We say, “Happy Easter!” and we celebrate Easter. Every Sunday church service is a commemoration and celebration of Easter. But I would say that celebration is difficult.
Celebration is defined as the action of marking one's pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social, activity.
What makes a celebration a celebration?
Today as we celebrate Easter, we are continuing in our conversation through John. We are going to do a leap forward to John’s Easter or resurrection narrative and pull it back to where we are in our study, to Jesus’ declaration of being the Bread of Life. This is something to celebrate as it is fulfilled on Easter and in us.
Remember John’s objective:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
Today we are going to walk towards processing how our belief affects our celebration and how our celebration is lived out in daily life.
Easter is about celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:1-29)
There is so very much to this story. I encourage you to read it and reread it. Think about each moment that takes place. Think about the people who interact with Jesus.
Imagine being a disciple of Jesus and seeing Him after His resurrection. How would you process what happened? What challenges or questions would you face moment to moment as you’re there with Jesus?
Today we are once again walking towards processing how our belief affects our celebration and how our celebration is lived out in daily life.
Before we get to the continued conversation on belief, it is important to remember that John writes with repeated hyperlinks--themes, repetition, arrows pointing back--to help build a deepening perspective.
We have, in this series, already repeatedly been talking about some of these: water, Moses, exile, fruit, wine, food, provision. And today we add bread to the list.
Last week, we talked through this. In John 6, Jesus fed the 5000+, which links back to Exodus 16 and God’s provision of manna and shows that Jesus is the provider. After that, Jesus walked on water, which links back to Exodus 17 and God providing water for the people. Water is life, and we see that Jesus is greater and that He overpowers water / life.
And now John walks us into the conversation of Jesus repeatedly declaring that He is the Bread of Life.
Bread has powerful symbolization in Scripture. It is mentioned over 490 times in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation.
Bread symbolizes God’s provision and our survival (Exodus 16 - manna). It symbolizes life and salvation (Matthew 26:26 - Communion - Last Supper) and forgiveness. Bread symbolizes the Bible, God’s Holy Word (Deuteronomy 8:3), God’s eternal presence (Exodus 25:30), and the unity of the church (1 Corinthians 10). Bread symbolizes meeting people’s needs (Ecclesiastes 11), and it symbolizes wealth (2 Kings 18).
When the hearers of John’s letter think about bread and how it as a picture of God’s provision, one of the narratives that would rise to the front of their minds would have been Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 17.
The people had drifted away from following God. Elijah spoke up to king Ahab as a prophet, saying it won’t rain (there’s the water theme, too) until I say so. Elijah hid out and Ahab got angry. (You have got to read this narrative. So good.)
As Elijah hid out, God provided bread. Read 1 Kings 17:2-24 for the stories of the ravens and of the widow at Zarephath.
This narrative shows again that God sustains through bread.
How does seeing God as the sustainer of life impact how a person relates with God?
John brings another theme out in John 6:
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:25-29)
The people were literally asking Jesus here, “What specific works do we need to do in order to get this eternal bread?” They were trying to earn their salvation.
It’s this thing we can easily do as humans--to think that pleasing God is about finding the right formula to perform the right actions so that God will be pleased, like auditioning for a performance and doing all the things you practiced in front of the judges hoping that you nail the hard parts.
But instead of responding with the “hard parts” people needed to be sure to practice, Jesus once again flips things just as He did in the temple, flipping the tables of the money changers. Instead of prescribing a list of practice things, He says the real work is believing.
These people were familiar with work. Every year they brought sacrifices. Many of them tried really hard to follow the Torah letter by letter. And Jesus says that none of those works are the things that will “get them the part.” None of those works will get them this bread they’re looking for.
What do we need to do? Work on believing.
As we celebrate Easter, as we celebrate who Jesus is and His resurrection, and as we process how His resurrection impacts us,
What does it mean to work on belief?
John’s stories would have been clear references to the Israelites in the wilderness, and their process of belief, and how they were always on the hunt for food and water and started to complain to Moses because they didn’t have enough to eat or drink. Here are some of their stories:
Exodus 14:10-12,15-16 • Crossing the Red Sea
Exodus 15:22-25 • Undrinkable Water
Exodus 16:1-4 • Manna to Eat
Exodus 17:3-6 • No Water to Drink
John is writing to a group of people that saw this ebbing and flowing. A people that saw the complexity of relationship with God and the messy process of belief. A people who had some very real needs in the wilderness.
Again, remember, belief isn’t getting the right answers or getting to some destination. Belief is commitment to the process of following Jesus.
How is commitment an essential ingredient in a relationship?
Today’s process has been centered on this idea of how belief affects celebration and how celebration is lived out in daily life.
We’re going to end with this final conversation on how commitment today affects lifelong commitment and impacts our celebration of Easter.
Maybe you’ve heard Desmond Tutu’s quote, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” He’s referencing the idea that the biggest things in life can’t be completed in a moment. They require lots of time and repetitive commitment, even when things look overwhelming and seem impossible.
When it comes to faith/belief/following Jesus it can seem like a mountain. Learning can be difficult and things come up that may seem impossible. What is the one bite you can take today?
Here’s a quote from Charles Spurgeon:
"Faith in Christ is simply and truly described as coming to him. It is not an acrobatic feat; it is simply a coming to Christ. It is not an exercise of profound mental faculties; it is coming to Christ. A child comes to his mother, a blind man comes to his home, even an animal comes to his master. Coming is a very simple action indeed; it seems to have only two things about it, one is, to come away from something, and the other is, to come to something."
Unlike your ancestors, you didn’t come to Mount Sinai—all that volcanic blaze and earthshaking rumble—to hear God speak. The ear splitting words and soul-shaking message terrified them and they begged him to stop. When they heard the words—“If an animal touches the Mountain, it’s as good as dead”—they were afraid to move. Even Moses was terrified.
No, that’s not your experience at all. You’ve come to Mount Zion, the city where the living God resides. The invisible Jerusalem is populated by throngs of festive angels and Christian citizens. It is the city where God is Judge, with judgments that make us just. You’ve come to Jesus, who presents us with a new covenant, a fresh charter from God. He is the Mediator of this covenant. (Hebrews 12:18-24)
What does commitment look like for you today?
How does commitment to the work of belief impact our celebration of Easter?
Take It Deeper Questions:
Read John 16:25-59
What type of bread are you today and why? All natural? Rye? Moldy? Crusty? Fresh? Nutty? Other?
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
Why should we follow Jesus?
What is the impact of following Jesus?
How is lifelong commitment a part of following Jesus?
How are you focused, challenged, confused or refined by this text?
Bible Reading Plan: