2nd Sunday of Easter
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 20:19-31 Sermon
April 23, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
103 "Now Let The Vault Of Heaven Resound"
100 "Alleluia! Jesus Lives!"
106 "Come Ye Faithful Raise The Strain"
566 "Thine Is The Glory, Risen Conquering Son"
SO THAT YOU WILL BELIEVE
TEXT (vs. 30-31): “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
Just several weeks ago, the news was all abuzz about a new discovery. It seems as if archaeologists had uncovered some ancient scrolls which contained, what they believe was a so-called “lost gospel”—the gospel according to Judas. According to these experts, this lost gospel was supposed to have been written by Judas Iscariot, son of Simon Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus.
This so-called “gospel” presented Judas in an entirely different way. He is shown to be one of Jesus’ more trusted disciples, his “right hand man,” so to speak. The betrayal was something he did do, but it is reported that he did it at the behest of Jesus, and not something done behind his back. I don’t know what else it says, because I haven’t read it. Maybe I should, so I could know exactly what it contains; however I believe that my time and effort could be best spent elsewhere.
Do I believe that Judas Iscariot might have written this so-called “lost gospel?” I don’t know, perhaps he actually did write it. If he in fact did, then that immediately calls some things into question.
The Bible doesn’t present Judas in a very good light at all. He is identified as a liar, a cheat, a betrayer, and a thief. In John 12, we read the account of Jesus being at the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus in Bethany, where he was eating dinner. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and wipes them with her hair. In verses 4-6 we read: “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”
If we look at Luke 22, 3-6 we can get another picture of Judas’ character: “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.”
Finally before the celebration of the Passover feast Jesus had with his disciples, we read about this interaction between Jesus and Judas in John 14: “Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me….it is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly,’ Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.”
All four gospel writers mince no words about what kind of a low-life scoundrel Judas Iscariot was. He was definitely a liar, a cheat, a traitor, and a thief. He committed suicide and died in a state of unrepentant sin. What kind of a “gospel” would someone like that write? Given his moral fibre, how trustworthy would you consider him?
The answer is really a “no-brainer,” and the questions are basically rhetorical. If Judas did in fact put pen to parchment, certainly he’s going to defend himself and his actions. Certainly he’s going to make some lofty claims in his position as an Apostle. And he certainly wouldn’t want history to remember him as the scoundrel he was.
I find it particularly noteworthy that all of this surfaced in the weeks just before Easter. It is noteworthy because I believe we are witnessing another tool of the devil. Anything that attempts to pull Jesus out of the limelight, anything that tries to overshadow the resurrection, and especially anything that draws the focus away from Jesus and places it upon someone the likes of Judas of all people, can’t be good at all. It’s got to be something the devil has conjured up to try to steer the hearts of the faithful in another direction. It’s got to be something to try to make people distrust the truth and authenticity of the Bible.
Our Gospel lesson for today presents the account of Thomas, and how he doubted the report of the other disciples that Jesus had arisen from the dead. He wanted proof for himself. I’ve always contended that it wasn’t all that bad that Thomas showed himself to be a skeptic. Jesus made a special effort to appear to Thomas so that the most skeptical critic of Jesus’ resurrection would see first-hand that the resurrection was an actual fact, and not just some figment of imagination, or a type of spiritual metaphor. Thomas had actual, tangible, physical proof that Jesus had arisen from the dead, just as he had promised.
Jesus still chastises Thomas though for not believing what the others had told him. In verse 29 Jesus says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Believing in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is germane to the Christian faith. If Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead, then we would have no hope of our own resurrection from the dead. We would have no hope of heaven, and we would still be dead in our trespasses and sins. The salvation Jesus won for us on the cross would be lost without the resurrection.
If we look at verse 30 of John 20, we read: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” And just one short chapter later, in John 21, 25, John concludes his Gospel with these words: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
John acknowledges a fact that we all know. There are a lot of things that happened in the life of Christ which aren’t recorded for us in Scripture. Of course we don’t need to know every intricate detail of Christ’s 33 years on this earth. If it were all recorded, we’d probably have a Bible so big we’d have to cart it around in a truck. It’s difficult enough to get people to read the Bible we have!
But there are other writings by people of that day. One such person is the Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius. He meticulously and accurately recorded numerous events at the time of Christ. His writings, called “The Antiquities” has been well regarded by scholars, and is interesting reading. But it is not inspired by God, and it is not Scripture.
There’s also a collection of early writings called the New Testament Apocrypha. These books are also not Scripture, and in no way should they be regarded in the same light. The authorship is questionable in most areas, some are outright forgeries bearing the name of Biblical characters, and as a whole is not to be trusted at all. William Hone in 1820 collected what he could, translated them and published them. This work has also been published as “The Lost Books of the Bible.”
In the foreword to this book, the following observation has been given: “After perusing this book, one may come to the conclusion that the Bible as it stands today is correct in its overall view, and these writings are, in large part, inferior….”
In an attempt to try to “fill in the gaps,” there have been many semi-fictitious and completely fictitious things written. Many of these writings completely contradict what the Bible says. Even with just a cursory reading of these writings, it is fairly easy to tell that they aren’t a part of Holy Scripture, and should not be regarded as such.
In verse 31 of our text for today, John does a great job of defending the purpose of the Biblical accounts: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
In a similar sense, Paul writes the following in II Timothy 3, 14-17: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scirptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The Bible may not contain every last little bit of history, but it does tell us what we need to know; plus it is reliable. We can trust it without a doubt.
The Bible clearly and accurately shows the actions of sinful mankind. In our first lesson from Acts 3, we read Simon Peter’s words to the Jews. He chastises them for their actions in the crucifixion and death of Jesus. He says, “But you denied the holy and righteous one, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead….Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus….God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
This was the word of forgiveness for the sinful people who were involved in Christ’s crucifixion and death. These people caused one of the worst tortures and murders in all of history, and yet God speaks to them in words of forgiveness.
He speaks those words of forgiveness to us as well. We might not think that our own sins are as severe as the sins of those Jews, but they are. Our sins are in need of forgiveness too.
That’s why we trust what the Bible tells us about Jesus. John assures us in our text for today that if we believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we will have life in his name. Our sins will be forgiven just the same as those who put Christ to death. That forgiveness has been made personal to each and every one of us.
As we recount the events of the past couple of weeks, we can look at Christ’s passion and death, and we know it is our burden of sin he was carrying. He carried it to the cross on our behalf, and accepted the punishment that we deserve.
But most importantly, we see a resurrected Christ and an empty tomb. Christ not only paid for the sins of the whole world, but he conquered death as well. His resurrection means our resurrection, and our entrance into the eternal paradise of heaven.
So what about this so-called “gospel” of Judas that caused all of the “ooohs and aaaahs” in the media just before Easter? Well, you can read it if you want to, but just remember how credible it is. It is not Scripture, and by reading it you won’t have life in Jesus’ name. It is not a believable document, and it certainly doesn’t have God’s stamp of approval on it.
The same can be said about other spurious religious writings, like the Koran by Mohammed, or the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith, or Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard, or Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy. These works which are claimed to be additions to the Bible only serve to undermine a person’s faith and lead us away from our Saviour Jesus Christ.
As the devil attempts to turn our attention away from Jesus and the Bible, may we always remember the words of Hebrews 12, 2-3: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”