"Written that you may believe" / Sermon / Pr. Lucas Albrecht / Easter Season / Sunday April 8th 2018 - / John 20:19-31
Text: John 20:19-31
Theme: “Written that you may believe”
Intr – One of the most known love songs from Canadian Singer Bryan Adams says in one of its verses:
“Search you heart; search your soul.
And when you find me there You’ll search no more”.
Such beautiful love poetry, isn’t it? “When you find me there inside your heart, you may stop your search for the love of your life.”
That may work better when you are in your teen years though. Because, if we stop to think, how can I find someone else in my heart? That is, I may be in love with someone, but what guarantee do I have that if I search my heart and come to the conclusion “oh, You love me too!”, that this is the truth? Well, the previous verse says “look into my eyes you will see what you mean to me”. Sounds like some hint; but still a little subjective. I may look into their eyes and draw all sorts of conclusions of my own. “You are in love with me”; “you are walking on the clouds.” “You haven’t washed you face thoroughly this morning”. Lots of other different perceptions. All of them will be my personal conclusions, not necessarily the truth.
What I need to know must come from the mouth of the other: “I love you and I’ll love you forever”. Then I can be sure that they live in my heart, that our relationship has a future. That now I can follow my heart. Otherwise, you know, there is that bumper sticker that says: “Don’t follow me, I am lost too”. What if I follow my heart, but my heart itself is lost? Wandering in serious doubt? Out of touch with reality?
This song, “Everything I do”, came to my mind as I read the Gospel for today. Here we are towards the end of St. John’s Gospel, and he says that Jesus did many other signs before His disciples. Now, it might leave us wondering – how many of them? Were they bigger or smaller than the ones we know? What would those other ones tell? What if I would follow my heart and search in it the revelation from God to discover it and…” Hey, hey…calm down. John continues: “These are written that you may believe”.
John gives our hearts concrete material, we don’t need to speculate, look for inner revelations, further sources. John gegraptai (greek verbal form which means that it was written once and still have effects today) what our heart needs to know in order to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. What we need to know about the promised Messiah. And how, being the Son of God, He has provided secure ground to our hearts.
1 – The deceiving heart
_We have our natural trend to follow our heart – normally, because we think we already know enough.
_We have our natural tendency to value personal experience over the written Word of God
_We have our natural tendency to try making the written Word to “speak to our heart” when it means to make it fit our expectations. Ex: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” Does it mean that I can do anything I set my heart to, from my dreams to maybe the lottery numbers? The written context of Phillipians 4 doesn’t seem to underscore that – which by the way is always worth reading again.
2 – The Believing Heart
Johns brings our hearts down to earth,. Our lost, wandering hearts. That’s how we were born with them. We cannot follows our hearts. They are blind by nature and if we try to follow it on our own we will end up in a dead end.
John brings to our hearts the things written so we may believe. It is not sufficient to search our heart, to search our soul. It is not secure to try to “look into Jesus eyes” and draw subjective conclusions. We need to hear, we need to receive the Word by faith. We need to receive from the Father’s mouth: I love you! And John has already told us in chapter 3 how God loves us: “God loved the world this way: He sent His only Son”. Which John here underlines again: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Our hearts now have a dweller – Christ. When our hearts are guided by Him, then we could use the phrase “Follow your heart”. Because now it is being led by Christ’s Heart – which we learn from His Word. We are following Christ.
Let’s take today’s lessons to learn the ways they echo this same truth:
Psalm 146 – “Praise the Lord!” What for, just because we feel like it? Because we searched our hearts and it told us to do so? No! The Psalmist gives us the reasons.
1John 1 – “God is light. If we walk in the darkness, we are not in Him” God is the paradigm, the point of comparison. We would never come to know our hearts were we in the darkness of sin if it was not revealed to us from the Light of His Word
Acts 4– “Great Grace was upon them all.” Where does that Grace come from? Not from subjective impressions the apostles had , but from the words of Christ given to them. This Grace propelled them to witness about the resurrection. Also, to take care of the neighbour. Now, should we assume they all had daily a joyous feeling of helping others? They were humans like us, we know how sometimes our feelings go. But here is another important example: as Christians, we take care of people even when your heart doesn’t feel like it. For what is written in the Word of God sends us to act in love towards our neighbour.
3 – To feel and to Know
It brings us to an important realization: We can’t always trust what we feel. But we can surely always trust what we know.
Imagine that you have applied to the University of your dreams. You’ve sent your papers, submitted your resume and your school records. You took whatever steps required trying to secure your spot there. But after doing everything you should, you don’t feel like you are going to make it. You feel anxious, or frustrated, with a feeling that you are not going to be able to see your dream come true.
If a few weeks later though you find a letter in your mailbox with your name in it saying you are approved as a student, what would be counted as truth? The way you felt about it, or your name in that official letter from the Educational Institution?
Just because you don’t feel something, it doesn’t mean it is not true. Just because sometimes you don’t “Feel God at your side”, or you don’t “feel that your faith is enough”, or you don’t “feel that such and such sin you committed or keep falling back into would be forgiven”, it doesn’t mean that is the truth. What is written in the word of God secures you what is actually true and secure for your heart and soul to rely on.
“So Pastor, feelings are altogether bad, we should avoid them at all cost?” Not at all. Even if we try to, we just can’t. Anything without emotions and feelings wouldn’t be human. We can say it for example about the human nature of Jesus, who cried, laughed, showed some rage at the temple, was tender with the children, and so on. We can say it about our Worship, which if there were not emotions and feelings embedded, it wouldn’t be human.
But think again about the example of the letter. Which feeling would be better placed in our heart, the ones that came from our anxiety and frustration, or the ones that stemmed from the letter we have just opened?
Our best feelings when it comes to our Christian life are the ones that stem from what is written so we may believe. And also as Paul says to Timothy, it also teaches, reproves, corrects and trains us. (2Timothy 3)
But even beyond that. Even when bad feelings and emotions come – and they surely come... – it makes a big difference if we are searching only our hearts to find answers, comfort and peace, as opposed to have our hearts anchored in the things that were written so we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that from Him we have comfort, peace, strength and love. Then we can even go through bad feeelings and emotions not denying them, but letting them out, be talked about, and most importantly, be healed by the Power of His Word that grants us His forgiveness and peace.
Cc - To be fair, the song I’ve mentioned at the beginning somehow declares the writer’s love when it says: “Everything I do I do it for you”. And: “Take me as I am; Take my life; I would give it all, I would sacrifice”. That’s when his loved one is more assured of that love she should search her heart for.
Everything Christ did, it was for you, for me, and for each of us. John didn’t record everything Jesus did, as he states. But these were written so we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. His song to you is: “with faith in your heart, search my Word. And you’ll find me there, and you’ll search no more.” In His Word and Sacraments, He is our anchor in the midst of turmoil, our joy when we shout in praise. Truly, there’s no feeling like this.