seeing those we love being hit by huge misfortune, getting very sick, dying. It’s all about trust. Looking to Jesus, the one who ‘wept’with Mary and Martha over the death of their brother. Trust and obedience.”Take away the stone (-from Lazarus’s tomb)” Jesus said. “But Lord, it will stink!” says Martha. “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Jesus asked her. Trust Him and act on it. Do the thing that He would have you do in that situation. The outcome may not be what you expect. Back to trust again!

Find out more

The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 16 verses 1-12 Jesus asked for a sign.

The Gospel of John Chapter 11 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

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