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Lean into Geneva's Vision: Rebirth

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

"Ongoing Conversion"

"The Things We Fear": a Reflection on Exodus 15:1-11, Psalm 111, 1 Peter 1:3-9, and

John 20:19-31

Jesus was sentenced to death and placed on death row. He had represented himself. The religious leaders bullied Jesus and so did Pilate. A bully is one who intimidates, harasses, or commits violence against those who are smaller, weaker, or more vulnerable because of their “outsider” status.[1] Jesus was crucified. That was Friday. But Sunday came. Love won and death lost. There is no need to fear poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love of someone, old age, and death. Faithfully rest in the peace of Christ, which is provided by Jesus being raised from the dead, the resurrection.

Thomas A. Miller is a surgeon and researcher. In his book, Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead, he examines the miracle of Christ’s resurrection from a medical perspective. According to Miller, the body contains trillions of cells. Each one of these cells carries out thousands of different chemical reactions. Thus a bodily resurrection would require “some phenomenal power to energize life into all these individual cells, but it would have to do so in such a way that specialized nerve cells could resume their unique function, heart cells perform theirs, blood cells and bone cells do theirs, and so on.” Dr. Miller continues:

And at the moment we die, all these processes came to a screeching halt…A bodily resurrection implies that thousands of processes in trillions of cells must be restarted with the unique intricacy and inter-coordination that existed before death. Even the latest science has not unraveled the complete mystery of each of the cells of our bodies, and how they interact and “talk” with one another …. But for the resurrection of Jesus to occur, all of that information had to be known in its completeness and totality...[2]

God knows all about the human body in its completeness and totality. For God created each of us; every human being.

Some of the disciples had seen the empty tomb. Jesus intimated that he would be with them always. And so, the disciples huddled in the Upper Room where they had last been with Jesus and locked the doors for fear, of being found, bullied, and perhaps killed for their faith; their beliefs.

What are the six core, basic common fears? In all six the symptoms include: indifference, doubt, worry, over-caution, and procrastination.

· Fear of poverty.

· Fear of criticism.

· Fear of ill health.

· Fear of loss of love of someone.

· Fear of old age.

· Fear of death.

Exodus 15:1-11, Psalm 111, 1 Peter 1:3-9, and John 20:19-31 ask us to embrace the tensions of living and dying and their requisite fears with assurance in the hope of resurrection.

Faith in Jesus Christ is the prerequisite requirement to embrace the tensions of living and dying and their requisite fears with assurance in the hope of resurrection. What came first? Faith leading to understanding or understanding leading to faith? The 4th century Church Father Augustine asserted the maxim that faith leads to understanding. Aquinas, the 13thcentury philosopher argued that understanding leads to faith.

That faith leads to understanding is demonstrated in John 20:19-31. The setting was Easter evening. Two of the six core, basic fears consumed the disciples; those being fear of criticism and death. They believed Jesus’ teachings. Would their beliefs sustain them when others confronted them about their relationship with Jesus? And Jesus appeared in the Upper room. Jesus said, “Peace be with you!” It was the risen Jesus, the Jesus with nail holes in his hands and feet. The Greek word for peace, ειρήνη, denotes God providing.

Despite Jesus’ appearance, Thomas had a crisis of faith that Jesus was raised from the dead. Thomas said, “Unless I see…I will not believe.” Here, Thomas moves from belief to knowledge. Believing and knowing are two different things. Believing, πιστευω, is intellectual assent. Knowing, οιδα, is belief that is actively engaged in life through attitudinal, ethical, and behavioral change. Belief makes no difference until one uses it in real life situations. For Thomas understanding led to faith.

Thomas needed to understand, before he exercised his faith. Reformed theology, our theology as Presbyterians, asserts that faith leads to understanding. Faith is an act of God’s grace. As followers of Jesus Christ, should not our faith in Jesus Christ and our Christian beliefs provide some modicum of peace amid life’s challenges? Reflect upon basic Christian beliefs such as God being Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of life; that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and that God is sovereign and nothing happens in life by accident, but with purpose. Does the Christian faith make any difference in everyday life? Yes, it does. Remember, “Give as much of yourself as you can to as much of Jesus Christ as you understand.”[3] Because of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead, I bank my hope, and so can you, upon the living God that the six core, basic fears do not have the last word.[4]

Faith leads to understanding. What you believe informs the way you live. Jesus, because of his resurrection and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, makes a real difference in how you live. Embrace the tensions of everyday life with assurance in the hope of resurrection. Live out the salvation of the future in the here and now. Claim the power of hope and faith to enable you in coping with the challenges of life. The fears of poverty, criticism, ill heath, loss of love of someone, old age, and death inhibit your ongoing rebirth, conversion, and restoration. Be restored to life as God intends. As a follower of Jesus, use your faith and its inherent beliefs to inform your daily actions. Then you are living in the presence of the resurrected Jesus.

[1]Adapted from Jim Wallis, On God’s Side (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2013), 126. [2] Thomas A. Miller, MD, Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? (Crossway, 2013), 133-136. [3]Jim Tozer former pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, Indiana. [4]In the five paragraphs of textual analysis above, I have benefited from the thinking of Rhodora E. Beaton, Cynthia L. Rigby, Beverly Zink-Sawyer, Margaret P. Aymer, and Ruben Rosario Rodriguez as found in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year A, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 213-215, 216-218, 218-219, 220-222, and 222-224.

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